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Importance of Substantial Gainful Activity

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at ssa.gov.

617. Importance of Substantial Gainful Activity

617.1 Does the ability to do substantial gainful activity mean that you are not considered disabled?

If you are doing substantial gainful activity, you are not considered disabled. This is true even if your impairment is as severe as, or even more severe than, those in the Listing of Impairments. (See §607.)

617.2 Does the ability to do substantial gainful activity apply to all types of disability protection?

You do not receive disability benefits if you can engage in substantial gainful activity, unless you meet one of two exceptions:

  1. A statutorily blind worker age 55 or over-Evidence of your ability to do substantial gainful activity that does not require skills or abilities comparable to any gainful activity that you did in the past does not prevent a finding of disability for either entitlement to benefits or establishment of a period of disability. However, disabled worker's benefits are not payable for months you actually do substantial gainful activity. (See §505.)

  2. A statutorily blind applicant for SSI benefits- Evidence of your ability to do substantial gainful activity does not prevent a finding of blindness. However, earnings are considered under the income and resources provisions. (See §§2128-2166.) This provision also applies to children under age 18.

Last Revised: Jul. 25, 2006


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