What is 'Substantial Gainful Activity - SGA'

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) represents the monthly threshold salary used by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to qualify individuals for disability benefits. The SSA updates the dollar amount annually to reflect inflation and generally maintains a higher threshold for statutorily blind individuals.

BREAKING DOWN 'Substantial Gainful Activity - SGA'

Substantial gainful activity represents the amount of monthly income below which an individual becomes eligible for disability benefits under Social Security. The SSA uses the SGA amount as a key determinant in whether it considers a person disabled for the purposes of its programs. Individuals unable to engage in activities that earn them more than the monthly SGA threshold qualify for disability payments. The SSA does not consider those capable of engaging in activities that earn more than the threshold disabled for the purposes of its programs.

The threshold amounts used to calculate the SGA amount differ for blind and non-blind individuals. Those who meet the SSA’s statutory definition of blindness have a higher SGA threshold than those who do not, which means blind individuals can generally earn more per month than non-blind individuals before they become ineligible for disability benefits.

The SSA set the 2018 SGA amount for non-blind individuals at $1,180 per month. This means that any individual able to engage in employment that earns $1,180 or more per month will not meet the eligibility criteria to receive disability benefits in 2018. The SSA set the SGA threshold for blind individuals at $1,970 in 2018.

SSDI and SSI

The SSA provides disability payments to individuals through two programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers individuals who have paid into the Social Security program via payroll deductions. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits to disabled individuals who meet a specific set of financial eligibility requirements, whether previously employed or not. For non-blind individuals, the SSA uses the SGA threshold to determine eligibility for benefits from either program. For statutorily blind individuals, however, the SSA only uses the SGA to determine eligibility for payments under the SSDI program. For blind individuals who receive disability payments under the SSI program, the SSA does not use SGA thresholds in its initial determination of eligibility.

Re-Entering the Workforce

Once the SSA approves disability benefits for a given citizen, it allows that person to continue to receive benefits for a brief period after that person becomes able to re-enter the workforce and earn more than the SGA amount each month. This provides an incentive for disabled people to seek gainful employment and re-enter the workforce in a different capacity for the long term if possible.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Elderly and Disabled Credit

    The Elderly and Disabled Credit is a non-refundable tax credit ...
  2. Supplemental Security Income - ...

    Supplemental Security Income is a tax-funded federal program ...
  3. Death Master File (DMF)

    The Social Security Administration maintains the Death Master ...
  4. Total Permanent Disability (TPD)

    Total permanent disability (TPD) is a condition in which an individual ...
  5. Disability Insurance Trust Fund

    The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is one of two Social Security ...
  6. Social Security

    Social Security is a part of a social insurance and welfare program ...
Related Articles
  1. Financial Advisor

    How to Help Clients Who Have Become Disabled

    Disability can strike a client any time. Advisors should make sure clients are adequately insured against this risk and know what benefits are available.
  2. Managing Wealth

    Tips for Insuring Your Salary

    Those with high incomes really can’t afford to be without disability insurance. Here's why.
  3. Personal Finance

    Why Having an Emergency Fund Is Essential

    Do you know how you’d pay the bills if you lost your job, had a health crisis or needed a major car repair? That's why an emergency fund is essential.
  4. Insurance

    Protecting Your Income With Disability Insurance

    For a high-earning professional, income protection is essential. Here's what to look for in a disability insurance policy.
  5. Insurance

    Understanding Disability Insurance Policies

    Disability insurance is often overlooked because it is confusing. Here is some information to make it easier to understand.
  6. Retirement

    Ready to Enroll in Social Security? Here's What You Need

    There are three ways to enroll in Social Security, all of which require a lot of information.
  7. Managing Wealth

    Top 6 Features Of A Great Disability Policy

    Many people consider buying life insurance, but few think to prepare themselves from long-term illness or disability. Find out how to shop for disability insurance and protect yourself from financial ...
  8. Retirement

    Types Of Social Security Benefits

    Social Security isn't just for the retired. It also pays benefits to the disabled, widows and widowers, children, stepchildren, divorced spouses and more.
  9. Retirement

    Widows Need to Understand Social Security Benefits

    According to a recent report, widows have been receiving incomplete survivor benefit information from the SSA that may be costing them thousands.
  10. Retirement

    Social Security Benefits for Non-U.S. Citizens

    Social Security benefits, which are confusing for U.S. citizens, can become even more confusing for resident aliens and non-resident aliens.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Are my Social Security disability benefits taxable?

    In some situations and in some states, your Social Security disability benefits are taxable. Read Answer >>
Trading Center