When does Social Security consider a work attempt unsuccessful?

Social Security Disability considers an individual's work history when making their medical disability determinations. To that end, Social Security considers any job performed for three months or more in which the individual's earnings were at a SGA level to be relevant work activity for their disability medical determination.

SGA is a monthly earnings amount that Social Security considers to be self- supporting----this monthly amount can change each year.

Social Security can discount earnings that are over the SGA monthly earnings amount when someone applies for disability if they had a significant break in their employment.

For Social Security purposes, a significant break in SGA is a period of at least thirty days in which the disability applicant has been forced to reduce their earnings, change their type of work, or move to another employer because of their disabling condition.

An unsuccessful work attempt in which an individual is performing SGA can last six months or less before it is considered a successful attempt at work.

Generally, Social Security does not require a lot of documentation for relevant jobs that ended in three months or less due to an individual's condition or loss of special considerations given by their employer. However, that changes when evaluating an unsuccessful work attempt lasting more than three months but less than six months.

In order for Social Security to grant an unsuccessful work attempt lasting more than three months, there has to be thorough documentation from the employer with regard to absences, loss of special considerations, etc to substantiate the allegation of an unsuccessful work attempt lasting more than three months.

It is important to note that unsuccessful work attempts are six months or less of performing SGA-level work activity, which means a person can have an unsuccessful work attempt while remaining with the same employer if they are no longer performing SGA (earning SGA-level income) after six months.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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