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Once you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance there are several things that will be looked at to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits. One of the things that SSA will look for is your earnings once you have said that you were no longer able to work (alleged onset date of disability). They will try to determine if you, the applicant, are capable of performing Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), and if they decide that you are, you will not be eligible for disability benefits.
So what exactly is “Substantial Gainful Activity”? The easiest way I can think of explaining this is that SGA basically stands for the amount of earnings you receive for work activity (physical and/or mental). If you earn over the SGA guidelines, then SSA assumes you are not disabled and do not need disability assistance. So, if it is determined that you ARE working and earning over SGA, you will be denied.
SGA is determined by how much money you make monthly. Each year SSA sets an earnings limit that marks what they believe will represent whether or not you are participating in Substantial Gainful Activity. The limit can change each year and generally goes up a small amount if it does not remain the same. The amount of SGA for 2011 is $1000 ($1640 if you are blind). Again, this is monthly gross earnings. The amounts and calculations for the self-employed persons are calculated differently than wages earned from your employer. It is also important to know that they do not only look at full-time work but that part-time work will also count towards the limit as well. Social Security uses SGA not only to decide whether or not you are eligible for Disability benefits to start with, but also to see if you continue to be eligible after you have already started receiving benefits.
It is very important if you are trying to work while you apply for Social Security Disability Benefits, to know what these limits are and to keep track of how much money you are making—this will really affect your case. Staying informed on this and other criteria that SSA looks for is one of the most important ways that you can help your claim!
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law