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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 SSA, you are not working unless your income, before taxes are taken out, exceeds a set amount. Your next question might be how much is the monthly SGA amount?

Before you ask that question, first look to determine if you have a medical condition that prevents you from all work or a medical condition that will result in death.

In order to win SSD benefits, you must be unable to work due to a severe medical condition. Also, your medical condition must last 12 months or longer. Or, the condition must be likely to result in death, such as cancer.

It is your burden to prove to the SSA that you cannot work at your old job. Then, your medical condition must also prevent you from doing other work in the national economy. This is true not only where you live, but also looking at the numbers of jobs in the country. If you have a medical condition that keeps you from working, then you can file an application for benefits on Social Security’s website.

Substantial Gainful Activity Business Group Meeting Working Concept


Generally, you will not win SSDI 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 SSDI benefits.

Likewise, even jobs that are physically easy and require few skills, can be SGA. Also, your job performance and the time spent at work are factors the SSA will consider. The issue is the ability to engage in SGA, not the work itself.

Therefore, poor performance on a job may be proof that you have a severe physical or mental condition. Whereas, if you are able to perform volunteer activities, even though you are not paid, it may prove you can work.

The amount of money you earn may also prove to the SSA that you are capable of SGA. However, the amount you are paid per month is only one factor among many that proves you can work.

Social Security rules set the yearly figures that presume you have the ability to perform SGA. However, these figures are not conclusive in the absence of inquiry into your job performance, job duties, and evidence of special assistance from your 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 that play into your ability to work.


The SSA uses the amount of money you earn per month to determine whether your work activity is “substantial gainful activity.” The gross monthly amount you earn becomes SGA when you earn a set amount. However, that set amount 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 SSA’s definition of blindness. For more information about working and being blind, refer to SSA’s guide Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.

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. In 2023, those amounts $2460 (if you are blind) and $1470 (if you are not blind). However, the SSA does deduct the work expenses that you have due to your physical or mental condition when they look at how much money you are earning.

If you have extra work expenses, the amount of money you earn could be higher than $1,350 in 2022 before it affects your ability to receive benefits. Additionally, the SGA amount increases each year. The SGA amount in 2023 is $1470. In 2024, the SGA amount is $1550.

Whether you work and earn quarters of coverage under SSA’s program also impacts your date last insured. Find out more about what the date last insured is and how it impacts SSD benefits.


Beginning January 1, 2001, the monthly SGA amount adjusts every year 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. The monthly SGA amount for those who are statutorily blind in 2023 is $2460. For those who are not blind, the monthly SGA amount for 2023 is $1470.

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 $1470, you can still file an application for SSD benefits. Just don’t expect to win benefits if you are working.

Because, most judges will look at your ability to work part time as evidence that you can work full time. This is a complex issue. Therefore, you should talk to one of our  attorneys about your options if you are working. The SSA is very strict about not letting people file an application if they are working over the SGA amount. Likewise, they are also very strict with their rules as to whether you should receive SSDI and SSI benefits.


There are two types of Social Security benefits. The first type is Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). This benefit requires you to have years of working a job and paying your taxes. The second type of benefit is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This benefit is an addition to SSD benefits. Also, it is for people who have never worked or who have earned low wages.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):  

SSDI benefits are for those who can no longer work at any job due to a medical condition. The amount of money you will receive from SSDI benefits is based on the taxes you paid while working. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have earned enough “work credits.” A work credit is an amount of taxable income. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. The amount of work credits you will need will depend on how old you are when you apply. If you don’t have enough work credits at the time you apply, then you can only file for SSI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):  

SSI is a needs based benefit. It is for people with little to no income, such as children and the elderly. Anyone who makes more than a certain amount of money per month cannot receive SSI benefits. The SSA counts the income of those in your house, not just your income and assets. If you have a spouse who earns more than $4000 a month, for example, then that income prevents you from getting SSI benefits. You cannot qualify for SSI benefits, no matter your medical condition, if you do not meet the income and asset rules for SSI.

If you are not able to work due to a medical condition, then you need to replace your income. You also need health insurance. You can apply for SSD and SSI benefits on Social Security’s website. If you win your case, then you will receive monthly SSD benefits and Medicare. Medicare benefits are federal health insurance benefits. You can read here to find out more about Medicare benefits. 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.


In order to hire our law firm, all you need to do is call or contact us. We offer a free review of your benefits and options. 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 means if we win your SSD case, then you pay an attorney fee. The attorney fee comes out of your past due benefits.  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 helping clients with physical and mental conditions win benefits for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of legal experience. Together, we have won over 20,000 Social Security hearings. Our job is to fight for your SSD and SSI benefits.

To find out more, read 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 for 12 months or more. Contact our law firm for help today.


If you need medical records that prove you cannot work, then make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can order tests, like an MRI or CT scan. This evidence helps you win your case. However, if you can’t afford to see a doctor, then you still have options.

On this website, we provide a list of free and low cost health resources in the Intermountain West. Click below to learn more about free and low cost options in your state:

Additionally, if you cannot afford treatment, you can request that SSA send you to one of their doctors. You can visit one of SSA’s doctors for free. They will write a report about your medical conditions. You can learn further information about your free SSA doctor exam.

If the SSA sends you to a free doctor exam, then bring your cane or walker to the exam. Also, if you use a brace for your back or other part of your body, then wear it. Finally, remember that at the SSA exam you could be under investigation.


If you are working and earning under the SGA level, then you can apply for benefits. Obviously, we recommend that you stop all work if you have a severe illness. Because SSD and SSI benefits are for those who cannot work at any job due to their medical conditions.

We want you to understand how to apply for SSD and SSI benefits. Likewise, we want you to understand your appeal rights. Our law firm can help you apply for benefits and appeal any denial from the SSA. 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. You can read about Idaho SSD benefits. Also, you can learn more about Colorado SSDI benefits or California SSDI and SSI benefits. Give us a call today. We can help you understand substantial gainful activity. Additionally, we can help you win the SSD benefits you deserve.

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