What's substantial gainful activity and how is it calculated?

How SGA impacts SSDIWhen you file an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must meet eligibility requirements. One of the first things that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at when reviewing your application is whether or not you're working. If you're employed, you must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) in order to receive benefits.

What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

Substantial gainful activity is work that pays you a certain amount of money per month. If this is the case in your situation, the SSA may deny your claim for SSDI.

The SGA amount is set yearly, and changes based on fluctuations in the national average wage index. Here are the amounts for 2019:

  • The amount for statutorily blind individuals is $2,040.
  • The amount for non-blind individuals is $1,220.

The amount of SGA is different for individuals who are blind and those who are not blind.

Even if you make less than the monthly SGA, this doesn't mean you're determined to be unable to engage in employment. The SSA looks at the circumstances of your employment and why you're making low wages. For example, if you're a substitute teacher or bus driver and are only not employed full time due to the lack of work, you could be found to be engaged in SGA. In addition, if you're only working on a limited basis but volunteering on a regular basis, this may be considered substantial gainful activity. However, attending school doesn't make you ineligible for SSDI.

Can You Stop Working?

If you stop working after applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you'll need to show that your medical condition worsened enough so you were unable to work in order to meet the SGA requirements. The SSA makes a determination as to whether this was an unsuccessful attempt at working. In general, if you were only employed six months or less and had to quit or reduce your hours because of your disability, this time period won't be considered substantial gainful activity.

Do you have other questions about your eligibility for disability benefits? Call our office or fill out the form on this page to schedule a free initial consultation with our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys.