SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home620. Significance of Earnings

620.1 Does the amount of your earnings affect whether or not you can do substantial gainful activity?

Your earnings amount during a period of alleged disability may establish that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity. Substantial earnings generally do so. However, low or no earnings during a period of work activity do not establish your inability to engage in substantial gainful activity. The circumstances under which work is performed are considered.

620.2 What if you must stop working because of the impairment?

If you must stop working after a short time (less than 6 months) because your impairment gets worse or prevents you from working, your earnings will not necessarily demonstrate your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.

620.3 Does your work in a sheltered establishment affect whether or not you can do substantial gainful activity?

If you work under special conditions (e.g., in a sheltered workshop), only the earnings relating to your own efforts are considered. Subsidies based on financial need or other non-work factors are not considered. The fact that a “sheltered” establishment operates at a deficit or receives charitable or governmental aid is not material.

620.4 Can the costs of impairment-related items and services be deducted from your earnings?

The cost of certain impairment-related items and services (e.g., certain attendant care services, medical devices and equipment, prostheses, and similar items and services that are necessary to control your disabling condition) that you pay for and need in order to work are deductible from earnings.

620.5 Are there any earnings criteria that indicate whether or not you are doing substantial gainful activity?

Certain earnings criteria have been established as reasonable indications of whether you are doing substantial gainful activity. In 2010, the monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals is $1,640, and $1,000 for non-blind individuals. The monthly substantial gainful activity amount can be adjusted each year based on the national average wage.

(For the definition of substantial gainful activity applicable to disabled blind individuals, see §603.3).

Last Revised: Nov. 16, 2010