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What is “Substantial Gainful Activity?”

On Behalf of | Jul 29, 2020 | Social Security Disability

The purpose of Social Security disability benefits is to ensure injured or disabled individuals have the resources they need to pay for basic living expenses, including food, shelter, clothing and medical care. If a person is able to provide those things on his or her own and through substantial gainful activity, the Social Security Administration may stop benefits payments.

If you currently receive SSD, you may wonder what constitutes substantial gainful activity, how much you can earn without forfeiting your right to benefits and how you can determine if you are ready to return to work. The SSA answers your most pressing questions regarding SGA.

What is SGA?

The SSA considers substantial gainful activity any work-related activity that allows you to earn more than a certain amount each month. This includes work you engaged in prior to becoming injured or disabled, side jobs, a new type of employment, buying and reselling items for a profit and the like.

How much can you earn before you lose your right to benefits?

How much you can earn before forfeiting your rights to benefits depends on the nature of your injury or disability and the current national average wage index. The SSA sets a higher amount for blind individuals than for non-blind persons.

As of 2020, the maximum amount non-blind individuals can earn before losing their rights to benefits is $1,260. Blind persons may earn nearly double that, at $2,110. The SGA rules for the non-blind apply to Supplemental Security Income. However, they do not apply for blind individuals.

Can you attempt to go back to work?

The SSA affords beneficiaries a grace period in which they may attempt to return to work without losing the right to benefits. The purpose of this trial work period is to give individuals a chance to see if they are ready and able to return to full time work. If you determine that you are not ready, you will continue to receive your benefits as normal.