What Substantial Gainful Activity Means for Disability Claims

What Substantial Gainful Activity Means for Disability Claims

One thing the Social Security Administration looks at when you apply for disability benefits is this question: Are you unable to perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA)? In regular English, that means Can you support yourself by earning money working full-time?

For those who apply for disability benefits, the answer is no.

But things start to get a bit confusing when we think about part-time work. For example, if you work part-time, does that count as substantial gainful activity? Is having income from part-time work a problem for receiving benefits? The short answer is it all comes down to how much you earn from your part-time job in a month.

What Exactly Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

The Internal Revenue Service defines substantial gainful activity as performing significant duties over a reasonable time period while working for pay or profit.

What Is the Threshold for Substantial Gainful Activity?

Working part-time means you likely will get denied benefits by the SSA. For you to qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits, you cannot earn more than $1,220 per month; to qualify for Supplemental Security Income, the max SGA amount is $771. The SSA also considers “passive income” toward your SGA threshold if it’s over the monthly income limit for 2019.

The Nature of Your Disability Matters

A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. For example, the Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for blind applicants. In 2019, blind applicants can earn up to $2,040 per month and still qualify for disability benefits. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits.

Both substantial gainful activity amounts generally change year over year with changes in the national average wage index.

SSI versus SSDI

To be eligible for SSI, an applicant must meet the following conditions:

  • They must have little or no income or resources
  • Be considered medically disabled
  • Either not be working or working but earning less than the substantial gainful activity level.

To be eligible for SSDI, an applicant must:

  • Have worked and paid Social Security taxes for enough years to be covered under Social Security
  • Be medically disabled and either not be working or working but earning less than the substantial gainful activity level

Trial Work Period

After you become eligible for disability benefits, you may attempt to return to the workforce if your illness or condition improves. As an incentive, the SSA provides for a trial work period in which you may have earnings and still collect benefits.

Feeling Confused? You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

If you’re not sure whether working part-time or your passive income is enough to disqualify you for disability benefits, you can talk to a lawyer for free.

Reach out today to talk about your circumstances with an experienced disability attorney or advocate. Ensure you receive the benefits you need! The lawyers in our network offer free, confidential consultations to anyone with questions about how to apply for disability benefits. Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation now.

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