Social Security defines work as “substantial gainful activity”. Work must be “substantial” and “gainful”. (20C.F.R. 440.1571). Work is “substantial” if it involves “doing significant physical or mental activities.” Generally, work is not substantial if it lasts less than three months. If the work activity is not successful or lasts three months or less, it is generally considered an “unsuccessful work attempt.” Work activity is “gainful” if it is performed for pay or profit. Social Security sets annual monthly rates to determine what is sufficient pay to equate to “gainful”. In 2008, work was considered “gainful” if it was $1000.00 or more per month.

Also, Social Security Ruling 96-8p discussed substantial gainful work activity as the ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular and continuing basis. A “regular and continuing basis” means 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.

Therefore, there will be situations where an individual is working, but the work is not “substantial and gainful” work activity.

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