Know the Rules of the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period

Submitted by Chris on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 09:38

The “trial work period” is a nine-month state of grace given by the Social Security Administration to any disability benefits recipient who wants to attempt re-entry to the work force. A disability benefits recipient has nine months of trial work period in each period of 60 months.

The idea behind the trial work period is that if your medical condition has improved to the point that you think you might be able to make a living, you can go to work and earn money for that nine-month period of time without jeopardizing your Social Security Disability payments. The ability to participate in the program is dependent on your reporting to the Social Security Administration your work activity, your income, and your expenses.

Even after the end of your trial work period you can still receive disability benefits for any month in which you do not make more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount ($1,310 a month or $2,190 a month if you are blind). You will lose your disability benefits if you make more than the maximum SGA.

Even if your disability benefits are halted because of the amount of your income, you will still be entitled to Medicare Part A for at least 93 months after the end of the nine-month trial period if you still require medical treatment. At the end of that period, you have the option of continuing Medicare Part A coverage by paying a premium. If you have Medicare Part B, you will just continue to pay the premium as you have in the past.

The Social Security Administration understands that while you may be successful in returning to work, your disability or medical condition may worsen and force you to stop work once again. If that is the case, within five years after you return to work, you will be eligible for “expedited reinstatement,” meaning you will not have to reapply for benefits and you will not have to wait for benefits while your medical condition is being reviewed.

As straightforward as the preceding may seem, the reality always differs slightly from the theory. For example, Social Security has not synced the monthly limits for its trial work period ($940 in 2021) with its monthly limits for substantial gainful activity ($1,310 in 2021, or $2,190 if you are blind).

If you are receiving benefits, it is important that you be careful not to inadvertently use up your trial work period months by making more than $880 a month.

Another example is that when the Social Security Administration says $940 a month, it doesn’t always mean $940 a month. If you are self employed, that figure means $940 a month after expenses. Also, if you have expenses that are incurred in the course of your employment that relate directly to your disability (such as needing a specific type of computer or a certain type of wheelchair), the Social Security Administration will deduct those expenses from your gross earnings before they determine if you are over the limit. Presumably that means that if you have $1,000 in qualifying expenses, you could make $1,900 a month and still be under the trial work period limit.

The exceptions always prove the rule: before doing any sort of work for any kind of income, check with your Social Security Disability lawyer or other professional advocate and make sure that you are not taking the Social Security Administration’s guidelines at face value to your future detriment. Failure to comply with the SSA's regulations may result in cessation of disability benefits.

Blog comments

Bryan

In reply to by SM (not verified)

Hi there,
Trial work period months would only be considered from the time you start receiving benefits, rather than when you had applied. It may be a good idea to contact your local SSA office regarding this as the could give you advice specific to your particular case.

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 14:04 Permalink
Daniel (not verified)

Hello,

One question, when do we inform SS about our intentions on returning to work or Trial Work? When looking for work ( Applying ) or when actually hired and with a date to start working? Thanks!

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:07 Permalink
Eric

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

Hi Daniel,

It is recommended that you let them know about your intentions when you are applying.

Best of Luck,
Eric

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 16:55 Permalink
Dee (not verified)

Hi. In 2011 I started working full time and got cut off from disability after my trial work ended. In 2012 I became disabled again and got back on ssdi. Does the trial period or 60 months start all over again?

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:15 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Dee (not verified)

Hi Dee,
The trial period is 9 months of work over SGA over a period of 60 months, so you may not be eligible for a trial work period.

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 14:16 Permalink
Randal (not verified)

So what about the Ticket to Work program.....do you have to join it in order to try to go back to work? Or can you try to go back to work without the Ticket program

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 00:24 Permalink
Elen (not verified)

On SSDI,legally blind,completed Trial period , in EXP period. Want to work part time 1 day a week "doing same type of work" earning $600 month. Will SS try to say I am able to do SGA and cease my benefits

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 19:25 Permalink
Amy (not verified)

I was just approved disability benefits in march. I am approved by my doctor to work only part time hours between 15-20 a week. If I am able to do the work and don't make more than $840 a month will I be able to keep my total benefit payment virtually for years? Should I speak to SSA or just submit my pay stubs as needed? Will the trial period still end after nine months? I would appreciate any info I can get on this subject!

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 23:01 Permalink
Bill (not verified)

I have been on disability since 2006. When I went on disability, my wife and I were told that I cannot work at all because if I did my benefits would be in jeopardy. Now I see that I can earn up to $840 dollars a month without putting my benefits at risk. Which one is true? I'd like to do part time work driving for uber but my wife is nervous that I'm risking losing my benefits.

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 11:37 Permalink
Eric

In reply to by Bill (not verified)

Hi Bill,

You can still work and receive SSDI benefits, but it cannot exceed the 2017 monthly SGA amount which is $1,170/Month.

Best Wishes,
Eric

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:34 Permalink
Alycia (not verified)

I feel so confused on this and I'm sure it can't be truly this difficult to understand.
If I make more than $840/month, it counts towards my WTP. What I don't understand is the $1,170 limit. If I make more than $1,170/month during my WTP, will I lose my benefits? OR does the $1,170/month only matter after the 9 months?
Thank you in advance.

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 09:38 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Alycia (not verified)

Hi Alycia,
That's a great question! You may be able to earn over the SGA amount ($1,170 a month) while on a trial work period. After 9 months of earning over 840 a month, you would become ineligible for monthly benefits, however if you return to work and your condition worsens, you may be eligible for expedited reenstatement of benefits.

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 16:56 Permalink
Kay (not verified)

Can you get another trial work period after 5 years has passed. I had one in 2007 for nine months. If so, can I make any amount I want during that period and have it not affect my benefits.

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:41 Permalink
Matt (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

A couple questions.
I started on ssdi in January of 2015.I am am 57 years of age and am a renal cell carcinoma stage 4 patient. Haven't worked since 2014.I have found a job for the next 4 months where I possibly could make 2500 a month. After October I likely will be off for a while and then picks up again. I know it'll take 18 months to hit those 9 month trial before the extended period hits.
My question is if 1170 is the number that deems you to be in engaging in gainful activity do they determine that over the 18 months that it takes to get those 9 trial months? Or just that 9 months average. I also know they have to prove that I can do medium gainful activity which is part of that 5 step determination of getting ssdi. Just wondering

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 20:38 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

Hi Matt,
Trial work months would be counted for any month in which you make over $840 a month.

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:45 Permalink
Matt (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Brian

I understand 840 is a trial month but when they once you get trial period and they figure out your SGA is that a average of those 9 trial months or say for a comparison it takes 20 months to get those 9 trial. Do they average it out. I may make well over 1170 for 3 or 4 months then have a gap then pu again. How do they figure the SGA out?

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 06:09 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

Hi Matt,
If you do have a trial work period month in which you make over 1,175, you may retain benefits for that month until the trial work period is completed.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:12 Permalink
Debra D (not verified)

My daughter was full time student and received payment by the school for an internship. She receives SSDI. I was told that Soc Sec would not count this payment toward her Trial Work Period unless she was 22 or older (Student Earned Income Exclusion). Soc Sec disagrees and says that any month she received greater than $770 can counted although she was 21 years old and a student at the time. Any idea which is correct?

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 19:53 Permalink
Ralph (not verified)

If I am working and on disability and paying Social Security tax,my pay is being reported to Social Security. Do I also need to report my earnings to Social Security?

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 17:30 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Ralph (not verified)

Hi Ralph,
You may need to, it might be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding this as they can give you detailed information as to what would be required in your particular case.

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:28 Permalink
Zelma (not verified)

Should I report my earnings if im in the ticket to work program? I have been working for five months and haven't reported my earnings yet will I get in trouble

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 23:51 Permalink
Doug (not verified)

Clarify something. The 840.00 a month is gross you can't go over or net?? If my monthly pay take home is 830.00 but my gross income is 1000.00. Which does SS use for SGA! I can't and don't want to attemp any interruptions in my check. I can't afford to. So take home is counter or gross?

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:30 Permalink
Sandie (not verified)

I'm on Sadi I only receive $771,a month. So am I allowed to work and make up to $1170 a month on top of my $771 or can I only make up to $399 a month which will total the $1170. Should it be that I can make the $1170 on top if my SSDI, how will my check be affected

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 18:52 Permalink
Eric

In reply to by Sandie (not verified)

Hi Sandie,

If it doesn't exceed the limit then yo should be okay though. You should notify the SSA with any additional income you do receive.

-Eric

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:10 Permalink
Cathy (not verified)

I just now completed my nine month trial work period and I am in Ticket to Work. My condition has gotten worse in the last couple of months and I am becoming doubtful of my ability to continue to work. If I quit my job during my EPE can my check be restarted the first month I go below the SGA amount?

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 14:26 Permalink
Jimmy (not verified)

I noticed that the trial work period for 2017 is $840 but is there a number of hours limit when working (working for employer, not self-employed)? I am working part-time within my restrictions but don't want to jeopardize my benefits. So if I am making minimum wage at $7.25 for about 100 hours per month (give or take 5-10 hours per month depending on number of work days in month). Even at the highest it is $797.50 gross (110 hours). Is the number of hours going to have a negative effect on me? Is the hours I am working going to trigger a successful month even though I am under the $840 mark? I just want to make sure I am not screwing myself over here.

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 16:49 Permalink
Ron (not verified)

Hello, My wife will be going back to work and we were just informed of this great benefit of the 9 month trial period. My question is, will we have to pay back the amount of those checks earned during the 9 months?

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 16:27 Permalink
Sarah (not verified)

Hello there!
I'm still confused. I've recently started trying to go back to work no more than 8 hours a week to start to see if I can mentally do the work. In my profession though my base pay is $40 an hour. So I would make over SGA but this would be my first month (ever) of the work trial period. So can I make more than the SGA during the work trial period or can I not make any more than the $1170? Does that mean I need to drop my base pay to make less? Thank you in advance for any advice. I hve trouble understanding or comprehending so any light on this subject is greatly appreciated.
Respectfully,
Sarah

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 23:45 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Sarah (not verified)

Hi Sarah,
You may be able to make over SGA while in a trial work period.

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 09:49 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Leigh (not verified)

Hi Leigh,
If you're on SSDI benefits, you would work for those nine months and then you would not be eligible for benefits for any months that you make over $1,170 a month.

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 11:25 Permalink
Nichole (not verified)

So I am applying for benefits and have been denied and now heading to court ! I have been working part time.. I am wondering if the trial work period applies if you have not been approved yet . I went back to work after a brain surgery and hearing decrease for 6 months but due to my hearing I could not do the job I had . I ended up leaving that job and I filed for disability. However along the way I had to earn some money. I was told that you have a period where you can make more money than the limit. Does that apply to people who have have not been approved yet ??

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 05:54 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Nichole (not verified)

Hi Nichole,
The trial work period does not apply for people who are only applying for benefits, but if you make over $1,170 a month you may not be considered eligible for benefits.

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 16:08 Permalink

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