What Does “Substantial Gainful Activity” Mean in a Disability Case?

Some people who suffer from a long-term injury or illness that prohibits them from working in any capacity are eligible to recover social security disability benefits. Specifically, in order to qualify for disability benefits, the applicant must not be able to take part in substantial gainful activity due to his or her long-term injury or illness.

Substantial gainful activity, as determined by the Social Security Administration in 2021, means earning at least $1,310 per month working (or $2,190 for individuals who are blind). In the event that you are working at this level, you are not eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

An experienced California social security disability benefits lawyer in your area can determine if you are eligible to receive disability benefits. If so, your attorney can assist you with assembling and submitting all of the necessary application materials, including relevant medical documentation that supports your disability claim. If your application for benefits is denied, your attorney could assist you with filing the necessary administrative appeal(s) with your insurance company. Once your administrative remedies have been exhausted, if you still do not have the benefits you need, your attorney could assist you with pursuing litigation in the federal court system.

Defining a Substantial Gainful Activity According to the SSA

The determination about whether an individual is engaging in a substantial gainful activity involves much more than looking at the numbers. In certain instances, running a small business, engaging in criminal activity, or even taking part in volunteer work, could constitute a substantial gainful activity.

Specifically, substantial work means that the applicant is taking part in significant mental or physical activities. In some cases, work that an applicant performs on a part-time basis may constitute a substantial work activity.

In addition, a gainful activity is a work activity that an individual receives monetary compensation to perform. In some instances, however, the Social Security Administration may consider your work gainful even if you do not receive monetary compensation. If the work activity is one that a person typically receives monetary compensation to perform, then it might still be considered a gainful activity by the SSA for the purposes of social security disability benefits eligibility.

Types of Activities that are not Substantial or Gainful

There are certain types of activities that an individual might perform which the Social Security Administration does not consider either substantial or gainful for purposes of disability benefits eligibility. Those activities include household services and chores, physical therapy, occupational therapy, chores and activities that you take care of on your own, taking part in social activities, and attending school.

If you are unable to work due to a long-term illness or injury, a social security disability attorney in your area can help you determine if your work qualifies as a substantial gainful activity – and if you might be eligible to recover disability benefits. If so, your attorney could help you file and submit the necessary application materials for the best chance of receiving benefits.