Social Security Q&A Part 21

By Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question:

What is substantial gainful activity (SGA)?

Answer:

We use the term “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA,” to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.

If you earn more than a certain amount and are doing productive work, we generally consider that you are engaging in SGA. For example, the monthly SGA amount for 2019 is $1,220. For statutorily blind individuals, that amount is $2,040. In these cases, you would not be eligible for disability benefits if you made over those amounts. You can read more about substantial gainful activity and if your earnings qualify as SGA at ww.socialsecurity.gov/oact/cola/sga.html

Question:

Why should I sign up for a my Social Security online account?

Answer:

my Social Security gives you a personal online account you can securely use to check your Social Security information and do business with us. With a my Social Security account you can:

  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
  • Get a replacement Social Security card if you meet certain criteria;
  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
  • Manage your benefits:
  • Change your address or telephone number;
  • Start or change your direct deposit;
  • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

To find all of the services available and set up an account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Question:

Recently, I was told I shouldn’t be carrying my Social Security card around. Is that true?

Answer:

We encourage you to keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place. Do not carry it with you unless you are taking it to a job interview or to someone who requires it. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America and the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to safeguard your Social Security card and number. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Question:

My father receives Social Security retirement benefits and I will be in charge of his estate when he dies. Should that occur, do I need to report his death to Social Security or will benefits automatically stop?

Answer:

When your father dies, please notify Social Security as soon as possible at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Another person, such as a spouse, may be eligible for survivors benefits based on his record. Also, we might be able to pay a one-time payment of $255 to help with funeral expenses. We suggest reading a copy of our online publication, How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10008.html.


Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov