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What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

January 31, 2022 Blog

To state the obvious, when you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you need to prove that you are disabled. Unfortunately, the SSA often denies applications for benefits on the basis that the applicant failed to prove that they were actually disabled. This can be especially challenging for people who can still do some work despite their disability. If you are considering filing for disability benefits or your application has been denied, a Tampa disability attorney can evaluate your case and help you get the benefits you deserve.  

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Defined

In order to qualify for disability benefits, you need to be able to prove that your disability prevents you from doing any significant work for 12 months or more. To determine whether you are able to perform “significant work,” the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a monthly earnings standard. For 2022, the SSA has set the monthly SGA amount as follows: 

  • $2,260 for blind individuals
  • $1,350 for non-blind individuals

If you earn less than the set amount (and meet the other criteria), you should qualify for disability benefits. That said, determining whether you qualify can be more complicated than it sounds. If you have questions, a Tampa disability attorney can provide you with the guidance you need. 

Breaking Down SGA

Breaking SGA into its elements can help understand how SGA applies to your case. 

  • Substantial – any significant physical or mental activity regardless of the amount of time spent. Part-time work can be considered “substantial” activity. 
  • Gainful – work that you get paid to do. That said, unpaid work may be considered “gainful” if people are typically paid to do it. 

Here are some common examples of what is not considered SGA: 

  • Household chores
  • Going to school
  • Going to physical, occupational, or mental therapy
  • Social activities

In some instances, the activity may be significant but not gainful, such as when you are doing chores or going to school. That said, one of the most common pitfalls is volunteer work. Volunteer work may be considered SGA in the following situations: 

  • You spend more than a few hours per week volunteering.
  • Your volunteer work requires physical or mental activity at a level that suggests you could engage in SGA.
  • You volunteer for a business owned by a family member
  • If you were paid for your volunteer services, your wages would be at or above the SGA level.

If you are unable to engage in substantial, gainful employment to earn the amount established by the SSA, then you will likely qualify for disability. In some cases, however, determining how SGA applies to your case can be complicated. A Tampa disability attorney can help you navigate this issue successfully.  

Disabled and Unable to Work? Contact a Tampa Disability Attorney for Help

Tampa disability attorney Mike Murburg has decades of experience in helping people suffering from disabilities get the benefits they need to move forward in life. No matter where you may be in the application process, he can help you navigate the process efficiently and successfully. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 813-264-5363 or complete our online contact form to learn more about how we can help.