What’s SGA?

6279371717_6fd433a3f9_b copy
Art: Robin Mead

You are allowed to work while on disability. If you earn under a certain amount you can continue to be eligible for disability benefits. This amount is called SGA and it changes every year: How much is SGA this year?ย 

Even though SGA looks like a simple number, it can actually be quite tricky. A few important things you need to know.

Figuring Out SGA

๐Ÿ’ฎ There are some work incentive programs that will allow you to earn over SGA and still be eligible.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you are self-employed, they will consider the amount you earn after business expenses. They may also consider a yearly average. There are a few more tricky rules about self-employment.ย 

Is This The Right Number? Why Do I Keep Reading Other Numbers?

๐Ÿ’ฎ When you start reading about working, you may start seeing other numbers in the $800-$900 range. You may see it written that this is the limit on the amount you can earn.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Well, that’s confusing! Because that’s not the same number as SGA. The number for SGA changes each year and is closer to $1,200.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If this is happening to you, you are probably looking at something called “Monthly earnings that trigger a trial work period.” This is a separate and complicated area.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you are come across this number you have two options:

  1. Ignore it. As long as you always stay under SGA, you don’t have to worry about Trial Work Periods. Done!
  2. Learn a lot more. You can learn a lot more about Trial Work Periods and start tracking your Trial Work Period months. We would suggest you work with someone who specializes in benefits counseling if you want to do this. See more below.

If You Are Blind

๐Ÿ’ฎ As you can see in the chart, SGA is higher for people who are blind. Here’s what they don’t tell you: It does not apply to all blind people. It only applies if Social Security has designated you as “statutorily blind” when you got approved or last reviewed.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Some people who are legally blind are not considered statutorily blind. For example a person who has diabetes and develops vision problems due to the diabetes may or may not have been designated statutorily blind.

๐Ÿ’ฎย If you are blind: Social Security has some special rules to help people who are blind and working.

Going Over the Limit

๐Ÿ’ฎ Sometimes people work over SGA and don’t even realize it. This commonly happens with there is a month with an additional pay period (for example: you get paid on Friday and this month has 5 Fridays).

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you go over one time, it does not mean your disability ends forever. In some cases, it will easily just start again next month. In other cases, you will need to reapply but you can request expedited reinstatement, so your benefits continue while the application is processing.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Another option is to use work incentives to show that you were never really over the limit.


This can be tricky to figure out, here’s a few places that can sometimes help:

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you want help figuring out your benefits, you can try contacting aย Centers for Independent Livingย in your area and ask if they can connect you with someone who can advise you on working and benefits.

๐Ÿ’ฎ You can also get benefits counseling through Work Incentives Planning Assistance programs. Note: Some work incentive programs are designed to help you go back to work full time and transition off benefits. They are paid by the number of people who get off benefits.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Disability Benefits 101 – Great information on working while receiving disability benefits in Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio

๐Ÿ’ฎ Learn about work incentive programs and trial work periods

๐Ÿ’ฎ Social Security work incentives website.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Warning: Do not call Social Security and ask these kind of questions to the person who answers the phone. The vast majority of our readers report being told wrong information in this area.

Will My Disability Check Continue?ย 

๐Ÿ’ฎ Just because you are eligible for your benefits to continue, that does not guarantee that your benefits actually will continue. There are a few important things to learn in this area:ย How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble



2 thoughts on “What’s SGA?”

  1. I dd not see on this site any discussion of “Income Related Work Expenses” which can include non-reimbursed medical costs and prescription drug costs. See the table at https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/ssdi-and-ssi-employments-supports.htm?tl=2%2C3. The IRWE are deducted from income before making the Substantially Gainful Employment test (currently $1310); in its discussion of insurance expenses, it does not mention insurance premiums; I am trying to determine if that will work. Here is the list of medical expenses that can be included in IRWE:

    ” Regularly prescribed medical treatment or therapy that is necessary to control your disabling condition, even if control is not achieved. This includes co-payments and insurance deductibles, but is not limited to:
    Anti-convulsant drugs
    Anti-depressant medication
    Psychotropic medication
    Blood level monitoring
    Radiation treatment
    Corrective surgery for spinal disorders
    Counseling, mental health and therapy services
    Your physician’s fee relating to these services “


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s