Earning Money With Social Security: Understanding Substantial Gainful Activity

13 November 2017
 Categories: Law, Blog


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides those who can no longer work at their jobs with a regular monthly monetary benefit if those workers qualify. SSDI is based on your past earnings and on your particular medical condition, and while the monthly check is undoubtedly welcome, it may not be enough to live on alone. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands the limits of its program and makes allowances for those who wish to earn a bit more money. Read on for a better understanding of substantial gainful activity and how much money you are allowed to earn.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

You will notice this term on your SSDI documentation, and you would do well to understand what it means. If you don't abide by the SGA rules, you could find yourself without your monthly benefit checks and your SSA benefits suspended. Substantial gainful activity means both how much money you have earned, and how you were able to earn that money. There are two ways to run afoul of the SGA limits:

1. By doing work that you claimed you could no longer do when you first applied for SSA benefits. It only makes sense that if you said you could no longer drive a truck, for example, because of your bad back and you were approved for benefits based on your bad back, that you cannot now earn money driving a truck. If your injury has improved enough to allow you to do that kind of work, you are no longer eligible for benefits for that particular medical condition. The SGA rules also apply to volunteer work, so be sure you know what you can and cannot do before you do it.

2. By earning over the limit of income you are allowed to earn. The amount you can earn can change every year and is based on the median standard of living across the country. You must report all income from all sources to the SSA on a monthly basis, and earning money "under the table" is against the rules and could have you in trouble for committing SSA fraud.

The Trial Work Period

The SSA does have a valuable program that allows recipients to earn an unlimited amount of money during a limited number of months a year. You still cannot participate in work that would violate the SGA, however. The trial work period program has a number of limits and rules, but it makes it possible to exceed the low amount of income that restricts you in most cases.

Contact a law office like Haskin & Associates LLC for more information and assistance.