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What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)? blog header image

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

It is important for SSDI applicants to understand Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), as it is one of the key factors in qualifying for disability benefits. 

SGA and SSDI Qualification 

To be eligible for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) you must meet the requirements that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has. One of these requirements is that you cannot be working above the SGA limit. 

The SGA limit for 2024 is $1,550 per month. If you are working and earning above this limit you will be denied SSDI benefits. To understand why the SSA has this rule, you must understand how they define gainful activity.

How Does the SSA Define SGA 

While the $1,550 is how most people gauge the SGA limit, the SSA measures by more than just numbers. Activities such as volunteer work or part time jobs can also count as SGA, even if you are not passing the $1,550 limit. To better understand what the SSA considers to be Substantial Gainful Activity, let’s break down their definition. 


Substantial activity is any actions that require a significant amount of mental or physical work. This work could be unpaid or less than the $1,550 limit. If the SSA feels that you are able to do a certain level of work, regardless of income, you could be denied benefits. 


Gainful activity is anything someone pays you to do. This is usually where the $1,550 limit factors in. Although, even if you are not paid, Social Security may consider an activity gainful if someone is typically paid to do it. 

To qualify for SSDI, you must be unable to do the work you currently do, because of your disability. In addition to this, your disability must make you unable to complete any other types of work. 

If the SSA finds that you are either working and earning above the SGA limit, or if you are capable of doing activities that are substantial or gainful, you will be denied. 

What is Not SGA

Not every activity is considered substantial or gainful. The SSA has a list of general things that you are able to do and remain eligible for disability benefits. Some of these activities include:

-Attending school or taking classes 

-Going to physical or occupational therapy 

-Self care 

-Household chores and home maintenance 

-Clubs, hobbies, or social programs

However, it is important to understand that while these activities will not count as SGA, they could be considered as evidence for your SSDI claim. Social Security may make note that you are able to function at some level, despite your disability. They could use this information to decide what your functioning capacity and work abilities are. 

What Counts as SGA Income

The SGA income limit for 2024 is $1,550. The amount changes year to year based on inflation and the COLA report. To qualify for SSDI you must be making less than $1,550 per month in earned income. 

Earned income is defined by the IRS as all the taxable income and wages you get from working for someone else, yourself or from a business you own. 

What Does Not Count as SGA Income

Passive income, any money you receive that was not earned by working, does not count towards the SGA limit. Types of passive income include:

-Interest and dividends

-Pensions or annuities

-Social Security benefits 

VA disability compensation

-Unemployment benefits


-Child support

Starting Your SSDI Claim

Are you ready to start your SSDI claim? Victory Disability is a nationwide law firm that specializes in assisting disabled workers get the benefits they have earned and deserve. Take our free evaluation by clicking here.