How Does Substantial Gainful Activity Impact Disability Benefits?

woman calculating income limit for disabilityOne of the criteria to determine if you are disabled is to evaluate whether you can perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). The Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to know if the work you do results in earning income that exceeds a certain amount every month.

If your condition affects your ability to earn more than the limit set each year, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits. A Green Bay-based Social Security attorney from our firm is here to help you understand how your financial situation could impact your claim in a free consultation.

Sigman Janssen has handled many Social Security Disability cases in over 35 years of practice. We know what it takes to get a claim approved at the initial stage or during the appeals process. It costs nothing to talk to a lawyer, and there are no obligations to move forward and no upfront fees to retain our legal services. 

Call (877) 888-5201 for a case review.

What is Considered SGA?

Substantial gainful activity refers to work that brings in more than a certain amount of money per month. You can earn money and still be eligible for disability benefits, provided your earnings do not exceed the SGA monthly income limit for the year you are applying.

It is important to note that the SGA limit is adjusted on an annual basis and may be different depending on the nature of your disability. In 2021, the monthly income limit for blind individuals is $2,190 and only applies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The monthly income limit for non-blind individuals is $1,310 and applies to both SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

The SSA does not count any income from non-work-related sources, such as investments, gifts or interests. However, minimal earnings do not necessarily prove you are disabled and cannot work. The SSA will take into consideration the circumstances under which work was performed.

Take volunteer work for example. It may be considered SGA if you put in a substantial amount of time that someone would typically be paid for.

Having high earnings also does not always mean that you were performing SGA if you were working under special circumstances. For instance, if you require frequent rest breaks or work irregular hours because of your condition, you may be able to argue that your work is not substantial gainful activity.

Other special circumstances could include the need for:

  • Assistance from fellow co-workers to perform your job duties
  • Certain equipment or assigned work suited to your impairment
  • Arranged transportation to get to and from work
  • Permission to work at a lower standard of productivity or efficiency than other co-workers

Will My Claim for Benefits Be Denied?

If you work and earn income that exceeds the SGA threshold, you will likely not be deemed disabled and cannot receive disability benefits unless you were working under a special circumstance noted above.

How much you earn is one of the first things the SSA looks at. If you are making more than $1,310 per month when applying for disability, your claim will be denied relatively quickly without a medical review.

What Happens If I Stop Working? 

If you stop working after applying for disability, the SSA will need to see proof that you did not do this by choice. You must show the SSA that you had to stop working because your medical condition worsened to the point where you could no longer perform your job duties.

If the SSA thinks you stopped working to meet the eligibility requirements, your claim will be denied.

How Does it Work for Those Self-Employed?

The rules used to determine SGA work differently if you are self-employed. The SSA understands that the monthly profit of a small business is not the same as the business owners’ monthly income.

If your small business is making more than $1,310 per month, the SSA does not assume you are personally earning that amount each month. As such, the SSA will take several factors into consideration when determining if anyone who is self-employed is engaging in SGA.

Your work may be considered SGA if it meets at least one of the following conditions:

  • Services are performed that are significant to the operation of your business, which generates a substantial income directly from your business
  • Work is performed that is like work performed by individuals who are not disabled for the same type or similar kind of business
  • Work is performed that is valued at over $1,310 per month or work is performed that saves your business from having to pay another employee over $1,310 per month for the same work

If your work does not meet any of these conditions, you may be able to qualify for disability benefits.

Consult with an Attorney Today

Need help getting disability benefits? If so, it is in your bests interest to consult with a licensed attorney at Sigman Janssen as soon as possible. We are ready to guide you through the claims process or appeal a denial notice.

Read what some of our clients have said about our services. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. There are zero upfront fees if we take a case or while we work on a case.

Have a Question? Call (877) 888-5201