What Is an Unsuccessful Work Attempt in SSA Disability Claims?


What counts as an unsuccessful work attempt under social security? When you apply for disability benefits under the SSI or SSDI programs of the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must meet specific criteria. These criterions pertain to the nature of your disability as well as your ability to earn a meaningful wage. A Social Security lawyer can help you understand these requirements before you file a claim for disability benefits.

When it comes to a meaningful wage, SSA uses a metric known as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). This is a threshold amount which determines whether or not you are earning a meaningful wage every month. If you earn at or above the SGA level set for a given year, you are not eligible for disability benefits. For 2021, SSA has set SGA at $1,310.

However, it is possible for you to work at or above SGA for some time in spite of your disability, and still qualify for disability benefits. When you perform such work before applying for the benefits, it can be declared as an ‘Unsuccessful Work Attempt’ or UWA.

What is an Unsuccessful Work Attempt?

A UWA, as the name suggests, is your attempt to work which ends up in failure. For any work to be qualified as UWA, it must meet the following requirements:

  • The work must have been performed prior to your approval of disability benefits.
  • There must be a break between the work you have been previously performing for years, and the unsuccessful work attempt. Specifically, there must be a break of at least 30 days, and this break must have been necessitated by the limitations imposed by your disability.
  • Alternatively, your earnings must have fallen below the SGA for at least 30 days on account of your disability.
  • You must have worked for a period of less than six months, and then forced to leave the work or have your wages fall below SGA. If you worked for more than six months, your work can’t be qualified as an UWA.

UWA and Special Conditions

Sometimes, you may be forced to stop working because your employer removed the special conditions required for you to perform work. Such special conditions may include:

  • Specialized work specifically suited to your limited functional abilities
  • Permissions to take frequent breaks or work special hours in view of your impairments
  • Specialized workplace equipment which helped you perform the work you were doing
  • Permission to work under special provisions in view of your disability
  • Specialized transport arrangements you needed to travel to work and back

If you suddenly lose these special conditions without having performed six months or more of work, you can have the work period qualified as UWA.

Why Have Your Work Declared as UWA?

Unsuccessful Work Attempts play an important role in the determination of your disability onset date. This is the date from which your disability benefits are calculated. If your work performed prior to your disability claim’s approval is regarded as UWA, your disability onset date will be set before the work. On the other hand, if the work doesn’t qualify as UWA, SSA will calculate your disability benefits from a date after you finished the work.

How Does a Work Qualify as UWA?

SSA has specific criterions that are used to judge whether a given period of work qualifies as UWA. In general, SSA will consider the following factors when making the determination:

  • Role of Disability. Were you forced to stop work due to your disability, or was it on account of some other reason?
  • Temporary or Permanent Change. If you were forced to take time away from work due to a change in your medical condition, such as a remission, was this change temporary. If it was not temporary, has the level of remission remained the same or has it worsened since.
  • Special Conditions. Was your inability to continue work on account of the removal of special conditions which previously facilitated your work?

These are all factors that SSA will take into consideration when making a decision on whether or not to regard your work as UWA.

How Can a Greenville Social Security Lawyer Help You?

As noted above, UWA can play a vital role in determining the amount of past benefits you are eligible for following your claim’s approval. Here at Robert Surface Law Firm, we work with you to ensure that any work you performed immediately before your claim can be deemed as UWA. In doing so, our lawyers help you meet the relevant legal requirements. Reach out to us today to discuss your claim with our lawyers today.