When applying for Social Security disability benefits, administrators reviewing your claim will take multiple variables into consideration. One of those variables is called Substantial Gainful Activity. What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and how does it impact your Social Security disability benefits claim?
Substantial Gainful Activity – SGA
Substantial Gainful Activity is defined as any work that is performed for pay or profit, totaling over a certain amount per month. For 2018, the Social Security Administration set SGA levels at $1,180 per month.
What if I’m Over The SGA Threshold?
If you earn more than $1,180 per month, you are over the SGA threshold and are not eligible for disability benefits from Social Security. You are not considered disabled if you earn more than $1,180 per month.
What Earnings Count Towards SGA?
The $1,180 in earnings must be from work-related income, not unemployment. Benefits from unemployment are not included in the Substantial Gainful Activity calculations and will not impact your benefits from Social Security.
Passive income from investments also do not count towards your Substantial Gainful Activity totals. Passive income investments include:
- Investment accounts like individual and joint brokerage accounts.
- Retirement funds like 401k, 403b, IRA, Roth-IRA and other investments aimed at providing passive income in your retirement years.
Self-Employed and SGA
More and more people are choosing to be self-employed. The allure of running a micro business with a website presence has allowed many people to work for themselves. If you are self-employed, the Social Security Administration has two different ‘tests’ for determining SGA.
The first test is called the “Three Tests” and is used to evaluate your work activity when you initially apply and before receiving benefits for 24 months. Under the “Three Tests” considerations, your self-employment income will be considered Substantial Gainful Activity if:
- You provide a significant service to the business and your average monthly income is over the SGA threshold; or
- Your work is comparable to the work of a person in your community without disability benefits; or
- The worth of your work is more than the SGA threshold, when compared to what you would be paid as an employee.
The second test for the Self-Employed is called the Countable Income Test. This test is used if you have been receiving disability benefits for the last 24 months and is used to determine if your disability as ended.
Under the Countable Income Test, your earnings are compared to the SGA threshold. If the Countable Income test shows income over $1,180 per month and there is no evidence that your services lack significant impact on business operations – you can lose disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Trial Work Period
If you’re unsure that you are able to return to work after suffering from a disability, the Social Security Administration offers a trial work period during which you can earn money while still receiving SSDI benefits.
This trial period gives disability beneficiaries the opportunity to test whether they are fit to return to work; however, the amount of earnings a worker can receive during this time period is also limited.
In 2018, the Trial Work Period income threshold was $850 per month. So, a worker can make up to $850 per month and still continue receiving Social Security disability benefits.
The SSA will not consider work performed during a Trial Work Period to indicate that the worker’s disability has ended until the work has been performed in at least 9 months (consecutive or non-consecutive) in a rolling 60-month period.
A Disability Lawyer Can Help
If you are unsure about your employment and the impact that Substantial Gainful Activity may have on qualifying for disability, call the Houston Social Security disability lawyers at The Law Offices Of M. Stanley Whitehead. We are experienced in a variety of Social Security topics, including disability, denied claims, and the appeals process. Contact us today to speak with our team of social security disability attorneys.