Social Security Disability Resource Center

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What is SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) and how does it affect Social Security Disability and SSI Eligibility?

SGA is an acronym for the Social Security term substantial gainful activity. According to the Social Security Administration's definition of disability, in order to be considered disabled and eligible to receive disability benefits, a person must have functional limitations (mental, physical, or both) that are severe enough to restrict their ability to engage in work activity.

How Social Security determines disability

SSA (social security administration) determines if a claimant is disabled by evaluating their medical and work histories and then rating their condition; claimants are given physical residual functional capacity ratings and mental residual functional capacity ratings by disability examiners (or by judges at the disability hearing level). However, whether or not a claimant is disabled can also be determined by a claimant's work activity.

For this reason, Social Security must evaluate an individualís earnings when they apply for disability, and also during future reviews of their claim--this is known as a continuing disability review, or CDR.

SGA, or substantial gainful activity, is tied to a specific monetary amount; in other words, a monthly earnings limit. To put it briefly, if a person who is filing for disability is earning more than the SGA amount, their claim will be given what is referred to as a technical denial.

When a case is given a technical denial, the denial occurs at the social security office almost immediately, meaning that the case is never sent to disability determination services and assigned to a disability examiner for processing.

Translation: there is no point to filing a claim if you are currently working and earning at least the SGA amount...however, if your condition causes you to stop work or causes your earnings to drop below the SGA limit, consider filing a claim.

The SGA amount is subject to change as a result of inflation adjustments. Currently, for 2019, the SGA amount is $1220.00, which is $40 higher than the prior year. Please keep in mind that this is gross monthly earned income (before taxes).

To reiterate

The Social Security administrationís definition of disability is based on an individualís inability to engage in work activity that produces substantial and gainful income; in other words, the inability to work and earn at least that much (the current limit for SGA per month).

At the time you file a disability application, if you are earning over the SGA amount, you will be denied for an initial disability claim, regardless of your medical condition. Remember, too, if you are receiving disability benefits the SGA monthly amount will also affect you. For this reason, you should call your local Social Security office about any work activity you engage in (including self employment).

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved

    FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions

    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    Are You Allowed to Work While Receiving Social Security Disability or SSI?
    What is an unsuccessful work attempt?
    If my medical condition keeps me from working will I get Social Security disability?
    Canít Work In My Old Job, How Does Social Security Disability Consider This?
    Social Security Disability And Trial Work Months: You are allowed to Work
    Medical Disability - How does Social Security view your work and medical records
    Is there a Maximum I can Work and Make if I am on SSD or SSI Disability Benefits?
    Working while getting Disability - Is it Possible?
    Can You Work While You Appeal Your Social Security Disability Decision?
    How long do you have To Be Out Of Work Before You Get Social Security Disability (SSD)?
    Can I work without it affecting my social security disability or SSI?
    What happens if you are working when you file for disability or work after you apply for disability?
    Will working part-time affect my SSD?
    Working while on Social Security Disability and Not Reporting
    What is SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity)?
    If I Apply For Disability And Go Back To Work, Do I Need To Report This?
    Are you allowed to work at all if you get Social Security disability or SSI?
    Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Wisconsin?
    If you apply for disability in in Wisconsin
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in Wisconsin

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
    What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
    Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria