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Trial Work Periods & SSDI Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an insurance program funded by an individual’s taxes intended to assist disabled individuals. When an individual is found disabled under SSDI, they are also entitled to a trial work period (TWP). A TWP allows an individual to try to work for a period of time after being found disabled. During a TWP, an individual can work for nine months without losing benefits. This allows disabled individuals to test their ability to work.

After an individual has been receiving SSDI benefits, he/she can attempt to work under a TWP. However, there must be twelve months between the onset date and the time work begins. Disabled individuals can work for nine months without affecting benefits. These nine months do not have to be consecutive and are counted within a 60 consecutive month period.

A disabled individual’s income shows up in the SSA’s system. Once an individual earns the TWP monthly regulated amount, their file is reviewed. In 2020, the TWP monthly amount is $910.00 per month (which is less than substantial gainful activity). For self-employed individuals, the SSA will consider a month of services exceeding 80 hours to be considered a TWP month. It is wise for an individual to inform the SSA they will attempt to work.

If a review is required, the SSA will determine if the disabled individual is working within a TWP. The SSA will examine the individual’s monthly earnings; the individual is allowed nine months of TWP-level earnings and can continue to receive benefits.

After the TWP is complete and the benefits are terminated, disabled individuals enter an extended period of eligibility (EPE). The EPE is a 36-month period of time that the SSA will withhold benefits when substantial gainful activity (SGA) is earned. This allows disabled individuals to work long-term. The SSA will terminate benefits when SGA is performed after this 36-month period of time. However, an individual can request benefits to begin again without filing an application.

A TWP is typically an issue addressed at the field or district office. Occasionally, a TWP will be missed and make it to the hearing level and/or an issue of disability must be addressed by an ALJ.

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