Substantial Gainful Employment

In order to be disabled, a claimant must be precluded by their medical condition from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). In more common terms, SGA means substantial gainful employment, or the ability to be a reliable, productive employee. The consideration is whether the claimant can be relied upon to show up to work on time on a regular and continuous basis and perform the essential functions of the job (with or without accommodations) over a sustained period of time.

Most claimants need to understand that SGA does not relate only to past work that they may have performed. SGA also does not consider whether or not the client will be hired to perform this work, but rather whether they could reasonably be expected to be able to keep the job or type of work. If a claimant has attempted to find new work, either with the assistance of a rehabilitation or vocational counselor or the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), this information is important to the assessment of whether the claimant can maintain SGA and should be shared with the Administration.

In addition to medical records and vocational experts, the Administration relies on claimant testimony about their daily activities to determine the ability to maintain SGA. In particular, limitations due to complaints of pain are relevant to the Administration’s analysis. Federal courts have stated that the ability to watch TV, do occasional shopping or perform other sporadic activities and chores does not rule out the presence of disabling pain.


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