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Three Ways Substantial Gainful Activity Affects Social Security Benefits


Social Security disability benefits aim to provide financial support for those who cannot work or are limited in what they can do because of a medical condition. If you worked for a designated length of time and contributed through your earnings, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The main eligibility rules are that your disability must be expected to last at least a year or lead to death, and it renders you unable to earn enough income to support yourself. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has enacted detailed rules with respect to both factors.

Taking the specific issue of income, SSA uses a threshold for determining if you make too much to be entitled to benefits: Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In addition to assessing initial eligibility for SSDI, the rules also affect your interests after being approved. A Maryland Social Security disability lawyer can explain details, and information on how SGA works is useful.

Breaking Down SGA 

SSA set the amount of SGA for 2022 at $1,350 for non-blind individuals and $2,260 for those that are blind. However, the rules do not only focus on the earnings you make through wages. Any work you perform that someone would be paid to do is included, which is the “gainful” element of the definition. To be doing “substantial” work, the point is expending physical or mental effort.

In other words, your efforts with volunteering, self-employment, and running a business are included when SSA assesses your SGA. 

Three Ways SGA Affects SSDI 

When you are considered to be working at the threshold level for substantial gainful activity, there may be implications for your Social Security benefits at different stages. 

  1. Eligibility: Your ability to earn an income while living with a disabling medical condition is at the core of your initial application for SSDI benefits. If you make more than the threshold, you do not qualify. However, you may be eligible if you make less than SGA, and your benefits will represent the difference.
  1. Staying Eligible: After being approved for SSDI, you will still need to report to SSA if you do earn any wages. You will also be called for a Continuing Disability Review (CDR), in which SSA evaluates whether you are disabled. Any earnings above SGA could disqualify you for benefits.
  1. Going Back to Work: If you want to test the waters and determine whether a return to the workforce is suitable, your SGA could become important. SSA rules on the Ticket to Work program enable you to earn an income and still get benefits, until you earn SGA for a certain time period.

Discuss SGA with a Maryland Social Security Disability Attorney

Our team at the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC is knowledgeable about how SGA affects SSDI applicants and current recipients. We are happy to advise you on how the laws affect your situation, so please contact us to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Glen Burnie, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, or Annapolis, MD.


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