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Some applicants are able to work and earn a small income. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is work done by a disability applicant that earns that person enough money to support themselves.
The Social Security Administration determines whether an individual is gainfully employed. For 2014, the amount was $1,070 ($1,800 for blind applicants) per month; not including income from interest or investments. If you are earning more than that amount each month, the SSA will most likely consider you not disabled, and will deny your claim without even requesting your medical records.
There are circumstances where you can have a higher income and still successfully argue that you are disabled. For example, if you work for a family member who makes exceptions because of your condition’s limitations, or if you were transported to work by other people. If you have a similar circumstance and were denied because your income exceeds the SGA amount, you can appeal your claim.
Having a low income is not a guarantee of benefits. For instance, if you are able to work but you earn a low SGA, you can be denied if you could potentially work more hours to earn more money. If you decide to quit working, you must prove that your condition worsened so much that you were unable to continue working. The SSA wants to see that you have attempted to earn an income for yourself, even if it is not enough to support you.