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

Laura (not verified)

My husband is on disability and has been offered a coaching position at a local school. He will earn a stipend paid as 1 lump payment or in 2 payments. The appointment is for an activity occuring over a 3-4 month period. Does he need to figure out the hours worked per month or does the amount count only in the month the check was received. Can he subtract medical expenses necessary for his employment during his trial months.

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 14:50 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Laura (not verified)

Hi Laura,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this as this isn't the most common situation. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 17:07 Permalink
Norik (not verified)

Hi,
I came to the United States 6 years ago. I am 67 years old.
now I am a us citizen.
I have been working the last 2 years and I get $1,200 monthly.
my question is - can i get retirement benefits and how much is going to be.

thank you

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 22:04 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Norik (not verified)

HI Norik,
I'm not entirely sure if you can, you may want to contact the SSA regarding this, you can call them at 1-800-772-1213.

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 15:40 Permalink
Babs (not verified)

It is my first time on here and the first time I did taxes how does this affect me?
I also wanted to know do they6 go by weekly pay or monthly? Thank you

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:57 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Babs (not verified)

Hi Babs,
I could not say as we do not know the details of your case, we are not affiliated with the SSA or the federal government. Generally they would go by monthly income.

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:35 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Mary Jo (not verified)

Hi Mary Jo,
You may if it is considered a work expense, however it would be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding this.

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:42 Permalink
Jamie (not verified)

I started working last April.. I honestly don’t know when my nine months is up?! Do they let you know?! I don’t understand how it’s calculated? Being I get paid biweekly and some weeks go into the next month..

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 16:21 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Jamie (not verified)

Hi Jamie,
The end of your trial work period would depend on how many months you made over $850 in earned income, the SSA only counts months in which you exceeded that amount.

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:37 Permalink
Rob (not verified)

I receive adult disabled survivor benefits I have 9 months of TWP. From feb- to may im going to gross 1650 per month. Obviously over the SAG. After that I’m only going to gross 840 per month. Will I still lose Benefits

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 21:36 Permalink
Bryan

In reply to by Rob (not verified)

Hi Rob,
You may not have a change in benefits, however those four months of earning over the $850 figure would be counted as sucessful trial work period months.

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:18 Permalink
M. Skinner (not verified)

Is this only applicable to SSA? Or does it also apply to those on SSI (born disabled and have never worked) who are working through vocational rehabilitation?

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 13:52 Permalink
Casey (not verified)

Im currently on DDSI and started working to test my ability. My question is: How do you calculate total monthly income?
By that I mean, Toward to end of the month, when my income is getting a couple of hundred before going over SGA, Does the income that's earned but paid the next month count toward current month or next months income. What if you work a week that falls in one month and the other half in the next month. I get paid weekly. Hopes there's some calculation for this.

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 14:41 Permalink
Deanna

In reply to by Casey (not verified)

Hi Casey,
I would count it within the month timeframe, so if you're paid on a Monday but it's technically a new month, it wouldn't count for the SSA's purposes. You'll want to look out for months with five pay periods.

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:50 Permalink
Kay (not verified)

My husband has been receiving disability payments for over a year and a half. he is thinking about going back to work and driving some. Do we need to contact SSA and let them know, or can he just do some driving work. And not go over $1170 a month as states in the Trial period.

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 08:53 Permalink
Rob (not verified)

Is it true that at the end of your TWP They will add up the total grossed during your TWP an divide it by 9? An if the average comes out to 1180 or more they will Terminate your benefits?

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 01:02 Permalink
Billy Tomas (not verified)

Yes, the sga and twp are very confusing. I recently applied for ssdi. I was told by my local ss office I could work as long as income was less than sga.

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 15:17 Permalink
Delmar (not verified)

Can someone help me. Ok I finish my 9 month trial period, and they told me I couldn't go over the amount 1180 does that include my disability plus what I'm making to add up, or Is the checks separate

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 22:25 Permalink
Bryan Hicks (not verified)

Say in a hypothetical situation: The receiver of benefits used up all his/her Trial work period months. The receiver of benefits had been making slightly less than SGA, which is 1,180. One day, the boss explains to him/her that they are really needed for more hours, so the disability recipients goes over SGA one month. Are disability benefits completely cut off at this point, or do they resume once income drops below SGA again?

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 20:22 Permalink
rsg

In reply to by Bryan Hicks (not verified)

Hi Bryan,

If you go over the SGA, the SSA may review your case again and find you now longer qualify for benefits as you can make more than the SGA.

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 16:45 Permalink
Susan (not verified)

My friend has been receiving SSDI for a chronic medical condition since 2010. He has improved a little and wants to earn a little extra income. He thinks he can work as long as he wants, as long as he earns under the $1170 SGA. I told him that I thought he could only earn less than $850 per month for a 9 month period before he risked losing his SSDI and urged him to contact the local SS office for more information. I told him it was my understanding that any time he earned over $850, even if he had no intention of fully returning to work, it would be applied towards the TWP. Could you clarify?

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 14:17 Permalink
Mike (not verified)

Ok so I start work soon and will be making 2,080 before taxes. I currently receive 821. Now will I still receive payments and benifits during my 9 month trail work period? I’m currently Wheelchair bound for life after a car accident.

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 00:50 Permalink
Tim (not verified)

I'm a little confused. Is it true that you have to collect your SSDI benefit for 12 months before you can start the trial work period? I am being told conflicting information by people at my local Social Security office, one saying you do and the other saying you don't. I just received my first payment and don't know if I have to return it or not.

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:22 Permalink
Jimmy Miner (not verified)

I wanted to know do i have to inform soc security before i start work as an uber driver i have been on disability three years now i want to try and go back to work on the ninth month triall.

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 15:23 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

I was injured at work, I am still an employee and still get paid bi-weekly, however I will never be able to return to my job Bc they have deemed it a permanent disability. With still receiving paychecks (a lot less then when I actually worked, but more then the $1220) would I still be eligible for SSDI?

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 14:07 Permalink
Jeremy (not verified)

I'm attempting to go back to work for about two days a week. I won't make more than $600 a month. Will that mean I will have $300 a month deducted? How long will I be able to make this amount without losing benefits? Still confused on how this works. 880 is the Mac amount I think.

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:26 Permalink
rsg

In reply to by Jeremy (not verified)

Hi Jeremy,

You're correct, $880 is the max amount. As long as you are making under this amount you won't need to worry about entering the Trial Work Period or have your benefits reduced. There is no time limit either for how long you can work if you are making less than the $880.

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:37 Permalink
Char (not verified)

I have been on disability for 8 months and I didn't get a SS lawyer because with my metastatised cancer, I qualified immediately. When I work as a substitute teacher, my employer pays into social security for me. I don't need to also contact you to report how much I earn because you are already aware, am I correct?

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 14:57 Permalink

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