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Monday, October 7, 2013

Social Security: Substantial Gainful Activity for the Blind

William R. Morton
Analyst in Income Security

In the Social Security disability program, the level of earnings that constitute “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), and therefore disqualifies a person from receiving benefits, is set by regulation at $1,040 a month for 2013. However, the law provides a different SGA level for the blind at $1,740 a month for 2013, which is adjusted annually to reflect growth in average wages. This report discusses the reasons for these differing amounts and proposals to change them.

Under the Social Security Act, disabled individuals qualify for benefits only if they are determined to be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA).
1 Under Section 223(d) of the Social Security Act, the Commissioner of Social Security is given the authority to promulgate regulations prescribing the criteria for determining when earnings demonstrate an individual’s ability to engage in SGA. Since July 1999, the SGA amount has been adjusted annually to reflect the growth in average wages. In 2013, this amount is $1,040 a month. However, the same section of the law specifies that a different definition of SGA applies to individuals disabled by blindness. These individuals are considered to be engaging in SGA if their earnings exceed 1,740 a month (this amount is also adjusted annually to reflect growth in average wages).

Date of Report: September 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: RS20479
Price: $19.95

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