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Substantial gainful activity are the words the SSA uses for “work.” If you file a claim for SSD benefits and you are still working, then you are going to hear the term “substantial gainful activity.”

But what is SGA? SGA means “work” over a certain amount of money each month. For the Social Security Administration, you are not working unless your income exceeds a set amount of monthly earnings. Your next question might be how much is the monthly SGA amount?

Before you ask that question, first look to determine if you have an illness that prevents you from all work.

In order to have a disability under the Social Security regulations, you must have a medically determinable impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §404.1510. The condition must be severe and last 12 months or longer. Or, the condition must be likely to result in death, such as having terminal cancer. 20 C.F.R. §404.1509. Also, the physical or mental condition must prevent you from returning to your previous employment.

It must also prevent you from performing other work that exists in a substantial numbers. This is true not only where you live, but also looking at the numbers of jobs in the country. If you have a disability that stops you from full-time work, you can apply for benefits at Social Security’s website.

Substantial Gainful Activity Business Group Meeting Working Concept


Generally, you are not eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits if you are working. However, whether one’s work is “substantial gainful activity” is determined by the amount of money you are earning.  The SSA also looks at other factors beyond your monthly pay. For example, a part time job or a low paying full time job, can still qualify as SGA. Find out more information about working and disability benefits here.

Likewise, a job requiring little exertion and few skills, may also qualify as SGA or work. These types of jobs could make one ineligible for benefits. The quality of one’s performance on the job and the time spent at work are factors the SSA will consider. The issue is the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity, not the work itself. 20 C.F.R. §404.1571.

Therefore, poor performance on a job may indicate you have a severe physical and mental condition. Whereas, if you are able to perform part-time volunteer activities, that may show that you can work.

Your earnings may show you are capable of performing substantial gainful activity. However, monthly earnings is only one factor among many that proves you are working. 20 C.F.R. §404.1574.

Social Security regulations establish figures presumptive of the ability to perform substantial gainful activity. However, these figures are not conclusive in the absence of inquiry into the claimant’s job performance, job requirements, and evidence of special assistance or consideration from claimant’s employer. Cardew v. Commissioner of Social Security, 896 F.3d 742, 258 Soc. Sec. Rep. Serv. 536 (6th Cir. 2018). This means the SSA will look at all the factors surrounding your ability to work.


The SSA generally uses earnings guidelines to evaluate whether your work activity is “substantial gainful activity.” The amount of monthly earnings the SSA considers to be SGA depends on the whether you are blind or have another physical or mental condition.

For example, the Social Security Act gives a higher SGA amount for persons who meet the definition of blindness. For more information about SSA rules on working and blindness, refer to SSA’s guide Working While Disabled: How We Can Help (Publication No. 05-10095).

As a general rule, you can usually can make no more than $1,350 ($2,260 if you are blind) a month in 2022 or the SSA will consider you to be working. However, the SSA does deduct the work expenses that you have due to your physical or mental condition when they look at your earnings.

If you have extra work expenses, your earnings could be higher than $1,350 in 2022 before they affect your ability to receive benefits. Additionally, the substantial gainful earnings amount usually increases each year.

For example, the amount of monthly earnings for the SGA cut-off in 2021 was $1310 for non-blind workers. Whether your work and earn quarters of coverage under SSA’s program will also impact your date last insured. Find out more about what the date last insured is and how it impacts disability benefits here.


Beginning January 1, 2001, the monthly SGA amount for persons with impairments other than blindness is adjusted annually based on the average wage index. The SGA amount will never be lower than the previous year’s amount, but there can be years when there is no increase. For 2019, the monthly SGA amount is $1220.  In 2020, the SGA amount was $1260 gross per month. Amounts are different and higher for people who are blind. In 2021, the SGA amount was $1310. In 2022, the SGA amount is $1350 for non-blind individuals.

What do you need to know? You need to know that SSD and SSI benefits are for people who cannot work at all. However, if you are working just a few hours a week and earning, before taxes, less than $1220, you are still eligible to apply for SSD benefits.

However, most judges will look at your ability to work as evidence that you can work full time. This is a complex issue and you should call our office and talk to an attorney about your options if you are working. The SSA is very strict about performing SGA (working) and determining whether you are eligible for SSD benefits.

If you are not able to work due to a mental or physical condition, you need to replace your income. You also need health insurance. You can apply for disability benefits at Social Security’s website. If you are eligible you will receive monthly SSD benefits and Medicare. Medicare benefits are federal benefits. Find out more about Medicare here. Or, you may receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI comes with Medicaid.  Medicaid benefits are state benefits. You can find out more about Medicaid benefits here.

Social Security Disability attorneys at cannon disability law


In order to hire Cannon Disability Law, all you need to do is call or contact us. We offer a free consultation over the phone. And, it doesn’t cost anything to call us.  Better yet, it also doesn’t cost you any upfront money to hire us. Why? Because you only pay us an attorney fee if we win your case. This is a contingency fee. It means if we win your SSD case, you pay an attorney fee. But, the attorney fee comes out of your back benefit.  Therefore, if we do not win your case, there is no attorney fee to pay.

Also, we bring over 30 years of legal experience to your SSD case. For instance, Dianna Cannon has been representing people with physical and mental conditions for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of litigation experience. Our job is to fight for your SSD and SSI benefits.

Together, we have won over 20,000 Social Security hearings.  To find out more, go to our About Us page. Remember, Social Security benefits are not based on a rating system. It is all or nothing. Your illness must prevent you from working all jobs. Contact Cannon Disability Law today.


If you are working and earning under the substantial gainful activity level, you can apply for benefits. Obviously, we recommend stopping all work if you have a severe illness. Because SSD and SSI benefits are for those who cannot work.

We want you to understand how to apply for SSD and SSI benefits. Likewise, we want you to understand your appeal rights. We can help you apply for benefits and appeal a denial from the SSA.

At Cannon Disability Law, we can help you apply for benefits and appeal an SSA denial. Likewise, we can represent you in court. We will prepare you to be a witness in your case.

If necessary, we can also appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Additionally, we file appeals in Federal Court. Finally, we can represent you where you live. For example, we can represent you if need a Social Security attorney in Utah or Nevada. Also, we can help you if you live in Idaho, Colorado, or California. Give us a call today. We can help you understand substantial gainful activity.

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