How an Unsuccessful Work Attempt Affects Social Security Disability Benefits

In an earlier entry regarding the Five Steps to Sequential Evaluation for disability claims, we discussed how working at the level of substantial gainful activity (SGA) means that an individual will not be found eligible for Social Security disability benefits.  However, there are some exceptions to this rule.  One of these exceptions is an unsuccessful work attempt.

An unsuccessful work attempt occurs when an individual works up to six months and then must stop working or reduce their work to less than the SGA level due to their impairments.  If work is considered to be an unsuccessful work attempt, it cannot be counted as SGA.

An unsuccessful work attempt also requires a significant amount of time during which you were not working before the attempt. Generally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider 30 consecutive days as a significant amount of time. On rare occasions, they may allow for a slightly less time.

If your work attempt lasts six months or less, the requirement is one of the following:Unsuccessful Work Attempt

  • You are no longer working at all
  • You are no longer working at the level of SGA due to your impairment
  • The job ended or you are working below the SGA level due to the removal of special conditions related to your impairment which were essential in order for you to continue working

SSA does not consider any work attempt lasting over six months to be an unsuccessful work attempt.

In the next entry, we will discuss a second exception, sheltered or subsidized work.  For questions regarding this topic, please contact one of the attorneys at Smith Godios Sorensen Inc. at 877-230-5500.

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