Social Security and Substantial Gainful Activity

Even if you know the definition of a substantial gainful activity (SGA), could you use it? Can you be sure that the last job you tried before you applied for Social Security disability benefits was SGA?

Charles Hall proposes that substantial gainful activity (SGA) has become just too complicated.

If one is engaging in SGA, one cannot be considered disabled, but SGA is a term of art. Work may not be SGA if low earnings, unsuccessful work attempts, made work, subsidized employment, impairment related work expenses, trial work periods, etc. are taken into consideration.

…The biggest problem now is that SGA is just too complicated. Claimants have no idea how it works. Even many Social Security employees who should understand how SGA works, don’t.

Read Charles Hall’s original article is by Charles Hall on his Social Security News blog.

I have to give credit to Gordon Gates for bringing Charles Hall’s article to my attention in the first place. Gordon responds:

I also agree with the assessment that SGA is too complicated. There are some very important exceptions and adjustments to the $980 per month SGA amount, including the unsuccessful work attempt. A thorough knowledge of these complicated SGA rules is critical because SGA exceptions can make the difference between winning and losing a claim (the cliff).

Here is one of the exceptions taken from the introductory section of the Substantial Gainful Activity regulations (20 CFR 404.1571):

Even if the work you have done was not substantial gainful activity, it may show that you are able to do more work than you actually did.

Basically, this says that even if you earn less than SGA, you still might have a problem with a disability claim.

To some extent, this makes sense. Let’s say you are able to do construction work, but your disabilities limit you to only part-time work, and you earn less than the SGA amount ($980 per month for 2009).

Non-SGA heavy work may suggest the ability to do SGA work at a lighter level. 

Being able to do part-time construction work might mean you could do full time lighter work, such as a cashier where your earnings would be more than the SGA amount (and potentially make you ineligible for Social Security disability benefits).

What it all comes down to is that the SGA is complicated. And this is only one issue!

  • mailing list manager

    not very easy but if we will focus then not too much complicated for anyone.