Retirement Security:

DI Substantial Gainful Activity Levels

HEHS-96-109R: Published: Mar 20, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the linkage between the earnings limit for Social Security retirees and the earnings limit to determine eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) for the blind; and (2) whether a higher earnings limit for the blind than for all other disabled people is warranted. GAO found that: (1) in 1994, 4 million people, 2.8 percent of whom were blind, received DI benefits; (2) since 1990, the dollar threshold used to determine eligibility for DI, called the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, was $960 per month for the blind and $500 per month for all other disabled people; (3) the SGA level for the blind was linked to the dollar threshold used to determine eligibility for working Social Security recipients; (4) the higher SGA level for the blind is based on the assumption that the blind face greater obstacles than other disabled people; (5) proposed legislation would eliminate the linkage between the blind's SGA level and Social Security recipients' threshold, but would not change the SGA levels for the blind or for other disabled persons; and (6) the blind incur high job-related costs and high rates of unemployment, but those costs and rates are not significantly different from the costs and rates incurred by all other disabled people.

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