Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Deal With Non-Wage Earnings Received After the Onset Date

The Social Security Administration takes a very close look at any earnings received by a claimant after the alleged onset date.  However, in may instances, receiving money after the onset does not necessarily ruin a person's chances of winning Social Security Disability benefits. Sometimes, the only problem caused by such earnings is that it can slow down the application process and create confusion among adjudicators and judges who are afraid of granting an application to someone that they suspect might have been working above the substantial gainful activity level.

Social Security Disability claimants must bear in mind that the agency has access to practically all of their financial records.  Therefore, never assume that the agency won't have information about earnings. In my experience, it is much better to be upfront about earnings than to try to hide them.  Note that the only income that can affect your chances of winning are earnings received from wages.  Earnings received after a person has stopped working such as, payments for unused sick leave or vacation time, doesn't affect a claimant's chances of winning.  Income from pensions, long term disability payments or dividends, are not detrimental either to an SSDI claim.

Given these circumstances, I always advise my clients to be proactive and provide the SSA with a clear explanation of the nature of any earnings received after the onset date.  (Be aware that the SSA receives statements of earnings with very little information explaining where the money came from.) This can be done by writings a letter to the Social Security field office, by mentioning it on your remarks section of your initial application or, by asking your Social Security Disability lawyer to address it in his or her representative brief.  You can also complete a form called the "Work Activity Report" (Form SSA-821) and submit it to the Field Office.  You can download a Form SSA-821 by clicking here.  In this form, you can attest that you have not engaged in any "work activity" and provide information about the nature of your earnings.