The central inquiry in determining whether an individual is disabled is if he or she can engage in “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). If an individual’s earnings are below the SGA threshold, he or she may receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you work for wages, SSA will simply examine gross income and monthly earnings. In 2017, the threshold amounts for both blind and non-blind individuals marginally increased from 2016.
SGA is a legal term of art which simply examines the amount of wages that a person is earning. Social Security annually adjusts the amount of monthly earnings considered to constitute “Substantial Gainful Activity.” The threshold amount of monthly earnings for substantial gainful activity differs depending upon the nature of the disability (think blind versus non-blind). Federal law provides for a higher amount of substantial gainful activity for statutorily blind individuals.
After a person becomes eligible for disability benefits, he or she may attempt to return to the workforce. As an incentive, federal law provides a trial work period in which a beneficiary may earn wages and still collect benefits.
Last year in 2016, the monthly substantial gainful activity amount was $1,130 for non-blind individuals and $1,820 for blind individuals for SSDI and SSI benefits. In 2017, the monthly substantial gainful activity amount is $1,170 for non-blind individuals and $1,950 for blind individuals for SSDI and SSI benefits. SGA for blind individuals does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since if you are able to engage in SGA, you are not disabled. Both of these SGA amounts generally adjust with changes in the national average wage index.
If a person is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity, he or she is eligible for disability benefits. If an individual who is not blind earns and otherwise eligible for disability has earned income above the monthly threshold amount of $1,170, he or she may be considered to be engaging in SGA and be denied benefits.
There are typically exceptions to every rule, and there are, in fact, exceptions to the substantial gainful activity rule. Scenarios exist where an individual may be receiving more monthly earnings than the SGA threshold but still considered disabled and eligible for disability benefits. For example, the “sheltered work” or “special environment” exception typically applies to the situation where an individual is offered some special opportunity (an accommodation to permit the person to continue working) by an employer that normally does not exist for other employees of the same employer. If there are special impairment related work expenses to permit the individual to work, those can be deducted. If the work lasted less than 90 days, there is a rule. If the work lasted between 90 ad 180 days, there is rule….
One of the best ways to make sure you understand all of the technical, legal requirements associated with applying for disability benefits is to retain the services of an experienced, knowledgeable and qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so there is absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.