To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). 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. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.
Social Security usually uses the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) level to determine what is too much work. In 2016, SGA is defined as earning $1,130 or more a month from working, or $1,820 for blind people.
Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is a term used in the United States by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Being incapable of substantial gainful employment is one of the criteria for eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
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.
Countable earnings of employees indicate SGA and “countable income” is “substantial” if the amount averages more per month than $1,170 in 2017 ($1,950 if the employee is blind). Because the SGA is based off capacity to work, unearned income does not count. Income from unemployment benefits, investments, capital gains, rentals, gifts, inheritance or interest is not counted toward the SGA limit because it does not reflect capacity to work.
After a person becomes eligible for disability benefits, the person may attempt to return to the work force. As an incentive, we provide a trial work period in which a beneficiary may have earnings and still collect benefits.
During a trial work period, a beneficiary receiving Social Security disability benefits may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled. Social Security does not consider services performed during the trial work period as showing that the disability has ended until services have been performed in at least 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) in a rolling 60-month period.
Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living can help you explore and develop plans to return to work.
(image description: Three men are holding what appears to be cement rakes and are smoothing out cement that has been laid. In the background are dark clouds that show a little sun shining through. At the top of the picture are the words, substantial gainful activity – working while on disability.)