What is an Unsuccessful Work Attempt?

By Disability Group

What happens if a claimant stops working due to the onset of a disability, files a claim for Social Security benefits and then starts working again?  Social Security does allow people to try to see if they can work, despite their impairment(s), instead of relying on government benefits.  This is when it becomes possible to qualify for an Unsuccessful Work Attempt.

An Unsuccessful Work Attempt is when a claimant, after filing for benefits but before being awarded benefits, starts working for a period of 6 months or less and then stops due to their impairment(s).  Earnings during this period will not be considered in determining whether or not work is substantial gainful activity (SGA).  Usually, your onset date is the point at which you are no longer working at SGA (which in 2011 was $1000/month) because you have become disabled.  However during an Unsuccessful Work Attempt, you still may be able to retain your onset date from when you first stopped working, even though you are working again now.  This allows you to recoup the most amount of back pay. 

There are certain rules that must be followed when there is an Unsuccessful Work Attempt.  For a work attempt that lasts 3 months or less, the work must end or be reduced to below SGA because of either one of two circumstances:

  1. You have to stop due to your impairment(s) or
  2. The special conditions that allowed you to perform your job no longer exist

For a work attempt that lasts between 3-6 months, the work must end in one of the 2 ways listed above.  In addition one of the following requirements must also be met:

  • There must have been frequent absences due to the impairment(s)
  • Work must have been unsatisfactory due to the impairment(s)
  • Work must have been done during a period of temporary remission of the impairment; or
  • Work must have been done under special conditions

The point is that it is possible to work for a short period of time without it affecting your claim for benefits, if you have to stop that job because of your disability.  However, any work period that is performed at SGA and lasts more than 6 months cannot qualify as an Unsuccessful Work Attempt, no matter why it ended.  It is important to know that working at all, after filing for Social Security benefits, has the potential to harm your claim.  An experienced attorney will be able to more fully explain all of the details you need to know about qualifying for an Unsuccessful Work Attempt. 

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