What is a substantial gainful activity?

Millions of Americans rely on the money they receive from their Social Security disability checks to pay their monthly living expenses. However, in order to get these kinds of benefits, individuals must first qualify to receive them.

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, United States citizens must be disabled and unable to work for at least one year or suffer from a condition that will lead to death. Establishing that a particular individual is unable to work could become more difficult and complicated if the person is actually engaged in some sort of paid activity in spite of his or her disabilities.

For example, if a person who claims to be disabled is engaged in what the Social Security Administration refers to as a "substantial gainful activity," it could nullify his or her eligibility for Social Security benefits. A substantial gainful activity refers to a specific level of work earnings and work activity. For example, if a particular injured person is able to carry out a significant mental and physical activities, then he or she might be able to hold down a job that pays a livable wage, and therefore, not require social security benefits.

United States citizens who are earning over a certain limit while engaged in productive work activities will usually be considered as completing a substantial gainful activity, which would result in being ineligible for benefits.

Still, even if the Social Security administration has deemed you to be ineligible for benefits, there may exist a way to challenge the decision and/or cure any noted deficiencies that are preventing your application from getting approved.

Source: Social Security: Official Social Security Website, "What is substantial gainful activity?," accessed June 19, 2015

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