A SSDI Trial Work Period (TWP) is a form of employment support for those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which tests a recipient’s work ability.  Like other forms of SSDI employment support, TWP allows recipients to attempt to re-enter the workforce without the risk of losing their benefits. TWP grants the recipient the ability to work a total of nine months in a rolling sixty month period, while keeping full SSDI benefits, regardless of how much the recipient may earn. The Social Security Administration determines a countable month to be one in which the recipient earns a gross income greater than $750 or if 80 hours of self-employment is worked. The recipient is permitted to begin a TWP if at least one month has passed after the established SSDI onset date.

After the Trial Work Period ends, the recipient will then begin what is called an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). The EPE determines if the recipient can work at the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level ($1,040), based on the type of work and the amount that they earn. Once the recipient earns an average monthly income that exceeds the SGA level ($1,040), the SSA then terminates the SSDI benefits. During the EPE, if the recipient’s monthly income falls back below the SGA, then they will begin to receive their benefits again.

After the 36th month, if the recipient is still working under the SGA income level, and is still eligible for SSDI, then the recipient will continue to receive their benefits (until they either earn below the SGA or medically recover).  If the recipient does earn above the SGA, the SSA allows a grace period, where the recipient still receives benefits for the first month that their income exceeds the SGA level, plus the following two months.

I have had people come to me in Tallahassee after their SSDI benefits were discontinued for earning more than $750 per month for over nine months. These people often think they have been earning under the $750 mark, but do not account for their gross earnings (before taxes are deducted). If you are considering a trial work period, consult with a lawyer versed in social security disability law for guidance.

By: Matt Liebenhaut