TN 1 (06-17)
DI 24005.001 Unsuccessful Work Attempts (UWA) for Initial Claims and Reconsiderations
A. Definition of UWA
A UWA is an effort to do work in employment or self-employment that discontinues or reduces to the non-Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level after a short time (no more than 6 months) because of the claimant’s or beneficiary’s impairment or the removal of special conditions related to the impairment that are essential to continued further performance of work.
B. Determining SGA
When determining SGA, you may disregard work if the claimant or beneficiary:
discontinued or reduced work to the non-SGA level after a short time because of the impairment; or
discontinued or reduced work to the non-SGA level or because of the removal of special conditions related to the impairment that were essential to his or her performance of work.
When evaluating disability, we are generally concerned with the ability to work over an extended period rather than in short, isolated periods. When a claimant or beneficiary, after working for a time in employment or self-employment despite severe impairment, discontinues or markedly reduces such work below the SGA level, there are two questions to be resolved:
Was the work substantial enough to warrant a finding that the individual was engaged in SGA during the time they actually worked?
Regardless of the substantiality and duration of the work, does the medical and vocational evidence warrant finding of ability to engage in SGA during or after the period of actual work?
Work determined to be a UWA does not preclude a finding of disability.
C. Determining unsuccessful work attempts
When the field office (FO) determines that the claimant engaged in SGA after the alleged onset date (AOD), but subsequently ceased SGA, the FO will develop additional facts and make a recommendation as to whether it was a UWA. The DDS has the final responsibility for determining whether a period of work was an unsuccessful work attempt, except in a continuing disability review (CDR) case where there is no medical issue.
1. FO responsibilities for developing a UWA
The FO will:
Develop information on the nature and duration of the work performed after the earliest possible onset, and the reasons for its termination or reduction.
NOTE: Give special attention to determining the beginning and ending dates of periods of work.
Prepare a determination as to whether the work performed after the earliest possible onset was SGA.
If the work was SGA, make a recommendation to the DDS on form SSA-823 (Report of SGA Determination) as to whether or not to consider the period of work a UWA. The FO has final responsibility for a determination of a UWA only in non-medical continuing disability cases.
2. DDS responsibilities for developing a UWA
The DDS will:
undeveloped work activity that may be pertinent to the disability decision; and
unresolved questions and discrepancies on the SSA-3368 (Disability Report – Adult) and SSA-3369 (Work History Report).
Be alert to the effect that a period of work can have on the date of disability onset.
Make the final determination (except in non-medical CDR cases) on whether work activity after the earliest possible onset was a UWA.
D. Developing reasons for discontinuance or reduction of work
1. Reasons for discontinuance or reduction of work
Work that discontinues or reduces to the non-SGA level due to the removal of special conditions that relate to the impairment and are essential to the further performance of work. That is, a severely impaired claimant or beneficiary may have worked under conditions specifically arranged to accommodate his or her impairment or may have worked through an unusual job opportunity, such as in a sheltered workshop. There may be evidence of special or unusual conditions. For examples of special conditions, see DI 11010.145F.
2. FO UWA documentation
When considering why a work effort ended or reduced to the non-SGA level, the FO should obtain an SSA-821-BK (Work Activity Report – Employee) or SSA-820-BK (Work Activity Report Self-Employment) from the claimant or beneficiary and record the UWA information on Form SSA-823.
3. DDS documentation of UWA
If the claimant’s or beneficiary’s work effort does not exceed 6 months, and if the alleged reason work ended or reduced has a reasonable relationship to the impairment, then we do not require verification of the reason work ended or reduced. The DDS should request assistance from the FO to obtain any additional information necessary to make a UWA decision.
E. Evaluating a UWA
1. Event that must precede a UWA
There must be a significant break in the continuity of a claimant or beneficiary’s work before we can be consider them to have begun a work attempt that later proved unsuccessful.
A significant break in the continuity of a person’s work could occur if they:
discontinued or reduced work activity to the non-SGA level because of the impairment, or the removal of special conditions related to the impairment that are essential to continued performance of the work; or
discontinued or reduced work activity to the non-SGA level prior to the alleged onset date of the impairment for reasons unrelated to the impairment (such as retirement or layoff); or
never previously engaged in work activity
Consider the prior work “discontinued” if they were:
out of work for at least 30 consecutive days;, or
forced to change to another type of work or another employer because of the impairment
NOTE: On rare occasions, a break lasting less than 30 days may satisfy this requirement if the subsequent work episode was brief and clearly unsuccessful because of the impairment.
2. Event that must follow a UWA
After the first significant break in a claimant’s or beneficiary’s continuous work activity, regard the following period of work as continuous until the impairment, or the removal of special conditions related to the impairment that are essential to the further performance of work, causes the work to discontinue or reduce to the non-SGA level. Each continuous period, separated by significant breaks as described, may be a UWA if the beneficiary or claimant met the duration and conditions of work criteria.
3. Duration and conditions of work
Prior to November 16, 2016, there were additional requirements to evaluate work that lasted between 3 and 6 months. We published a final rule that removed some of the evaluation requirements for a UWA that lasts between 3 and 6 months. The final rule became effective on November 16, 2016.
a. Work effort of 6 months or less
To consider work activity a possible UWA:
the work activity must have ended, or have been reduced to the non-SGA level, within 6 months due to the impairment; or
the work activity must have ended or have been reduced because of the removal of special conditions related to the impairment that are essential to the further performance of work. For examples of special conditions, see DI 11010.145F.
For example, work from November 5, 2015, through a date no later than May 4, 2016, is for “6 months or less.”
b. Work effort of over 6 months
SGA-level work lasting more than 6 months cannot be a UWA regardless of why it ended or reduced to the non-SGA level. For example, work at the SGA level from November 5, 2015, through May 30, 2016 is a work effort of “over 6 months.”
4. Development of reasons for work discontinuance or reduction
a. Initial cases and CDRs requiring DDS disability determination
If the work effort does not exceed 6 months and the alleged reason work ended or reduced has a reasonable relationship to the impairment, then we do not require verification.
b. Non-medical CDR cases
When processing CDRs with no medical issues, the FO does not send a case to the DDS for a disability determination. The FO develops the reason for discontinuance or reduction of work.