Don't Exceed Your SGA: What SSDI Applicants Need To Know

3 February 2021
 Categories: Law, Blog


Getting approved and keeping your benefits going can be a challenge. Those unable to work at their jobs may be entitled to a monthly benefit via Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). An applicant's income both before and after they are approved plays a major role. Read on and learn more about what is counted as income and what is not.

Why Income Matters to the SSA

If you cannot earn money through your previous job, SSDI can supplement your income. The SSA puts strict limits on how much you can earn (and how you earn it as well). The SSA reasons that if you can make over a certain amount of money each month, then you may not need SSDI benefits. For those who are in the application process, you should be unemployed and not earning any income. After you are approved for benefits, though, you can potentially work to earn some money.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

When you are able to earn income, the SSA will be interested in how you are earning the income and the amount. Each month, recipients must report their income and the source of it to the SSA. The activity used to earn that money is called SGA, and that term applies to both the activity and the money earned. You cannot perform duties at a job that you were unable to perform at your last job – the job you said you were unable to do anymore. As to the amount you can earn, the income limit for all recipients is $1,310 ($2,190 for the blind) as of 2021.

Income That May Not Be Counted

The SSA is not interested in all of your income, however. Some forms of income are excluded from the SGA category. One common form of income that is not counted is money you to use to purchase items that are connected to your disability. That might mean transportation costs, hard medical goods, home alterations, and more. Those things are known as impairment-related expenses. Also not counted is income earned by others living in your household. If your spouse or partner earns money, that is not counted. Other miscellaneous income sources not counted are:

  • Gifts
  • Pensions
  • Gambling winnings
  • Spousal support (alimony)
  • Annuities
  • Income from rental properties
  • Inheritances
  • Life insurance proceeds

Those who are trying to be approved for SSDI are often turned down for income or other issues. If you are denied benefits, you are entitled to an appeal hearing and you will need a lawyer at that hearing to help you. If you lost your benefits due to an income issue, you are also entitled to an appeal. Speak to a social security lawyer about your case and get the benefits you need, or for more information about social security disability law.