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

Mark (not verified)

Hi there. I have been on disability since Nov 2014. I am wanting to try to go back to work. I have some questions.
1) I am going to start out slow, but if I get to full-time, I still get the full 9 month TWP, get my SSDI check, no matter what amount I earn each month for those 9 months?

2) Also, I have read that after the nine months is up, I get a three month grace period during Extended Period of Eligibility? So basically does this mean that I can get my full SSDI benefits for a total period of 12 months, 9 TWP and 3 EPE, no matter the earnings for those 12 months?

I am just so nervous, but really want to give it a try, and it would help to know that I am secure that long, should I relapse. Also, I can keep Medicare insurance, as long as I pay the premiums after the TWP? Thanks for answering my questions. I really appreciate your time and assistance.

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 00:10 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Mark (not verified)

Hi Mark,
1) Yes, you may still be eligible for benefits during those nine months.
2)You would still be eligible for benefits for 36 months after you complete the trial work period for any month that you do not earn over $1,170, or months that you do not work. You are also able to resume disability benefits during this period without another disability determination. You may still be eligible for Medicare parts A and B during this time as well, though you would still be liable for the Part B premium.

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 14:41 Permalink
SCM (not verified)

I've got what is probably a dumb question, but here goes. I am self-employed and made $750 before expenses last month. Then, at the request of my client, I billed another $250 for THIS MONTH and dated the invoice for this month and told the client not to pay it until this month.
However, while I didn't receive the payment until today and I am working on the project now, the client dated the check Sept. 29.
So, am I OK, or am I now faced with a trial work period? I haven't cashed the check yet and I haven't completed the work.

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 15:07 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by SCM (not verified)

Hi there,
If you've not completed the trial work period, the SSA would record September as a successful trial work month. Uncashed checks may be considered income.

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 11:35 Permalink
Bailey (not verified)

I've been receiving SSDI for 10 years. I attempted a full-time work effort in May-July 2017. I earned well over the 810 (or 800 per month and worked 40 hours per week) the employer didn't give me workplace accommodations - I had to quit.
I've since found a part-time job that is around 13-15 hours per week and around 620 per month gross income.
The local SS office called me and wanted to speak to me about my work reveal. I am a few days late sending in my pay stubs for the month previous.
I have done a lot of calculations to figure out if I went over the TWP using 52 weeks.
I'm 61 years old and there is NO way I could work full-time. I am only doing the PT work and suffer the next day with increased pain levels (brain surgery/neck surgery and then a semi-truck accident in a 6 car pile-up on the freeway)
Am I in danger of losing my SSDI benefits?
Thank you for your comments.

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 14:11 Permalink
Rhonda (not verified)

I was told I couldn't make over 1,170.00 a month and Didn't know we got paid 3 times this month instead of 2. I went over$40 this month will I be terminated from disability?

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 11:38 Permalink
Amy S. (not verified)

I was in the ticket to work program 2014-21016 andd made approximately $1250 a month and after the trial work period was over I stopped receiving benefits because I was earning too much. In December of 2016, my disability worsened to the point where I stopped working, and I am still unemployed. I feel ready to try some part time work again, but at what point can I earn up to the $1170/month, as opposed to the $840/mo. I don't understand what the two different numbers are about or how they are related. Thanks for any help!

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:32 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Amy S. (not verified)

HI Amy,
The SSA determines if you are eligible for benefits if you are unable to make more than 1,170 a month. The $840 figure is the amount that the SSA uses to determine if you've had a successful trial work month that would count towards your 9 total trial work months.

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 09:09 Permalink
Lynn (not verified)

What happens if you reach full retirement age before the 9 month trial period is over and you have made more than the monthly limit for gainful employment?

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 09:20 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Lynn (not verified)

Hi Lynn,
They may not need to take action at that point as you are eligible for retirement, which does not have restrictions on earned income.

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 09:46 Permalink
Mark (not verified)

I'd like to know if I worked as a paraprofessional in the schools for 8 months and make aproximately 1000 will i lose the 1300 i recieve from my disability from SSDI

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 13:32 Permalink
Melanie (not verified)

My husband receives social security disability -- He has recently become pastor of a church. How do we report income, and what can be excluded from income, with him being self - employed or clergy?

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 17:14 Permalink
Eric

In reply to by Melanie (not verified)

Hi Melanie,

Unfortunately, I don't think I could accurately answer your question. I would recommend speaking with a SSA representative regarding your unique matter.

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 09:28 Permalink
Dion (not verified)

I see that after the trial period is over you can make up to 1,170 a month for 36 months. Do benefits stop after 36 month even if you don't make SGA?

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 14:53 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Dion (not verified)

HI Dion,
If you complete a trial work period, you would be eligible for benefits for any month that you do not earn SGA for 36 months. You may not be eligible for benefits after that point.

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 15:07 Permalink
claudine (not verified)

I need some clarification, I am new to receiving disability benefits, I do not
receive SSI benefits. I have a chronic disability that makes it hard to work full time and very limited on part time work. I am thinking of trying to work part time on a very limited basis for mental health reasons. But I am concerned that I would lose my benefits if I earn over the $850 a month for 2018. I have a possible job offer that starts in 2018 and is very limited part time and temporary lasting only 3 months but would pay over the $850 a month. Since it is temp and may resume 6 months later would it jeopardize my benefits? I know it may constitute a trial work period but since it is only for 3 months could it make my benefits end eventually?

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 12:13 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by claudine (not verified)

HI Claudine,
Your benefits would not change after receiving more than $850 for a month of work, however the month that you receive that income of over $850 would be considered a "sucessful" trial work month.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 13:15 Permalink
David Eklove (not verified)

I am very confused.... Is the number that I must stay below $840 or $1070. Is seems everybody has an opinion this. I seen one person saying 840 and the other saying $1070. I even have two professionals in the field saying the two separate things and both say they are right and I should not listen to the other one. I don't want someones interpretation of this rule. I want the clear answer. Supposedly if you go. to a social security office they don't even have the correct answer. It makes me think they make these stupid rules to keep us from trying to earn any money at all.
I bet they have different daily scripts they use in the social security office. One day one person has the answer one way and the next day the same person will have it a totality different way. I bought a damn car budgeting on being able to make 1170 a month and now I find I can only make 870. what an f'ing sham.

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 23:40 Permalink
Nicole (not verified)

I will get paid 3 times in December which will put me over the 1170. Will my SSDI end? I still need it because I can only work part time. My condition has not changed. I am past the trial work period but have an advanced degree which causes my salary to be high. I'm not sure what to do.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 23:41 Permalink
Richard (not verified)

I have spoken with 3 different SSA staff and have received 3 different answers, with some "overlap" to my basic question. I have been on SSID for about 5 yrs, during which I obtained a new college degree. I currently receive SSID of $2,500/mo plus Medicare. I am hoping to return to work full time but wish to do so on the "trail program". My question, can I start work at a pay rate greater than $3,500/mo and still receive my $2,500/mo from Social Security for the nine month trail period? Also, can I keep the free Medicare Coverage. Thank you in advance for your response.

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 19:42 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Richard (not verified)

HI there,
You may be able to do so, however you may be required to pay a premium for Medicare if you receive income-dependent help with paying it now.

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 09:27 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by marie (not verified)

Hi Marie,
That would only affect your benefits if you are over the trial work period earnings limit 9 times in a 60 month period.

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 13:23 Permalink
Sherri (not verified)

I been on disability for 22 years went back work part time 7 years ago I was getting confused on the five pay periods! Will I lose my benefits cause I went over those 4 times a year? Any help would be greatly appreciated! All other months they was below ! Do they look at your earnings Before your next CDR?

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 13:45 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Sherri (not verified)

Hi Sherry,
It may not affect your benefits, however you may want to contact the SSA regarding this. You can do so by calling them at 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 13:30 Permalink
Maria (not verified)

On today, 12/13/2017, I called in to figure out what amount I can make to avoid being removed off of SSDI, and yes it was confusing regarding trial period and after trial period in how much can be made. Well, the man that was talking with me on the phone was very aggressive in his tone and very loud as if I had some problem comprehending the policies. I won't have this problem if it was more plan to the human eye. Which in this case I had to call to ensure I wasn't breaking any rules. However, I was some what shun in trying to go back to work which is his problem and not mines... So I just wanted to state that its very confusing as far as the dollar amount you can make after your trial period has ended.. And these employees need some customer service training in handling people who are honest and want to do right!

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 15:13 Permalink
MARIA (not verified)

SGA("substantial gainful activity") is this before or after the trial period ends. If its after then is the dollar amount $1170 or $840. The reason why I ask the person who assisted me was very hostile with me when I was asking him a question. There was no need for him to be hostile due to the fact I was very nice and patience with him in asking my question.. (his lost anyway)

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 15:18 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by MARIA (not verified)

HI Maria,
After the trial work period ends you would be ineligible for benefits, unless you would need to leave work again due to your condition.

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:31 Permalink
Lee Kitzmiller (not verified)

I receive SSD now.. I would like to know how much money I can make in a month's time.. I make $7.50 an hour how much am I allowed to make per week equals out per month.... some places on the internet I see you can make $840... then I seen $1070... another place I seen $1170.... I live in PA... I need help I do not want to lose my SSD but I want to work part-time also... my body says something else

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:02 Permalink
julie (not verified)

I worked part time..paid bi weekly..is pay counted In calandar days of the month or when I am paid. Some months over lap so it would put me over if counted when I receive pay.

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 12:02 Permalink
Deanna

In reply to by julie (not verified)

Hi Julie,
Pay is counted by income earned per month--the SSA will sum the payments you received within a given month even if it was technically from work done across two months.

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 15:06 Permalink
ken (not verified)

Our company is giving a Christmas bonus. I am able to make 1170.00 a month. This bonus will put me over, what should I do

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 15:57 Permalink
Alex (not verified)

Hi
From 2018 i will receive SSDI $752.
Previous answer was "in 2018 you would be able to earn up to $850 a month without affecting your benefits."
my question is that $850 is include $757, or i can work and make up to $850 plus my $757 benefit from SSA.

thank you

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 14:24 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Alex (not verified)

HI Alex,
That $850 does not include SSDI benefits.

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:10 Permalink
Caridad Delgado (not verified)

I completed my trial work period more than 5 years ago? Can I be eligible for a second trial work period now for another 9 months without the risk of losing my ssdi?

Sat, 12/23/2017 - 00:35 Permalink

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