Social Security Q&A: What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

Social Security Q&A: What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

Question: What is substantial gainful activity?

Answer: Social Security uses the term “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA,” to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.

If you earn more than a certain amount and are doing productive work, Social Security generally considers that you are engaging in substantial gainful activity.

For example, the monthly SGA amount for 2015 is $1,090. For statutorily blind individuals, that amount is $1,820. You would not be eligible for disability benefits. You can read more about substantial gainful activity and if your earnings qualify as substantial gainful activity at

Q: Will my disability benefits be reduced if I get workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits?

A: If you get either workers’ compensation or public disability benefit payments, your Social Security benefits may reduced for you and your family.

Public disability benefit payments paid under a federal, state or local government law may affect your Social Security benefit. This includes civil service disability benefits, temporary state disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits based on disability.

Disability payments from private sources, such as a private pension or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. However, in some cases, private disability insurers may require you to apply for Social Security disability benefits before they pay you. You may want to check to find out about your private insurer’s policy.

Social Security reduces the disability benefits you and your family get if the combined total amount, plus your workers’ compensation payment, plus any public disability payment you get, exceeds 80 percent of your average earnings before you became injured or ill.

See the publication What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits at for more information.

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. Call toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit

Author: Tribune News Service

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