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What is substantial gainful activity?

People in Central Florida who have applied or thought about applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration may have heard of the phrase "substantial gainful activity," which is actually a legal term that is used to help the Administration decide whether or not to award benefits.

As a legal term, detailed questions about substantial gainful activity are best referred to an experienced Florida Social Security attorney. However, it is important for a Kissimmee resident to understand the basics of this term, as it could save them from filing a disability claim that has little to no chance of being accepted.

Substantial gainful activity is actually tied to a specific dollar amount that can change with inflation each year as necessary. For 2018, unless a person is legally blind, the threshold is $1,180 per month. Someone earning more than this amount through employment is considered engaged in substantial gainful activity and is thus not disabled. This is true even if the person is in poor health or has suffered a serious injury.

If a person is not actually earning more than the threshold, then the Administration will ask whether a person is capable of earning that threshold before awarding disability. This is where the process gets more complicated, as the Administration will evaluate a person's medical condition and history, as well as his or her other circumstances, in order to measure their "residual functional capacity."

While "residual functional capacity" is a topic unto itself, suffice it to say for now that it measures in a supposedly objective manner whether and to what extent a person is able to find and maintain work even with a serious physical or mental condition. The point is for the Administration to make sure someone applying for benefits is indeed disabled as opposed to simply being voluntarily unemployed and, thus, not eligible for benefits.

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