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Substantial gainful work: Just what does that mean?

The world is filled with ambiguities. That's true in law as in other areas. On the criminal side of things you have the tenet that says a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For a lot of people, there can be big questions about what constitutes reasonable doubt.

A certain level of confusion can also exist in other areas such as those related to Social Security Administration's rules and regulations. For example, consider the term substantial gainful activity (SGA). We briefly mentioned this topic back in a post in January.

The intent of that post was to raise awareness among California readers that despite what appears to be rather straightforward language, the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be fraught with complexity and confusion. Denials are common, making appeals necessary, which can lead to even more frustration and distress.

And then there is the question of what substantial gainful activity means. Even the information provided by the government intended to answer the question doesn't always clear the air.

According to the SSA's own website, eligibility for disability benefits depends on you being unable to perform SGA. On one part of the site, substantial is said to mean any significant activity involving physical or mental exertion or both. A deeper dive into the site then takes you to information that notes:

"A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person's disability."

The point we are trying to make is that what constitutes substantial gainful activity can be subject to interpretation. And where there is room for interpretation, a challenge may be warranted. To decide if such conditions exist in any given case and to protect one's rights, consultation with an experienced lawyer is advised.

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Melissa A. Proudian, Attorney at Law
1500 W. Shaw Avenue, Suite 403
Fresno, CA 93711

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