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What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

Cutter Hall Karlock, LLC Jan. 13, 2021

If you live with a disability and receive Social Security Disability payments, you may wonder if you can also engage in paid work. The answer is yes, but know that if you do, you must make less than the substantial gainful activity threshold amount set by the Social Security Administration.

Investopedia explains what the SSA means by substantial gainful activity. It also details the thresholds for 2021.

An Overview of SGA

Substantial gainful activity is a term the SSA uses to describe the amount of money an SSD beneficiary can earn each month to continue to qualify for disability benefits. The SSA refers to the SGA amount to determine whether claimants qualify as disabled. If you are able to participate in paid activities that allow you to earn more than the designated threshold, you do not qualify as disabled for the purposes of the SSA’s disability programs. However, if you make less than the threshold amount because of your injury or illness, the SSA may consider you disabled for the purposes of its programs.

2021 Thresholds

The SGA dollar amount threshold changes each year to account for inflation. The SSA also maintains differing amounts for statutorily blind individuals. Claimants who meet the administration’s legal definition of blindness can earn more through substantial gainful activity than non-blind claimants before the SSA considers them ineligible for benefits.

As of 2021, blind individuals can earn up to $2,190 in SGA per month. Non-blind individuals have an SGA threshold that is significantly lower, at $1,310 per month. So long as you earn less than the SGA amount each month, you remain qualified for Social Security Disability benefits, given you meet the SSA’s other qualifying criteria.