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How to Complete the Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821)

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
February 21, 2024  ·  4 min read
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As part of your disability application, the Social Security Administration may ask you to complete a Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821). This report assesses whether you exceed substantial gainful activity (SGA), the monthly income limit to determine eligibility. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the Work Activity Report to determine whether you’re technically eligible for SSDI or SSI disability benefits. Use these tips to complete the SSA work activity report thoroughly and correctly.

What is the Work Activity Report?

The SSA-821 Work Activity Report is part of the disability application process. The SSA uses the form to learn about any work activity an applicant or current beneficiary engages in after their alleged onset date. The SSA will use the information on the form to determine eligibility for benefits.

What is the alleged onset date?

Your alleged onset date (AOD) is the date you told the SSA you became unable to work because of your disability. For some claimants, their AOD is the same date they became injured or were diagnosed with a medical condition. For others, the date their disability began and the date their disability stopped them from being able to work are different dates. 

What is substantial gainful activity?

Substantial gainful activity, SGA for short, is physical or mental work done in exchange for pay. In 2024, the SSA considers work SGA if you earn at least $1,550 per month or $2,590 if you’re blind. This limit increases yearly to account for inflation and the cost of living.

The SGA limit is the same for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, the SSA does not count all types of income toward SGA. Exceptions include VA benefits and non-work-related insurance benefits.

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5 tips for filling out the Work Activity Report

You must complete the Work Activity Report thoroughly so the SSA can get an accurate picture of your current level of work. Follow these five tips when completing the form:

  1. Answer thoroughly. Read the information sections carefully and ensure you provide all the necessary information. Explain your income and work in detail. 

  2. Be honest. It is essential to tell the truth about your wages and your work. To the best of your ability, answer every question accurately and truthfully. 

  3. Be specific. For example, don't round up or down when the form asks for amounts earned. State specific numbers. If you’re describing special conditions that allowed you to work, state precisely what those conditions were and how they helped you.

  4. Give consistent answers. All of the information you provide on the SSA-821 Work Activity Report should align with any information you’ve given the SSA in the past.

  5. Include additional pages. Finally, if you don’t have space to write everything about your past work activity, you can attach pages to the form with other information.

How to complete the Work Activity Report 

You can access the Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821) on the SSA’s website www.ssa.gov, or get a copy from your local Social Security office. You can submit the completed form online or in person at your local SSA field office.

Information for Form SSA-821

Before beginning the form, gathering information about your work can be helpful. The SSA will ask you about different types of work you’ve done, including:

  • Full-time

  • Part-time

  • Self-employment income

  • Temporary

  • Volunteer work

Gather pay stubs and gross wage documents for work activity after your alleged onset date to include with the form. 

How to fill out form SSA-821 section-by-section

The SSA will fill out the identification section at the top of the Work Activity Report. Then, there are seven sections for claimants to complete. Here’s an overview and a brief explanation of how you should answer every question for your disability claim:

Question 1

The SSA will list your alleged onset date at the top of the questionnaire and ask you to explain any employment income or wages since that date. Check “no” if you have not made any income since the specified date. 

If you didn’t work but income was reported for you, go to question 2. And if you did make income from working, check “yes” and skip ahead to question 3.

Question 2 

In this section, you will outline any income reported for you if you did not work. Complete the table with the following information:

  • Type of payment

  • Name and mailing address of payer

  • Amount

  • Date worked

Question 3

In 3A, the SSA wants to know about any work since your alleged onset date. This section is pretty straightforward: Fill out the contact information of your current or most recent employer. Then, note how much income you’ve earned from them. If possible, enclose pay stubs or gross wage printouts.

In 3B and 3C, list your previous employers, supervisors, addresses, and contact information.

Question 4 

In addition to regular pay, the SSA wants to know about any other payments you received, such as sick pay, vacation pay, holiday pay, or employer benefits. You must disclose any pay and note the employer's name, the payment amount, and the date received.

If the answer is “no,” move on to question 5.

Question 5

The SSA wants to know if you worked under special conditions for the jobs you listed in question 3. Check the boxes that apply, describe the conditions, and provide the employer’s name and work date. The form includes the following special conditions:

  • Allowed to produce less work than other workers

  • Extra help, extra supervision, or a job coach

  • Given special equipment because of my condition

  • Given special help getting ready for work

  • Given special transportation to and from work

  • Hired through special training or therapy program

  • Had extra help, extra supervision, or a job coach

  • Had fewer or easier duties than other workers

  • Took more rest periods than other workers

  • Took more rest periods than other workers

  • Worked irregular or fewer hours than other workers

  • Worked irregular or fewer hours than other workers

  • Given work that was suited to my condition

Question 6

For question 6A, the SSA wants to know if you made any of the following changes since the date shown at the top of the form:

  • Changed to a lighter or easier type of work

  • Reduced earnings

  • Reduced work hours

  • Stopped working

If so, note what happened, your employer's name, and the date. Your employer may have removed special conditions that allowed you to work, changing your work activity. You can provide any additional information in 6B.

Question 7 

List any items or services you spent money on to support your ability to work because of your condition. Impairment-related work expenses might include medication, Braille equipment, or a service animal. If you did not get a reimbursement for your purchase, describe the item or service, the cost, and the date paid.


You can use the Remarks section to include any information you could not fit in the above sections. 

Get help filling out the application forms

The paperwork for the disability application process can feel overwhelming. A disability lawyer can provide guidance and help you complete the Work Activity Report. 

If you need help with your application, take our two-minute disability quiz. A team member will follow up for more information, offer advice, and connect you with an experienced lawyer at no upfront cost.

Frequently asked questions about applying for disability

Where do I apply for disability benefits?

You can apply for Social Security disability benefits online through the SSA website. You can also apply in-person by visiting your local SSA office. Get step-by-step help in our breakdown of the disability application process.

What forms do I need to fill out to apply for disability?

Start with the main disability benefits application form (SSA-16). You’ll need to fill out additional forms, including a work history report on your previous work experience and a function report on how your condition impacts your life. The SSA will also ask for medical records and other relevant personal information.

When should I apply for disability benefits?

We recommend applying for benefits as soon as you know you’ll be unable to work. The application process takes a while — a year or longer for the average person. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you can get your benefits.

What conditions qualify for disability benefits?

Any medical condition that leaves you unable to work can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You’ll need to give the SSA medical records that clearly show how your condition affects you and why you can’t work because of it. Learn more about conditions that qualify for disability.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for disability?

A lawyer isn’t required and you can win benefits without a lawyer. However, the process is complicated and technical — especially when you get to a court hearing. Working with a good lawyer triples your chances of winning an appeal.

How much do SSDI and SSI pay?

It depends which benefits you qualify for. SSDI pays up to $3,822 per month and SSI pays up to $943 per month in 2024. Your exact check is based on your income and tax history if you get SSDI, and your other monthly income if you get SSI. Read more about how much you can make on SSDI and SSI.

Related resources:

How to Fill out the Social Security Work History Report (Form SSA-3369)

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

How to Fill Out the Social Security Function Report (Form SSA-3373)

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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