What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

If you are filing for social security benefits, you will hear many different terms. One common term, substantial gainful activity or SGA, is important to understand. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will first look at if a person is currently working when applying for benefits. A person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity to be eligible for disability benefits. Here is what that means.

Working and Benefits

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SGA is defined by the IRS as “the performance of significant duties over a reasonable period of time while working for pay or profit, or in work generally done for pay or profit”. The SSA uses substantial gainful activity to determine your eligibility for benefits. If SSA finds that you can work, then you will not qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

A person who is earning more than the current SGA amount would be considered to be engaging in SGA. Keep in mind SGA is based on your gross monthly income. Ultimately, the SSA wants to know if you are working and earn more than the current SGA limit. Working above the SGA limit shows SSA that you have the ability to work and therefore to be considered not disabled.

For 2018, the SSA has set the SGA earnings limit of $1,180 per month for individuals. A person that is blind will have a higher amount set at $1,970 per month. The amount used to measure substantial gainful activity may change each year. To qualify for benefits, you will need to pass substantial gainful activity test. That is the first step in the evaluation process of your application.

Special Conditions

There are special conditions that allow an individual to obtain social security disability even when working and making an amount that exceeds the SGA limits. A claimant can argue that their income would be less based on several factors, meaning that the work being performed is not substantial due to special provisions being made by the employer. This includes assistance from other employees to complete work, frequent breaks are given, working irregular hours, or assigned special tasks based on their impairment, all of which are not granted by the employer to other employees.

If you work under such conditions, you may be eligible for social security disability based on SGA guidelines. If you work and are considering filing for social security disability, Disability Support Services is here to help. Not sure where to start? Fill out our form or call one of our advocates (410-244-0006) to being the process.