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The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr.

Substantial Gainful Activity and Your Social Security Disability Claim

Frank J. Dito, Jr.
Car accident, personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney serving Staten Island and Brooklyn New York.

One of the most important aspects of a Social Security disability claim is the applicant's participation-or lack thereof-in substantial gainful activity (SGA). To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you not only have to be able to prove that you suffer from a condition on the Social Security Administration's listing of impairments, you must also demonstrate that you are not able to engage in substantial gainful activity.

SGA Defined

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines SGA based on an applicant's earning potential or activity. If you are earning more than a standardized monthly income-as set forth by the SSA-you will be considered to be participating in SGA and therefore disqualified for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA sets these limits based on the nature of your disabilities.

The SGA amounts for 2010 are

  • $1,640 for a blind individual; and
  • $1,000 for a non-blind individual.  

The SSA annually adjusts these monthly limits as based on the national average wage index.

How SGA Will Impact Your Disability Claim

When you first contact your Staten Island Social Security disability lawyer, they will probably ask you many questions about not only your medical conditions and treatment, but your work history. It is important to be completely honest during these initial meetings. If your attorney is unaware that you are continuing to work and earning more than the allowed monthly limit, they will not know that you are engaging in SGA and therefore, not qualified for Social Security disability benefits.

It is understandable that if you have a job in this fragile economy, that you would strive to hold onto it, even if you have trouble functioning or suffer through excruciating pain because of your disabilities. Just remember that by continuing to work and earning more than the SSA's monthly allowance, you are participating in SGA and cannot be considered for disability benefits.

The Trial Work Period

The SSA does permit its disability beneficiaries some leeway when it comes to maintaining some employment while receiving benefits. This can occur in a trial work period. This is a program in which those eligible for Social Security disability benefits return to work while still being permitted to receive benefits. You may participate in a trial work period for up to 9 months (which may or may not be consecutive) in a 60-month period. If you are earning more than $720 each month, this will be counted as 1 month in your trial work period.

If you choose to undergo a trial work period, first consult with your Staten Island Social Security lawyer to ensure that you understand the rules for this program and how this and SGA will affect your Social Security disability claim and benefits.

Contacting a Staten Island Social Security Disability Lawyer:

There are many nuances to applying for Social Security disability benefits, and it's not difficult to make costly mistakes in the process. Before you file your Social Security disability claim, be sure to take advantage of this free consumer's guide: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Social Security Disability Claim. Contact a Staten Island Social Security disability lawyer at The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr., for help in building your disability claim at 800-310-5520.