We might say that disability benefits are designed for people who can no longer work. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a different term for ‘work’: substantial gainful activity. If you have heard that term, you may have wondered what it is and why it matters. That’s what we will look at in this article.
The Basics of Substantial Gainful Activity
Also known as SGA, substantial gainful activity refers to the “monthly threshold salary” someone can earn. The SSA uses SGA when approving someone for disability benefits.
The actual SGA amount is set for blind and non-blind individuals. The SGA limit is also reviewed and updated periodically.
The 2020 SGA limits are:
- $1,260 per month for non-blind individuals, and
- $2,110 per month for blind individuals.
As the SSA processes an application, they will consider the applicant’s SGA. For example, Linda’s emphysema forced her to retire from her job at the local factory. However, she is able to work part-time at a lower-paying job. She is only able to earn about $1,000 a month. This puts her below the SGA limit for a non-blind individual. She may qualify for SSDI benefits.
How SGA Affects a Disability Claim
We’ve established that someone filing a disability claim may be denied if their SGA exceeds the monthly limit. Are there other ways that SGA relates to disability benefits?
Yes. Sometimes SSDI beneficiaries begin to recover from their disabling condition. Although they want to return to work, they fear their disease may worsen after they have lost their disability benefits. Through the Ticket to Work program, benefit recipients may have an extended period of eligibility. During that time, the SSA will watch to see that your SGA stays below the limit. This situation can be complicated, so discuss it with a disability attorney.
Learn More About Substantial Gainful Activity and Your Disability Claim
Generally, someone who is able to earn more than the SSA’s monthly SGA threshold will not be considered disabled. However, exceptions exist that might apply to your situation. Talk to an experienced Social Security disability lawyer before giving up.
You may be worried that you cannot afford a disability attorney. However, federal law limits attorney’s fees for Social Security Disability claims. Federal law also requires that your attorney take your case under a contingency agreement, which means your attorney cannot charge you unless you receive SSDI benefits.
At The Law Offices of Martin Taller, your case receives the attention and care of experienced Social Security Disability attorneys. For your free consultation, call us at 714-385-8100. We are located in Anaheim, but we assist clients throughout Southern California.