Did you know that in 2021, 65 million people received Social Security benefits per month, resulting in a total of 1 trillion in total paid out over the year? Out of those, 8.1 million were disabled workers.
If you are eligible to receive disability payments but feel confused about what qualifies as substantial gainful activity (SGA), then you are in the right place. In this article, we will give you a brief overview of everything to do with SGA.
What Is Substantial Gainful Work?
One of the main requirements for you to be eligible for Social Security or SSI disability is that your medical condition should be so serious that it prevents you from doing more than an insignificant amount of work for at least 12 months in a row. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) level gets used to define what is too much work.
In 2021, SGA was defined as earning $1,310 or more a month from working, or $2,190 for blind people. This means that if you are working at SGA levels (as defined by the numbers above), you are ineligible to receive Social Security benefits.
Also, if you are already receiving benefits from Social Security and then you start working, then your benefits could stop after your probation period at work ends. Of course, this might seem complicated to you, so it’s a good idea to contact a disability law firm to discover more info.
Definition of Substantial Gainful Activity
Now it’s important to realize that SGA isn’t just about the number given above. You could be deemed ineligible for benefits even if the activity you are employed in doesn’t garner you any wages. For example, if you are volunteering, performing some criminal activity, or even running a small business without making any money, you are considered to be involved in SGA.
Another thing to be wary of is that substantial in SGA is when you are doing significant mental or physical activities, even if you aren’t getting paid as much as you did before you became disabled. The nuances are minute but significant and should be watched out for.
If you get involved in gainful activity, it means both that you are getting paid for it OR you get involved in an activity that normally people would get paid for, even if you aren’t getting paid for it.
What Are Not Some Substantial Gainful Activity Examples?
Of course, some activities are not deemed to be part of SGA, no matter how you spin it. The following would be some examples:
- things you do to take care of yourself
- going to school
- involvement in social activities.
- physical, occupational, or mental therapy
- household chores
It’s good for you to know that these activities will not affect your eligibility for benefits. BUT, Social Security can use these as evidence to determine if you are disabled or not. The world of disability and Social Security is a complicated one indeed.
Volunteer Work and SGA
Interestingly enough, even though you aren’t getting paid for volunteer work and you are doing it out of the goodness of your heart, Social Security can use your volunteer work as evidence yet again to determine your disability benefits eligibility.
If it’s proven that you can work at SGA levels because you get involved in volunteer work that’s mentally and physically taxing, then you could be ineligible for benefits according to Social Security.
These are all the examples of volunteer work that would fall under SGA:
- volunteering at a family member’s business
- if your wages would be above SGA level if you were to be paid for your volunteer work
- your weekly volunteer hours are substantial when added up
- you are using your mental and physical facilities to volunteer which shows you could work at SGA levels
That’s why it’s highly important for you to be cognizant of the SGA level rules and laws and to stay below them as much as possible. It’s quite difficult to prove that you aren’t at SGA levels if the disability benefits officer determines that you are. It’s better to avoid that eventuality altogether.
Domestic Volunteer Service Act
There are some organizations that you can volunteer for without being considered SGA. They fall under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973:
- Volunteers in Service to America
- University Year for ACTION
- Foster Grandparent Program
- Active Corps of Executives
- Special Volunteer Programs
- Retired Senior Volunteer Program
- Service Corps of Retired Executives
If you have a deep desire to volunteer but you don’t want to become ineligible for benefits, then consider volunteering for the organizations listed above instead.
Passive Income versus Earned Income
You might be wondering if passive income would fall under SGA or not. Thankfully, if you are earning passive income from investments, real estate portfolios, pensions, dividend stocks, or other avenues, they are not considered to be SGA. That is, they are not considered to be money earned while working, which is what SGA cares about.
Be careful though because Supplemental Security Income (SSI) gets affected by passive income. So you are not all out of the woods with passive income either.
Even though you would want to build your passive income to support you in your old age, if you wish to qualify for benefits, you will need to be careful with it. It’s walking a tight rope indeed when dealing with Social Security benefits.
Substantial Gainful Work Has Layered Nuances
If you have qualified for disability benefits, you wouldn’t want to do anything to affect that flow of monies, especially since you are probably completely reliant on that income for sustenance and daily living expenses. That’s why it’s essential you learn more about the definition of substantial gainful activity and how you can avoid getting labeled as doing SGA levels of work.
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