October 1, 2013

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and your Indiana Social Security Disabilty Claim

As an Indiana resident seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must show that you are unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).  SGA is the performance of physical or mental activities in work for pay or profit.  Work is substantial if it involves significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.   Even if work is performed on a seasonal or part-time basis, the SSA may still consider it substantial.  Work is gainful if it is a type of activity that is usually done for pay or profit, regardless of whether a profit is realized.

The following types of activities are generally not considered SGA by Social Security:

  • Self-care
  • Household tasks
  • Hobbies
  • Therapy
  • School attendance
  • Clubs/social programs

However, even if these activities are not considered SGA, Social Security may look at your ability to perform them when determining whether you are able to work.  If you are able to attend school full-time, or if you participate in hobbies that require a lot of physical activity, Social Security may consider those activities to be “work-like,” and find that even though you are not presently engaged in SGA, you are still able to work.  Therefore, during the application process, the SSA usually asks claimants about their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).If your impairments do not limit your ability to perform activities such as shopping, driving, and household chores, the SSA may believe you are capable of gainful employment.  The fact that you are not currently engaged in SGA does not necessarily mean that you are not capable of engaging in SGA.

Substantial work may, under some conditions, be disregarded if it is discontinued or reduced after a short time because of your impairment.  This type of work is considered an Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA).  Therefore, If you attempt to return to work after you have started an application for disability, but you end up stopping or reducing your work within six months because of your disability, the SSA might not count that work when determining whether you are disabled.

I frequently answer my clients’ questions about how the SSA considers the work they have done in the past or work they are able to perform.   I am often asked, “Can I work while I am waiting for a decision on my disability claim?” or “How much money am I allowed to earn if I am receiving disability benefits?”  I have explained to many clients how much money they can make in a month without their employment rising to the the level of SGA, and I also talk to them about how their ability to perform that type of work can affect their disability claim.  I am eager to hear from you if you have similar questions.  As an attorney who has resided in Indiana all my life, I take great pride in helping my clients through the disability claims process.   

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