Substantial Gainful Activity
To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). 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.
Amounts for 2020
The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2020 is $2110. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2020 is $1260. 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:
- $1,690 for blind individuals; or
- $1,010 a month if you are not blind.