To qualify for Social Security disability benefits you have to show that your disability prevents you from being able to work. In Social Security’s words, you have to show that you are unable to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA translates into a maximum dollar amount you are allowed to earn and still be potentially eligible for Social Security benefits.
For 2011, the most you can earn is $1,000 per month (before taxes or deductions). If you earn more than this, Social Security may say that you are engaging in a substantial gainful activity and, therefore, not eligible for disability benefits.
The SGA issue is so important that it is the very first step of the 5 step sequential evaluation process – the way Social Security evaluates adult disability claims!
What do I do if I earn more than the substantial gainful activity amount? Does than mean I can’t get Social Security disability benefits?!?
Not necessarily. There are exceptions that may allow you to still qualify for Social Security disability benefits even if you are earning more than the SGA amount.
Some of these exceptions include:
- Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE).
- Subsidized Earnings and/or Sheltered Employment.
- Unsuccessful Work Attempts (UWA).
- Trial Work Period (TWP). Note: TWP are a way to test your ability to work if you are already on Social Security while still preserving eligibility for Social Security benefits.
If Social Security has said that you earn too much, it is not the end of your case!
UPDATED 01/05/11: Updating amounts for 2011.