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Home » Glossary » Substantial Gainful Activity

Definition of Substantial Gainful Activity

For a claimant to be considered disabled the SSA must determine they cannot perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). How much work does a claimant have to do to be considered substantial and gainful? There are two parts to this question. First, work is considered gainful if the claimant is earning $1,040 (gross earnings per month) for non-blind disabled applicants, and $1,740 for blind applicants (gross earnings per month).

Next the SSA will evaluate whether a claimant's work is substantial. This is a bit more subjective. The basic premise is whether the claimant's physical or mental work effort is comparable to the work that could be required for a full-time job, although the work will not have to be done for pay or profit to be considered substantial.

For instance, claimants may be doing substantial work if they are attending school full-time or volunteering. In this case the claimant many not be making any money, but the SSA could deny the claimant's claim because they would assume if the claimant has the physical and mental capabilities to volunteer for hours on end or go to school full-time they could also get a job and work. The SSA assumes that if a claimant has the capacity to perform work for too many hours they also have the capacity to work a regular job and they are not disabled.

Claimants who are denied for SGA work should not appeal their denial until they have lowered the amount of work and income they are getting for work. Otherwise, they will continue to be denied again and again.

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