While most questionnaires applicants receive during the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process are sent by the disability examiner to gain further insight into how an applicants’ condition(s) impact daily life, there is one notable exception. Before the claim is transferred to the disability office, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send out the SSA-821, or Work Activity Report, if there appear to be any earnings on the record after the date the applicant alleges they became disabled.
To be eligible for SSDI benefits, one requirement is that the applicant has been, or expects to be, unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least one calendar year. In the year 2021, earnings for non-blind individuals not exceeding $1,310 per month – and $2,190 for statutorily blind individuals – are not considered substantial gainful activity. Work activity, however, may still be considered substantial even if earnings are under these thresholds depending on the amount of work done. Any level of work activity will be considered by the Social Security Administration as they decide whether an applicant is disabled.
Applicants who have not worked since filing for SSDI may still be sent the Work Activity Report, which they are asked to fill out and return. If any amount of income shows up on an applicants’ Social Security earnings record, including income received that is not as a result of physical work such as sick pay, vacation pay, or Short-Term Disability, SSA will issue a Work Activity Report. This questionnaire provides the applicant with an opportunity to explain these earnings and provide documentation, such as paystubs, that confirm those earnings were not from work.
As with any other questionnaires received, it is very important that the Work Activity Report is returned to Social Security as soon as possible. Unlike other questionnaires, however, if the Work Activity Report is not returned, Social Security may deny the claim on a technicality without any review of medical evidence. If this should occur, an entirely new application may need to be filed and the process started all over again.
Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way. The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.