Know the Rules of the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period

Submitted by Chris on

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 ($1,550 a month or $2,590 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 ($1,110 in 2024) with its monthly limits for substantial gainful activity ($1,550 in 2024, or $2,590 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

danny (not verified)

i wanted to know if the trial

i wanted to know if the trial work program will accept any type of new business. Do they have guidelines on how your business plan is set up?

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 19:43 Permalink

In reply to by danny (not verified)

Hi Danny,

Hi Danny,
yes and no. You will simply need to set a goal with the SSA representative who handles your case. If the new business helps you reach your goal, you can set up a trial work period. Your goal can be to reach a new level of education, hit a certain income, preform a certain job, etc.

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 16:45 Permalink
Nancy (not verified)

I just did my 2015 tax

I just did my 2015 tax reporting. I lost $3,000 doing the ride-sharing, Uber.
I did the Net Earning Self Employment(NESE)calculation which arrived at $760 per month. Monthly earnings I had was not consistent.

Last year, I reported my earning for May which exceeded the the Substantial Gainful Activity(SGA) at $1090 for 2015. It is only one month that went above the SGA amount.

I reported that earning to the Social Security office and it counted it as one trial month. After doing the NESE calculation, I think it should be uncounted toward the trial month. Can I undo this?

Thank you.

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 13:27 Permalink

In reply to by Nancy (not verified)

Hi Nancy,

Hi Nancy,
It's unlikely that you can "undo" one trial work period. So long as you don't have nine over the next few years, you should be fine.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:10 Permalink
Nancy (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Yes, I am able to cancel the

Yes, I am able to cancel the counted trial months after I provided my IRS form 1040 to Social Security Admin - showing my Schedule C with all the expenses associated with ridesharing.

After explaining that I did not make any real wage in ridesharing, I was asked to provide my past IRS income reports. I sent them in the mail with my note. Within a month, my trial work period month count is reset to zero.

I am glad that I persisted.

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 16:31 Permalink

In reply to by Nancy (not verified)

Hi Nancy,

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for checking back in! It's important to be persistent with things like this.

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 16:20 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am confused. I was told

I am confused. I was told that I can make up to $1130 while on SSDI, but the trial work period is $810 a month? I have already used up my trial work period, which ended way back in December of 2015. I have pretty much made over $810 every month since then, and I have reported all my earnings to social security. I was also told by social security that I can make up to $1130 a month and still receive my benefits, but I am thrown off by the trial period maximum being $810. So can I make up to $1130 a month on disability, or $810? I have made over $810 after my trial work period for the last year every month, but they have not stopped my payments.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 19:55 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


Since you have completed the Trial work period, you will still be eligible for benefits if you do not earn more than the SGA amount in any given. So yes, you can make over the $810 amount, but not the $1,130 monthly SGA amount.

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 12:40 Permalink
Brandon (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

What if he didn't use up

What if he didn't use up his trial work period? Would his benefits halt cause he made more than the $810 amount but not the $1,130?

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 17:30 Permalink

In reply to by Brandon (not verified)

HI Brandon,

HI Brandon,
If they made over $850, the months that they did do so would be counted towards his trial work period.

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 09:15 Permalink
Dawn (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

So what's the point of

So what's the point of the trial work period if i can earn up to the SGA amount and not be penalized?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:18 Permalink

In reply to by Dawn (not verified)

Hi Dawn,

Hi Dawn,

The trail work period only lasts for 9 months. So if you continue to make the SGA or higher, then after your TWP is done, then you could lose your benefits. The TWP is provided to help you establish if you are able to return to work and make a decent living wage or not. Hope that helps clear things up!

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 12:38 Permalink
Angela (not verified)

My husband is recovering from

My husband is recovering from brain cancer and is currently cancer free. He is receiving disability and is on a trial work period. If he is successful after the nine months will he have to pay back the disability payments he is now receiving? We do send in and report his paystubs to SSA every two weeks. He recently was hospitalized with kidney stones and has surgery and was off a week of work.

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:59 Permalink

In reply to by Angela (not verified)

Hi Angela,

Hi Angela,
SSDI benefits are disability insurance payments, and as such you do not have to repay them, unless you had not informed them of a change in income or disability status that would have changed your eligibility for those benefits and they had overpayed you.

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 13:17 Permalink
Angela (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you. I have sent and

Thank you. I have sent and continue to send every pay stub to Social Security. So my income is always reported.

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 09:40 Permalink
Nikki (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

This is not true. My husband

This is not true. My husband let SSA know he was going to try to go back to work. He also turned in his paystubs every month as directed. SSDI stopped after that 9th month. However, SSA says we have to pay all those back to them.

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 10:44 Permalink

In reply to by Nikki (not verified)

Hi Nikki,

Hi Nikki,
You may be required to repay overpayments if the SSA determines that you were ineligible for benefits during months that you had received them.

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 13:02 Permalink
Annie (not verified)

Hi, I didn't know I have

Hi, I didn't know I have to report any income while I correcting disability help. My benefit started July 2015 at the same time I was helping my friend to stay with me to received $300 per month from January to October 2015. Have I exceeded the maximum amount, would that affect my continue benefit?

Thu, 04/07/2016 - 02:19 Permalink
Gina Best (not verified)

so during the trial period

so during the trial period you have 9months initially and there is no limit to what you can make? where do i go to set the trial period up ?

Sun, 06/12/2016 - 12:17 Permalink

In reply to by Gina Best (not verified)

Hi Gina,

Hi Gina,
Trial work periods are triggered by earnings, there is no need to apply.

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 10:43 Permalink
Cory (not verified)


I have been completely blind since birth. Back into thousand and six I started working full time and also started my nine month trial period for Social Security disability. My employment was successful so after nine months my disability stopped. Into thousand 11 my job ended and I was able to have my benefits reinstated. Since then, I have had a part-time employment and have been able to stay under the SGA level each month. I am now able to return to my old job. Will I get a Nother nine month trial work period?

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 13:51 Permalink

In reply to by Cory (not verified)

Hi Cory,

Hi Cory,
You will actually qualify for an expedited reinstatement for disability benefits, under which you cannot go over SGA once, otherwise you'll immediately be removed from the program! This is because you would not meet the SSA's definition of disability.

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 14:29 Permalink
Barbie (not verified)

If you are receiving 1700 a

If you are receiving 1700 a month from SSD and you want to work part time can you do?

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 15:32 Permalink

In reply to by Barbie (not verified)

Hi Barbie,

Hi Barbie,
You can certainly work part time, but I would not recommend earning more than $800 per month. If you do earn more than $800 per month, you'll trigger a trial work period, which could eventually stop your benefits.

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 14:28 Permalink
colleen (not verified)

Hi i have a question, i

Hi i have a question, i recently recieved my approval or award letter in july i was working on and off during my application process as it took awhile does that work go towards the trial work period or does the trial start after the approval letter thank you.

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 02:42 Permalink

In reply to by colleen (not verified)

Hi Colleen,

Hi Colleen,
The trial work period may not start until your benefits start.

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 09:40 Permalink
Tanisha (not verified)

If I'm on the work trial

If I'm on the work trial period and my nine months end at the end of September to I still get a last check on the 3rd of October for September

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 14:30 Permalink
Shree (not verified)

In reply to by Tanisha (not verified)

I want to work but I get a

I want to work but I get a social security check every month on the 3rd will it stop if I work at family dollar store

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 20:14 Permalink

In reply to by Shree (not verified)

Hi Shree,

Hi Shree,

It is possible to have a partial/full reduction of benefits if you begin to work again. However, if you begin working and your income is less than $1,260/month in 2020, you can still receive benefits. In general it is usually better financially to begin working and the SSA will allow you to participate in a trial work period. You can read more about that here:

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 14:45 Permalink
Tiara Allen (not verified)

My husband was diagnose with

My husband was diagnose with congestive heart failure back in May, we are awaiting his final yes or now for disability payments. This whole process is new to us and Ive been reading on here about a trial period. My question is Medicaid called and said they approved him and most likely he will get approved for social security. My question is he is thinking about going back to work, if he goes back to work and then gets approved can he still work, is that what the trial period is for? Just to see if he is really ready? He is concerned about being denied for looking for work? Again we are very new to the entire process.

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 18:30 Permalink

In reply to by Tiara Allen (not verified)

Hi Tiara,

Hi Tiara,
It seems like your husband is being approved for SSI, rather than SSDI which means he may not be eligible for the trial work period. However, he may be able to work, but the SSA reduces SSI benefits one dollar for every two dollars in income that he'd make.

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 09:39 Permalink
Anons (not verified)

I have been on ssdi for 3

I have been on ssdi for 3 years. Recently I have decided that the best thing to do for my mental health is to try and work part time. I have multiple disabilities, some of which are physical. I was hired part time at $10 an hour at a gas station in town, I have not yet begun working there but I told my employer I can only work 20 hours a week maximum. I understand that the TWP is $810 or higher. Does this mean that any monthly amount UNDER that $810 is NOT considered a trial work period? If so, can I work my job long term (if my health can handle it) and still recieve full benefits while not compromising them? My disabilities are ongoing, but I do think that in a couple more years I may be able to fully return to work if my health condition is completely managed. In the mean time, there is no way I can work full time and fully support myself without benefits or health care.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 08:50 Permalink

In reply to by Anons (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
If you make under $810, the SSA would consider this a "failed" trial work period and would not start the process of transition from SSDI benefits to full time work.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 11:09 Permalink
Anons (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you Bryan.

Thank you Bryan.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 14:38 Permalink
John (not verified)

I want to caution everyone

I want to caution everyone out there that SS will often misconstrue or even lie about the trial work period and how that works. Just last week I had someone at my local SS office tell me that going over the 810 dollar amount didn't matter and wouldn't in any way cause me to lose my benefits. She also tried to tell me that SS tracked how much I made each month down to the day (as opposed to total monthly income) which I found to be ridiculous, because how can they know my schedule or earnings on a day-to-day basis? She kept insisting that the SGA amount ($1130 was all I needed to pay attention to.
So my question to everyone is this: Should we put any faith or trust in what people at the SS offices say? It seemed to me that the person I talked to was trying very hard to get me to work a little more each month so that I would go over the 810 dollar limit. Has anyone else had any dealings like this?

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 12:20 Permalink

In reply to by John (not verified)

Hi John,

Hi John,
While you're in the trial work period, you can earn over that $810 limit for about nine months. I'm not really sure what the representative said to you, but it may be that they thought you were attempting to go back to work full time and stop receiving disability benefits.

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 13:10 Permalink
Bill (not verified)

during the trial work period

during the trial work period is the $810 a month in earnings Gross or net that will constitute one month of the 9 trial months?

Sun, 10/30/2016 - 08:42 Permalink
Jaqueta Williams (not verified)

In reply to by Bill (not verified)

I just got a job but don&#039

I just got a job but don't start till Monday and I he SSI can I still work and get my SSI but I work 2 days and they will be get 300

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:30 Permalink

In reply to by Jaqueta Williams (not verified)

Hi Jaqueta,

Hi Jaqueta,
You may be able to still receive SSI, however you may have you benefits reduced about by about 150 dollars as the SSA reduces SSI benefits one dollar for every two that you earn.

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:06 Permalink
Donna (not verified)

Here is a complicated mess!!

Here is a complicated mess!! I had a knee replacement in December of 2013. I had to move to Virginia in February of 2014, as my partner's father passed away suddenly of an aneurysm in November of 2013. I work with the developmentally disabled..and there are hardly ANY jobs in that field. I looked for two years and finally found a great job that I drive to 45 minutes one way three days a week.
I started that job in October of 2015. After our arrival in Virginia in February off 2014, I applied for disability due to my severely damaged right knee that did not improve after my knee replacement. So, while waiting for a decision from SSA, I began that job working as a residential counselor for 4 mildly disabled gentleman in Maryland. I FINALLY got my award letter in August of 2016. They determined that I became disabled on July 24, 2016. I have sent in all of my pay stubs since October of last year. My representative told me the SGA was $1,130.00. Then she tells me after Social Security calls me to say they may take away my benefits that that SGA amount was GROSS for the month, not net pay, or take-home pay. I have waited FOREVER for my benefits, and worked in pain. I couldn't reduce my hours below THAT SGA gross and still pay my bills. I honestly made a mistake and thought that the SGA amount was take home!! Gross means nothing to me..I don't ever see that tax money was an honest mistake. Besides, it has only been two months note that I've even been declared disabled. Can I call them and tell them it really was an honest mistake and that I will quit my job while awaiting my benefits to start in February of next year??

Sat, 11/05/2016 - 11:47 Permalink

In reply to by Donna (not verified)

Hi Donna,

Hi Donna,
I'm sorry to hear about that! It may be a good idea to contact them about this, if you've been sending in your slips, it may not have affected your case.

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 16:41 Permalink
Marcus T (not verified)

I started a business but it

I started a business but it failed due to me being in the hospital for three months in a coma,SS says I have a second 9 months twp ,I only had business for three months but I lost money 8000,on a truck,and made no profit on the 15000 income,but was told I had didn't have 60 month consecutive work,from 2006 that's when I got first check,and only workers months since them

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:25 Permalink

In reply to by Marcus T (not verified)

Hi Marcus,

Hi Marcus,
You may still be covered under SSDI, they allow you to attempt to go back to work while receiving benefits.

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:44 Permalink
Ann (not verified)

I get paid every two weeks-

I get paid every two weeks- meaning I get 26 paychecks per year, so two to three months per year I get three paychecks within a calendar month while working continually the same amount of work and time at work. Why should three paychecks in a month count towards a trial work period - why don't they look at whether I am working more in that month - for example, they could take my total earnings per year and divide it by twelve, so long as my hours are steady, and it would be approximately how much I earned per month. Or they could count the number of hours I was paid for in that month and total my pay for those hours and figure how much I earned that month - a truer figure. But unless I am earning very, very little, I am bound to have a trial work period in five years without even trying. Does that make sense? They appear to have a formula that give most people a trial work period in a certain amount of time no matter what.

Sun, 12/11/2016 - 23:52 Permalink

In reply to by Ann (not verified)

Hi Ann,

Hi Ann,
Once you have completed a trial work period, you will still be eligible for benefits five years from the time it is completed.

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 13:36 Permalink
Ken (not verified)

When calculating if I have

When calculating if I have used a Trial Work Month, do I use the period end date of the paycheck or the date the check was paid?

Sat, 12/31/2016 - 10:12 Permalink

In reply to by Ken (not verified)

Hi Ken,

Hi Ken,
You might calcuate it by adding all the money that you had gotten paid that month, rather than how much money you had earned, so you may want to go with the date the check was paid.

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:48 Permalink

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