DEFINITION of 'Substantial Gainful Activity - SGA'

The threshold prescribed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for determining eligibility for Social Security benefits. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is a specified dollar amount. It is updated each year to reflect inflation, and it represents the minimum level of employability which will render a person productive and, therefore, ineligible for Social Security benefits. The SSA employs higher threshold levels of SGA for persons with specific disabilities, such as blindness.

BREAKING DOWN 'Substantial Gainful Activity - SGA'

For the year 2006, the SSA has set the SGA amount for individuals at $860 per month. This means that any individual who is able to engage in employment earning more than $860 per month will be ineligible for benefits. For blind persons, a higher SGA amount of $1,450 was set for 2006.

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

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