Significant Gainful Activity (SGA)

Social Security uses a 5 step sequential evaluation process to determine if you are disabled. The first step is to determine whether you have SGA. If you are working and earning above a certain level, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will deny your claim. However, if your earnings fall below a certain level you may still be entitled to disability and SSA will move on to step two of the evaluation process. The chart below shows the amounts that SSA uses to determine SGA:

Social Security Disability Thresholds:

Significant Gainful Activity(SGA)
$ 940/mo.
$ 980/mo.

As you can see, if you earned $940 or more per month in 2008, you would have exceeded the threshold for SGA and would not have been entitled to benefits. In 2009, the threshold is $980 per month.

Many clients ask me if they can work while they are waiting for their hearing. I always encourage clients to try to work. If they attempt to work, but find they cannot continue, the judge will probably look at this favorably. If they find that they cannot work full-time, but can work part-time, they won’t be penalized if their earnings are below SGA. If they return to work and find that they are able to work at levels above SGA, we can always amend our claim and ask the judge to award a “closed period” of disability. A closed period of disability means that the judge would award benefits beginning with the date they alleged disability up until the date they started earning SGA. It has been my experience that judges are generally liberal when it comes to awarding closed periods.

It has been my experience that attempting to work is looked upon favorably by SSA. It shows the judge that you at least tried to work.

For more information about SGA and help with your claim, click on the email link. Send me your questions. I’m here to help!

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