What is “substantial gainful activity”?

What is “substantial gainful activity”?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2023 | Social Security Disability |

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must be unable to achieve what is referred to as “substantial gainful activity” due to your medical condition.

The phrase “substantial gainful activity” sounds confusing. The following is a brief explanation of what the Social Security Administration (SSA) means when they refer to substantial gainful activity.

What is substantial gainful activity?

Substantial gainful activity boils down to how much work you can do and what you can earn doing it.

Your job is considered substantial if you perform significant physical and/or mental activities during your workday. Your work can be substantial, even if you are only working part time.

Your work is gainful either if you are paid for doing it or earn a profit, if it is the type of work that naturally is done for pay or profit or if it is the type of work that is meant to earn a profit, even if your job specifically is not profitable.

So, that leaves the activity component. The SSA has earnings guidelines it follows to determine if your work activity is considered SGA. Currently, if you earn $1,470 or more per month on average ($2,460 on average monthly if you are blind), this is SGA for SSDI purposes.

What if I am self-employed?

If you are self-employed and are not blind, the SGA evaluation is a bit different. When evaluating your application for SSDI, the SSA will determine your work as a self-employed individual is SGA if:

  • You provide significant services to your business and earn at or above the SGA level described above
  • The work you can perform is comparable to the same work a person without a disability in your geographic area would be able to perform
  • The effect your work has on the business is worth more than the aforementioned SGA level earnings, especially compared with what you would have to pay someone else to do the same job

There is a different test used to determine SGA if you are blind or you have already been receiving SSDI for two years or more.

Do not lose hope

It can be frustrating to apply for SSDI. After all, you might believe you qualify for benefits, but there is a chance the SSA will not agree. Understanding what the SSA will look for when determining if you should receive benefits brings you more insight into what is going on behind the scenes after you apply for SSDI.