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What is "substantial gainful activity"?

The Social Security Administration defines "disability" as the inability of a person to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental condition that will last for at least 12 months or that will result in the individual's death. Whether a person suffers from a disabling mental or physical condition will often turn on the medical evidence that they have to support their case. The duration of their ailment may also be determined based on their prognosis and information available about their condition.

Substantial gainful activity, though, is a more nebulous term to understand. Gainful activity may generally be understood to cover one's employment, but what constitutes substantial may be relative and subjective. Due to this, the Social Security Administration sets out clear guidelines for what it means to be substantially involved in gainful activity while disabled.

If a person earns more than a threshold amount of money despite their disability, they may be considered to be substantially gainfully employed. If they do not, then they may not be substantially gainfully employed. The threshold that a person must meet or fall below to establish this determination will depend on many factors; to better understand one's own situation with regard to the Social Security disability insurance application, they should speak to their own lawyers.

The fact that a person cannot work in their chosen field to become engaged in substantial gainful activity does not mean that they will qualify for disability benefits. They may have to work in a different course of employment if they are able to do so. Further information about this important legal topic should be sought from attorneys who work in this field of law.

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