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Substantial Gainful Activity

To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index. In 2019, monthly earnings in excess of $1,260 are considered SGA ($2,110 if blind).

SGA is defined as work that is both substantial and gainful. Substantial work activity is work that involves doing significant physical or mental activities. Gainful work activity is work that is done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized. If an individual engages in SGA, he or she is not disabled for purposes of receiving Social Security disability benefits regardless of how severe his or her impairments are.

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