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What is substantial gainful activity?

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Physical Disabilities

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you have to prove that you are unable to work to support yourself. There is no requirement that says you cannot work at all in order to get benefits.

However, the Social Security Administration uses a low bar for determining if your ability to work fits its definition of disability. The standard is substantial gainful activity.


SGA is a specific monetary limit you can earn and still be eligible for SSD benefits. In general, you cannot get benefits unless you are unable to work for a one-year period. However, being unable to work means you are not able to engage in SGA, which would be work activities that allow you to earn a living.


SGA limits change each year. There are also two different types of SGA limits. One is for people who are blind under SSA determinations, and the other is for those who are not blind. Blind earners’ SGA limit for 2023 is $2460, and the limit for those who are not blind is $1470. These are monthly earning limits. If you earn over these amounts, then you are engaging in SGA, and you cannot qualify for SSD benefits.


If you get SSD benefits and you begin to work, you will get a trial period in which you can earn more than the SGA limit. If you continue to earn over the limit, then you will lose your benefits.

When applying for SSD benefits, it is essential to understand how SGA plays a role in the determination. You need to be able to meet all requirements of the SSA, including the SGA limits if you want to get benefits.

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