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What is substantial gainful activity?

As you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will determine if you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. In other words, the SSA will only award disability benefits to people who are unable to earn more than a certain amount each month. People earning more than this amount each month are generally considered to be engaging in SGA and are not usually eligible for benefits.

The amount of monthly earnings will differ for blind and non-blind individuals and will depend on the national average wage index. The monthly SGA for a non-blind disabled person in 2019 is $1,220 for SSDI and SSI applicants. Blind SSI applicants do not have an SGA limit, but blind SSDI applicants have an SGA limit of $2,040 in 2019.

If you earn more than the SGA limit, you may still be able to prove that you were not engaging in SGA. For example, you may argue that you were working irregular hours and were permitted to take regular breaks, or that you required assistance from other employees to do your job. Generally, you will need to show the SSA that you would have earned less than the SGA limit if you had not received these accommodations.

Establishing that you are not engaging in SGA is an important first-step of the Social Security disability application process. If you cannot prove that you were not engaging in SGA, it is likely that a claim reviewer will immediately deny your claim for benefits. A disability attorney can help prove your case to the SSA and give you a better chance at recovering disability benefits.

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