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The meaning behind Social Security saying that I can’t engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

August 29, 2016 Law

When someone applies for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on a disability, that person is subject to a Five-Step Process to determine whether they are disabled.  Step One involves Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) – the person must not be able to engage in SGA.  Although there are exceptions, such as for the blind and sheltered work (consult an attorney if you’re unsure!), for most people SGA is working and earning $1130 per month in 2016. That means to get disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), most people must not be working or working and earning less than $1130 per month.  If your claim is coming up for a hearing, however, and you are working and earning less than $1130 per month, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may still hold your work against you.  For example, Susan is working part-time and earning $1000 per month. Her hearing is next month and she believes that her work will not be an issue at the hearing because she is earning less than SGA. Susan may be wrong! The ALJ may use her work activity as evidence that Susan has the physical and mental capacity to work full-time, but has chosen not to in order to get benefits. Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice, so don’t go quit your job based on this post! Everyone’s situation is different.

I have closed my law firm effective 10/21/22. If you believe you are a current client, you are probably mistaken. I am only representing clients in the very last stage of their cases where a decision is about to be rendered and where no action needs to be taken in order to get that decision. I have withdrawn from all other cases. I am no longer representing you and you should have gotten a letter to that effect. For Social Security matters, I advise you call Jenkins, Block & Associates at 410-727-4000 or email at or - for all other matters I have no recommended referral. I do not regularly monitor this email or my phone messages. Requests for former client files should be made in writing to:

Emmett B. Irwin
1777 Reisterstown Rd. Suite 265
Pikesville, MD 21208