Clearing Up The Confusion About SGA

Posted on: 10 July 2018

If you're applying for Social Security benefits, you will undoubtedly come across the term SGA. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the acronym to stand for substantial gainful activity. SGA is an important element of both getting benefits in the first place and keeping them once you are approved, so read on to learn more.

What is substantial gainful activity?

The SSA only approves people for benefits who cannot work at their jobs and make money. Breaking it down a bit more will find:

1. Making money: The SSA won't approve your benefits if you are making a certain amount of money. You can make some money, however, as long as you don't exceed the limit and depending on exactly how you made that money. At this time (2018) you can earn $1,180 or $1,970 for the blind. If you are earning more than that amount regardless of how debilitating your medical condition is you cannot get benefits and will lose your current benefits.

2. Working at a job: It's not just about the money, however. Even if you get a low-paying job and stay under the above limits, you might still be judged to be performing SGA. When you applied for benefits it was because a medical condition prevented you from working, so no matter how little income you make you cannot get benefits if your position involves performing the same or similar tasks of your previous job. 

For example, if you can no longer drive a truck because of a leg problem, then you cannot now get a part-time job doing truck driving or anything similar. It should be noted that even volunteer work that involves doing something similar is not allowed, but in the case of the truck driver, you may be allowed to do administrative work or work on an assembly line.

The Trial Work Period

As long as the work is not similar to your previous job, you take advantage of the trial work period (TWP). This SSA program allows participants to earn an unlimited amount of money but only for a certain period of time. You can earn unlimited income for a rolling period of nine months during a five-year period. So you might work and earn unlimited income for a couple of months a year for five years and then another five-year period begins.

Unfortunately, it's very difficult to get approved for SSA benefits and getting turned down is common. Your best bet is to contact a Social Security law office like Parmele Law Firm, PC and get representation at your appeals hearing.