Substantial Gainful Activity
A major eligibility requirement for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) is that a Claimant must not be performing “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). Substantial gainful activity refers to work activity performed by an individual. Essentially, the social security administration looks at how much you are earning each month, before taxes, and compares this number to the maximum amount allowed. ($1,130 in 2016). If your substantial gainful activity is above this amount, the SSA will assume you are working, and you will be required to explain the earnings and/or be unable to receive benefits. If your SGA is below this amount, the SSA will assume the earnings are not attributable to significant work activity.
Check out this chart listing substantial gainful activity by year https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html
Can I work while I’m waiting for a decision regarding my SSDI case?
The first thing to consider before applying for social security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) is how severely your medical condition(s) interferes with your ability to work to sustain a living. Your medical condition(s) must entirely preclude, or significantly interfere, with your ability to earn money on a monthly basis. If you are currently working full time, the Social Security Administration views this as an indication that your disability is not severe and doesn’t impede with your ability to work. The case will likely be denied.
If, however, an individual makes less than SGA, the social security administration will assume the work activity was insignificant, and will not use this as evidence against you (i.e., that you are able to work).