When a Social Security Disability recipient makes an attempt to return to the workforce, they are entered into what is called a Trial Work Period. During this period, their Social Security Disability benefits are not affected. The disability recipient is not limited to the amount of income they can receive during this Trial Work Period, which lasts for nine non-consecutive months during a 60-month period.
If a disability recipient completes the Trial Work Period and continues work activity, he or she is entered into another time frame which is referred to as the Extended Period of Eligibility. The Extended Period of Eligibility begins the month after your Trial Work Period ends and continues for an additional 36 consecutive months.
This Extended Period of Eligibility allows a disability recipient an additional 36 consecutive months of continued eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. During this time, a disability recipient is still eligible to receive their disability benefits depending on the amount of income they receive. If you are receiving disability benefits and do not earn a substantial gainful income during your 36 month Extended Period of Eligibility, you will still be entitled to your Social Security Disability benefits.
It is important to note that you are responsible for tracking your earnings during your Extended Period of Eligibility and reporting all earnings to the Social Security Administration. During this time, the Social Security Administration will evaluate whether your gross earnings exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity limits. During this time, the first month that your gross earnings go over the Substantial Gainful Activity amount your benefits will be affected. You will still receive your Social Security Disability payment for that month and for two additional months after that. This is what is referred to as a grace period. If you continue to earn above the Substantial Gainful Activity limits after that time, your disability benefits will stop.
If, for some reason, during your Extended Period of Eligibility you are unable to continue work, your Social Security Disability benefits will be protected and you will not have to reapply for benefits with the Social Security Administration.