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What does “substantial gainful activity” mean?

According to the definition of disability provided by the Social Security Administration, a person may be deemed disabled and therefore potentially eligible for disability benefits if they are unable to do “substantial gainful activity” because of a physical or mental impairment that will end in their death or will last for at least a year. There are many confusing terms in this definition that may cause North Carolina residents to pause and evaluate if they meet the Social Security Administration’s definition. It is important to understand what “substantial gainful activity” means.

Per guidance provided by the Code of Federal Regulations, substantial gainful activity directly relates to a person’s capacity to do a job. It must include the individual partaking in significant physical or mental work, but the duration or amount of that work does not necessarily matter. A person may be able to engage in substantial work even if they only work part-time.

Additionally, that work must be gainful, or in other words, must be work for which the individual will be paid. Therefore, substantial gainful activity relates to work that individuals do with their bodies and minds and for which they may expect to be compensated for their efforts.

If a person cannot do work with their body or their mind, or if any work that they can do is not of the type for which a person would be compensated, then they may have met part of the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. Any North Carolina residents who want more clarity on this complex legal topic may want to get more information about disability benefits.

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