Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is a term that is used by the Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Services (DDS) when referring to any work performed or intended for pay or profit by a person who is applying for disability benefits. The work must involve doing significant and productive physical or mental duties. When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is one of the factors that will be used to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. Basically, if you are earning income from employment that exceeds a certain amount, then you may not qualify for disability benefits.
In 2009, the amount of monthly earnings needed to be considered as SGA is $980 for non-blind people and $1,640 for statutorily blind individuals. This amount increases every year with increases in the national average wage index. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind applies to SSDI and SSI benefits.
Here are a few examples:
Bill, in Escondido, CA, is blind and he has a disability that prevents him from working more than 3 hour per day. Bill only makes about $1,200 per month. Bill is not able to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity, and may qualify for disability benefits. If Bill made over $1,640 per month at his Escondido, CA job, then he would not be eligible for disability benefits.
Jane, in Chula Vista, CA, is not blind and has a disability that prevents her from working full time; however, her part time job allows her to make about $1,100 per month. Jane is considered to be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity and would not be eligible for disability. If Jane’s Chula Vista, CA job earned her less than $980, she might be able to qualify for disability benefits.
Trevor, in Long Beach, CA, has a disability that confines him to his home and does not allow him to earn any income. Trevor is not able to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity and should find the nearest Long Beach Social Security Administration to file his disability claim.
If you have a disability that prevents you from earning more that the SGA amount, then you need to apply for Social Security Disability. Do not delay, apply as soon as possible.
If you are collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and you want to try and return to work, the Social Security Administration has a “trial work period” program. While doing a trial work period, you are allowed to work and earn money that exceeds the SGA amount and still collect benefits (for a limited number of months).
If you have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, please view one of our articles on Supplemental Security Income or “SSI” benefits.
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