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Substantial Gainful Activity is a term used by the Social Security Administration to describe income-earning activities that supposedly indicate that someone is not really disabled. Most often, evaluating SGA comes down to monthly income, but various other factors can come into play. Because any of these factors can hurt a disabled person’s ability to receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, people who wish to apply for either should pay close attention to the SGA guidelines.

Review the following information and consult a Colton social security lawyer for assistance with filing and to improve your chances of successfully obtaining disability payments.

How Does the SSA Define Substantial Gainful Activity?

At its core, the SGA requirement attempts to weed people out of SSDI and SSI programs who are making as much or more than people without a disability. According to them, if you “are able to engage in competitive employment in the national economy” then you are not at a relative disadvantage.

A simple hard and fast rule for SGA is to look at monthly income. In 2016, the SGA income threshold was $1,130 for non-blind applicants and $1,820 for applicants who are blind. Earning over that amount could mean you are ineligible for disability payments.

However, there are many exceptions.

Performing SGA Without the Needed Income

In some situations, a person can be making below SGA thresholds but still be considered to engage in SGA.

For instance, a contract worker like a drywall installer could have a previous back injury that makes it difficult for him to work. However, if the SSA determines that he is simply not able to get contracts because of the current job market or a lack of initiative rather than because of his prior injury, then he could still technically be within SGA ineligibility.

Someone who volunteers or engages in criminal activity could also be engaging in SGA since this labor indicates that they have the capacity to work in a wage-earning position.

Earning More Than SGA But Not Being Ineligible for Disability

On the other side of the coin, someone may be bringing in more monthly income than the SGA limits but still technically be eligible for disability. Income from non-work sources such as interest on accounts, returns from investments and donations or gifts do not count towards SGA income.

Also, some applicants can be earning above the SGA level but only under special circumstances. These circumstances indicate that the employee would otherwise be earning less or not working at all. They include:

  • Benefiting from a lowered standard of labor quality or productivity in relation to their disability
  • Receiving regular special assistance from other employees
  • Receiving special equipment or duties designed to accommodate their disability
  • Working abnormal hours and/or taking an abnormal amount of rest breaks
  • Benefiting from special arrangements like getting picked up for work every morning
  • Obtaining a job they would have otherwise been unable to because the employer knew the employee personally or only hired them out of personal concern for their welfare

Other situations include people with disabilities that own their own businesses. In this scenario, the SSA will examine actual income from the business compared to the applicant’s own labor contributions relative to non-disabled people in a similar industry.

Navigate These SGA Exceptions and Rules with the Help of a Colton Social Security Lawyer

All of these exceptions can make getting your SSDI or SSI application accepted akin to splitting fine hairs. Assembling all of the needed information and deciding upon your strategic approach can be made much simpler with the help of a Colton social security lawyer.

We’ve been helping disabled individuals in the Greater Los Angeles area, the Inland Empire, and Orange County get the disability benefits they need for years. Call Dr. Bill LaTour and his team today at 800-803-5090  or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.