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What is “Substantial Gainful Activity” for Pennsylvania Residents Applying for Social Security?

In order to be found disabled under Social Security law, a claimant must prove an inability to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA).  According to the official Social Security website, substantial work involves performing significant mental or physical activities, or a combination of both.  Individuals who earn more than a certain amount and are performing productive work are considered to be engaged in substantial gainful activity and therefore are not eligible for disability benefits.

The amount of monthly earnings that are considered as SGA depends on the person’s disability. For 2016, the amount for statutorily blind individuals is $1,820, and for non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount is $1,130.  Working full-time in a competitive environment is considered substantial gainful activity.  In most cases, an individual cannot miss 4-5 days of work a month due to illness and be considered engaged in SGA.

Proving Symptoms Reduce Productivity

In certain cases, individuals may “meet a listing” for a psychological or physical disability.  The listing refers to the specific Social Security definition of disability for that illness.  Listings are posted online at the Social Security Association website.

A claimant who cannot meet a “listing” may still win their case by proving their symptoms and side effects reduce their productivity.  The requirement is that the individual be so impaired that no employer would keep them on or offer them a job. In other words, the individual cannot work sufficient consecutive hours or days per month in order to maintain employment.

Lack of productivity can be caused by a need to rest due to pain, fatigue, or a need for isolation due to a psychiatric disorder.  In some situations, an individual may simply have frequent absences from work. Again, these absences have a cumulative effect that reduces the likelihood of the individual engaging in substantial gainful activity.  By having a minimal presence at work, it is unlikely the individual can keep up with necessary work needs and deadlines.

Work with a Medical Provider to Fully Prove Symptoms

The issue for individuals presenting these symptoms is that medical records do not fully document these symptoms and side effects. In order to produce a complete picture of a situation impairing productivity, it is important to work with a medical provider. A medical provider can produce detailed information on the effect of an individual’s symptoms on productivity, as well as more general information.

Additionally, witnesses can attest to limitations at a hearing. It may be helpful to include notes and letters from family members, former co-workers, and friends in order to bolster evidence documenting an individual’s limitations.

The attorneys at Needle Law have the Social Security experience and knowledge you need in filing your claim for benefits. We can help present your case in a strong manner so that the process is more likely to go smoothly. If you or a family member needs assistance with a claim, call our office today at 570-344-1266.

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