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

Suzanne Gumaskas (not verified)

If you are now getting monthly benefits from SSDI . Want to work partime, the max amount you can earn a month is 1220.00. Is this amount before taxes?

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 18:16 Permalink
rsg

In reply to by Suzanne Gumaskas (not verified)

Hi Suzanne,

The max amount you can earn month before entering the Trial Work Period is $880, not $1220. $1220 is considered the Substantial Gainful Allowance. I believe these amounts are before taxes.

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 16:54 Permalink
Dara (not verified)

Hi,
It is 2019. My understanding is that while I am on SSDI I can earn up to $880 per month. Question#1. Do I have to report these earnings to SSA every month and, if so, how do I go about doing this.
Question two: there seems to be a discrepancy between the $880 a month allowed and the $1200 and something amount that is listed as the ‘SGA’.... what happens if I make more than $880 but less than the ‘SGA’. I ask these questions because I would like to work a little bit to earn a some extra money each month, but I know I’m not capable of going back to work full time or fully supporting myself, so I just want to know what exactly I can and cannot do so I don’t lose my benefits. I hope you understand what I’m asking. Thank you, and I look forward to your reply.

Mon, 12/30/2019 - 18:09 Permalink
rsg

In reply to by Dara (not verified)

Hi Dara,

For 2020, you can now earn up to $910 before entering the trial work period (TWP). And the SGA is $1,260. If you make over $910 but under $1,260, while in the TWP your benefits will likely remain unaffected. The SSA may still reevaluate your case after the TWP to make sure you are still eligible for benefits though.

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 14:39 Permalink
James Harden (not verified)

Im currently on ssdi. I tired to work at times but my illness keeps on taking to the ER and hospital. I am struggling with bills. Im thinking about opening a restaurant while on the work period trial. Im concerned that my illness prevent me to stay long term in the restaurant business. What happens if i open then my illness got worse and i end up losing my business? Can i still get restated n get ssdi again?

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:19 Permalink
Lori (not verified)

I have been on disability for epilepsy since 2002. I was an RN previously. I have an opportunity to work in a greenhouse for the season. Hours are perfect for my husband to drop me off on his way to work and pick me up on his way home. How much can I earn without affecting my disability benefits?

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 15:05 Permalink
rsg

In reply to by Lori (not verified)

Hi Lori,

To stay below the Trial Work Period, you cannot make more than $910 a month. As long as your monthly limit is below that, you won't have to worry about entering the TWP or your benefits being jeopardized.

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 09:08 Permalink
Ally (not verified)

I completed the twp and I wanna know if the next level which is I can't make over 1200 gross in order to keep my benefits, does it start at the first of the mo the or does it start at the next pay period?

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 17:33 Permalink
Bunny (not verified)

I was just approved for SSDI benefits effective June 2019. I was told that they don't pay the for the first 5 months so my back pay will start from December 2019. During that time I have continued to work but have not earned more than 1,200 in a given month. Does the time I was waiting approval count as a trial period or will only count from July of 2020 going forward? Can you also confirm if I am going to try to continue working that I should keep my monthly pay below $800 gross per month.

Thu, 07/16/2020 - 16:54 Permalink
Ryan Cirigliano (not verified)

I was curious how wages are calculated for disability. I will make well under the SGA at my current job if we're counting what i EARN each month. The thing that concerns me is that it's a bi-weekly pay schedule therefore there are about two months a year where I will RECIEVE three paychecks instead of two, putting me over the SGA. My question is do they calculate based upon what you work/earn in any given month, or is it based upon what you recieve?

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:33 Permalink

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