What does it mean when Social Security says that I can't engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

When someone applies for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on a disability, that person is subject to a Five Step process to determine whether they are disabled.  Step One involves Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) - the person must not be able to engage in SGA.  Although there are exceptions, such as for the blind and sheltered work (consult an attorney if you're unsure!), for most people SGA is working and earning $1130 per month in 2016. That means to get disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), most people must not be working or working and earning less than $1130 per month.  If your claim is coming up for a hearing, however, and you are working and earning less than $1130 per month, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may still hold your work against you.  For example, Susan is working part-time and earning $1000 per month. Her hearing is next month and she believes that her work will not be an issue at the hearing because she is earning less than SGA. Susan may be wrong! The ALJ may use her work activity as evidence that Susan has the physical and mental capacity to work full-time, but has chosen not to in order to get benefits. Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice, so don't go quit your job based on this post! Everyone's situation is different.