Monday, November 3, 2014

The Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821)

Once in a while, one of my clients receives a letter from Social Security asking them to complete a form known as the Work Activity Report or the SSA-821 Form.  This form is only requested in certain circumstances when the claimant has received income or, it appears that he or she has worked after the date of filing for disability benefits.  If you have received this form, it is important that you understand the purpose that it serves in the disability claims process.
You should also be aware that the SSA knows a lot more about you than you think.  If Social Security is requesting that you complete SSA-821, it is probably because they have found out that you have had earnings after the date of your alleged onset date.  Simply stated, you get this form because it is very difficult to hide earnings from the Government.  Remember, Uncle Sam is watching you at all times!  For example, if you sold an expensive item after filing for disability, --such as a work or art--, it is possible that this transaction will appear in the government's computer.  Moreover, if you have done some minor work for someone, it is likely that that person has issued a 1099 and that your income has been reported.
If you have received this form, be honest and complete it as soon as possible.  In all likelihood, a properly completed 821 is going to help your case.  Don't panic.  Be aware that selling assets such as stocks or works of art does not affect your eligibility for SSDI.  If you have sold an expensive asset, you should state it somewhere in your Work Activity Report.  This way you might expedite your claim and avoid confusing the SSA staff.  (If you are not open about your earnings, they might become suspicious and delay your claim.)  Keep in mind that the only income that affects your eligibility for SSDI, is income generated from wages, not income from other sources.  
Moreover, you should also clarify any earnings received from pensions,unused sick time and vacation pay or, from severance packages.  This income is often confused as wages because it comes from your former employer.  However, if you explain it properly to the the SSA, you will avoid complicating your claim.  
Finally, you should clearly document any work performed after the date of the commencement of your disability.  Get copies of all your paystubs and explain the type of work that you did.  If you made more than $1070 a month in wages in 2014, you are in obvious trouble.  However, if you made less, you should explain exactly what you were doing in your job.  It is important to explain any work accommodations given to you during this work period and the difficulties that you had in being able to fully function at the job.  Questions 5 and 6A in the form ask you about any special accommodations that you received at your job.  These two questions are perhaps the two most important questions in the form.  Unfortunately, many claimants leave it blank.  Understand that if you were working without any king of accommodation during the period of disability, it is going to be harder for your to prove that you can't work.  Be a wise and, if possible, use these sections to emphasize how the work that you performed during the disability period was just a small occupation that you held to be able to get by while your application was pending.