SGA Limits

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Amounts

Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA is an extremely important number to be aware of when analyzing a Social Security Disability claim. This number, which changes nearly every year based on the National Average Wage Index, serves as a limit in two important pieces of disability analysis. Additionally, it is important to note that blind individuals have favorable treatment when considering SGA limits, and their limit is considerably higher.

Is a Claimant Working (engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity)?

Being unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is required when proving disability. As such, an individual must be earning less than the SGA limits in the chart below. Take-home pay, however, is not the actual number. The number to be analyzed is gross pay (before tax/benefit/retirement deductions) minus any impairment related work expenses. If that number is below the SGA limit, the Claimant is considered to not be engaged in SGA, and a claim for disability benefits can proceed. If gross pay is above SGA, a disability claim for benefits that includes such a month is unlikely to succeed unless it can be considered an Unsuccessful Work Attempt. Consistently staying below SGA is the most advisable way to avoid having employment disturb a claim for disability benefits.  It should be noted that for self-employed individuals, the analysis is conducted a bit differently.

Should past work be considered relevant?

Another important use of the Substantial Gainful Activity limits is when considering a Claimant’s Past Relevant Work (PRW). According to POMS DI 25005.015, for a Claimant’s work to be considered PRW, that work must have been performed within the relevant period (generally 15 years prior to the adjudication), lasted long enough for the Claimant to learn the work (SVP analysis from the DOT code is required here), and the work must have been SGA, meaning that the monthly earnings from the work must have exceeded the limits below.  If any of these tests are not met, then the job should not be considered Past Relevant Work in Step 4 of the 5-Step process.  This is a very important analysis for skilled work in particular due to the fact that fewer skills obtained from work would generally be regarded as reducing vocational adaptibility, which is a positive when arguing on behalf of a disabled Claimant.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Limits

YearNon-blind SGABlind SGA
2018$1,180$1,970
2017$1,170$1,950
2016$1,130$1,820
2015$1,090$1,820
2014$1,070$1,800
2013$1,040$1,740
2012$1,010$1,690
2011$1,000$1,640
2010$1,000$1,640
2009$980$1,640
2008$940$1,570
2007$900$1,500
2006$860$1,450
2005$830$1,380
2004$810$1,350
2003$800$1,330
2002$780$1,300
2001$740$1,240
2000$700$1,170
1999 (July-Dec)$700$1,110
1999 (Jan-June)$500$1,110
1998$500$1,050
1997$500$1,000
1996$500$960
1995$500$940
1994$500$930
1993$500$880
1992$500$850
1991$500$810
1990$500$780
1989$300$740
1988$300$700
1987$300$680
1986$300$650
1985$300$610
1984$300$580
1983$300$550
1982$300$500
1981$300$459
1980$300$417
1979$280$375
1978$260$334
1977$240$240
1976$230$230
1975$200$200
Source Data: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html