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Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) means the performance of significant physical and/or mental activities in work for pay or profit, or in work of a type generally performed for pay or profit, regardless of the legality of the work. SSA evaluates the work activity of persons claiming or receiving disability benefits under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and/or claiming benefits because of a disability (other than blindness) under Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under both programs, SSA uses earnings guidelines to evaluate work activity to decide whether the work activity is substantial gainful activity and whether the individual is considered disabled under the law.

To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person's disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.

Amounts for 2019

The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2019 is $2040. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2019 is $1220. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits. See historical series of SGA amounts below.

Trial work period

After a person becomes eligible for disability benefits, the person may attempt to return to the work force. As an incentive, we provide a trial work period in which a beneficiary may have earnings and still collect benefits.

Monthly substantial gainful activity amounts by disability type
Year Blind ($) Non-Blind ($)
1975200200
1976230230
1977240240
1978334260
1979375280
1980417300
1981459300
1982500300
1983550300
1984580300
1985610300
1986650300
1987680300
1988700300
1989740300
1990780500
1991810500
1992850500
1993880500
1994930500
1995940500
1996960500
19971,000500
19981,050500
19991,110700a
20001,170700
20011,240740
20021,300780
20031,330800
20041,350810
20051,380830
20061,450860
20071,500900
20081,570940
20091,640980
20101,6401,000
20111,6401,000
20121,6901,010
20131,7401,040
20141,8001,070
20151,8201,090
20161,8201,130
20171,9501,170
20181,9701,180
20192,0401,220
a $500 amount applied in the first half of 1999.

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