Social Security Disability
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Workers’ Compensation

What should you know about substantial gainful activity?

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be unable to engage in what the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls substantial gainful activity (SGA). That’s defined not by a type of activity but by a dollar amount,

How is SGA determined?

The amount changes every year as the national average wage index changes. For 2021, the monthly income that qualifies as SGA is $1,310 for non-blind people and $2,190 for people who are considered blind under the SSA’s standards. Those amounts are after any deductions for impairment-related work expenses. For example, if you’re a non-blind person who earns $1,400 per month, but you spend $100 per month on van transportation to and from work, you be at $1,300, which means you wouldn’t have substantial gainful activity according to the SSA.

What is a trial work period?

Often, when people are newly disabled, they don’t know whether they can continue to work in their current job or not. Therefore, the SSA will allow people to collect disability benefits while still working, even if their income is above the SGA limit for a trial work period.

The trial work period can be up to nine months within a period of 60 consecutive months, so it doesn’t have to be nine consecutive months of work. In 2021, any month of work in which someone earns less than $940 isn’t considered one of the nine months.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits, particularly if you still want and are able to work in some capacity, can be challenging. If you have questions or issues around SGA or other requirements, an attorney who is experienced with Social Security Disability benefits can help you.

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