The Social Security disability professionals at Disability Associates break down Substantial Gainful Activity as it relates to disability purposes.

In evaluating whether you are disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will first look to whether you are currently employed. In order to collect Social Security or Social Security Insurance (SSI) disability, you must be unable to participate in a minimal amount of work. Keep in mind that if you are working part-time and not earning much money, you won’t necessarily be denied disability benefits, but doing a substantial amount of work (or working full-time) may result in denial of benefits.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity? SGA is generally work that brings in more than a certain amount of money per month. For 2015, the amount is $1,090 for non-blind disabled applicants and $1,820 for blind applicants. If you are making more than your corresponding amount, the SSA assumes that you are able to engage in competitive employment in the national economy and may deny your claim.

Additionally, claimants can argue that their income would have been lower but for the fact that the claimant met one or more of the following circumstances:

  • Was allowed to work irregular hours or take frequent breaks
  • Was provided with special equipment or was assigned work suited for their impairment
  • Required special assistance
  • Was given the opportunity to work despite impairment because of a familial relationship, past association with employer or employer’s concern for claimant’s welfare
  • Was permitted to work at a lower standard of productivity than others

Will my claim be denied due to SGA? Those who work and earn a gross monthly income exceeding the SGA threshold are not considered disabled and are ineligible to receive benefits, unless they are working under special requirements as described above.

Usually, if you are making more than $1,090 monthly when you apply, your claim will be denied without a medical review. Yet, if it has been determined that your work activity does not amount to substantial gainful activity, you will have passed the first step of the SSA’s five-step evaluation process. Your medical eligibility will be considered at the next step.

What if I stop working? If you cease working after you apply for benefits, you must be able to prove to the SSA that your medical condition worsened to the point where you had to stop working. The SSA will consider whether your work activity was an “unsuccessful work attempt.” Any earnings from this attempt will not be counted for purposes of making an SGA decision.

What if I have already been approved for benefits? If you have been approved for and are already receiving disability benefits, you can continue to make up to $1,090 per month without losing benefits, as long as you meet the SSA’s definition of disability.

However, the SSA does have exceptions to the SGA rule for those trying to go back to work.

For Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), if your medical condition improves, you may wish to try going back to work. In this circumstance, the SSA will allow you to make more than the SGA amount for a certain number of months to see if it works out. This is called a trial work period. For SSI, the work incentives encourage disability recipients to try and go back to work.

Understanding these common questions in dealing with the Social Security Administration’s definition of SGA, may give you a better chance at succeeding with your claim. Although these tips may help, it may prove to be important to have legal counsel during this time. Contact an experienced attorney from Disability Associates today.