Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA).
This term refers to any work that pays a certain amount and requires a significant amount of time and effort. In this article, we’ll explore what substantial gainful activity is and how it affects disability claims.
Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as work that involves significant physical or mental activity, is performed for pay or profit, and is done with regularity and continuity. The SSA determines the SGA level each year and it is adjusted for inflation. The SGA levels for 2023 are set forth in the next section.
The SGA level is important because it is used to determine whether a person’s earnings are high enough to disqualify them from receiving disability benefits. If an individual is able to perform SGA, they are considered to be able to engage in substantial gainful activity and therefore, are not eligible for disability benefits. If an individual earns less than the SGA level, then the SSA will move on to the next step in the evaluation process to determine if they have a disabling condition that meets the requirements for disability benefits.
SGA Amounts for 2023
The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.
The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2022 is $2,460. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2022 is $1,470. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits.
Trial Work Period
Special rules allow you to work temporarily without losing your monthly Social Security disability benefits. For example, Social Security’s trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months without losing benefits. As long as you remain disabled, you can get full Social Security disability benefits during those nine months no matter how much you earn.
After your nine-month trial work period, Social Security still provides a safety net that allows you to work another three years risk-free. During those three years, you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which your earnings do not exceed these limits:
- $2,260 for blind individuals; or
- $1,350 a month if you are not blind.