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What is substantial gainful activity?

In any Social Security Disability claim an administrative law judge will consider what is known by the Social Security Administration as substantial gainful activity, or SGA for short. So what is it, and why does it matter?

A person is deemed to be disabled when he or she cannot engage in activity, or work, that would allow a sufficient living wage to be earned. Substantial gainful activity is the amount of earnings an individual is allowed to make in any one month period of a year while still remaining eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. This amount changes from year-to-year. For example, in 2017 a non-blind person could make up to $1,170 per month. In 2018, that amount increased to $1,180 per month.

These amounts are higher for blind disability claimants. In 2018, a blind claimant may have monthly earnings up to $1,970.

Consider this example. A person claims to be disabled as of June 20, 2016. However, his appeal hearing falls on June 20, 2017. His tax return for 2016 shows that he had a taxable income of $30,000. This would mean that he had more than enough income to be considered substantial gainful activity during that year, and would become an issue to be addressed.

In filing for Social Security Disability, the issue of income will always arise. It is highly advisable that a claimant does not enter an appeal hearing unrepresented by an attorney. These can be very complex matters that often entail a great deal of legal jargon. Having an experienced attorney by your side will insure that you understand exactly what is being considered and how it affects your case.

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