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Substantial Gainful Activity and Social Security Disability

The first step in any social security disability case is whether the claimant has performed “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) during the period they are alleging they were disabled. Substantial gainful activity is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. By definition “substantial gainful activity means work that involves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties and is done (or intended) for pay or profit.” 20 CFR § 404.1510. Whether a job or activity is considered substantial gainful employment is generally based on gross earnings per month. This amount of monthly earnings changes every year based on standard of living. There is also a different monthly amount allotted to blind individuals. In 2019 the monthly substantial gainful activity amounts are set at $1,220 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,040 per month for blind individuals. This amount then increases in 2020 to $1,260 per month for non-blind and $2,110 for blind. For example, a non-blind individual requesting disability benefits cannot be performing at or above $1,220 per month (in 2019) for the time period they are alleging disability. It is also important to note that an individual must have a continuous twelve month period (prior to the date of the hearing) of either not working or earning under SGA in order to qualify for any type of benefits. Overall, there are several exceptions and nuance to this rule such as the issue of self-employment and that is why it is crucial to consult with a social security disability lawyer to better understand whether any issues relating to this topic are present in your case.

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