The SSDI Trial Work Period Explained: What It Is and How It Works

What is the SSDI Trial Work Period and how does it work? Learn how you can work and collect disability with Social Security work incentives.

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What Is the Trial Work Period for SSDI?

The Trial Work Period (TWP) is one of several work incentives the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers. The program helps people transition back into the workforce once their medical condition improves.

A Trial Work Period allows those who receive SSDI benefits to test their ability to work without losing their benefits. You can work and earn any income amount while still keeping your full SSDI benefits.

How Does the SSDI Trial Work Period Work?

Anyone who gets SSDI benefits can try out working for nine months within a 5-year (60-month) period without losing their benefits. These nine months can be consecutive or spread across the 60 months.

A TWP work month begins when you start working and meet the monthly earnings threshold. Or if you work more than 80 hours a month in self-employment. The threshold for 2022 is $970 before taxes. However, the TWP earnings amount changes each year.

Every month you work and earn above the monthly threshold counts as a part of your TWP. Once you have worked the nine eligible months, the TWP ends, and the Extended Period of Eligibility begins.

Note: Track your hours and earnings each month. Regardless of how much you earn, you should still report your work activity and earnings to the Social Security Administration.

When Does the Trial Work Period Start?

The Trial Work Period starts automatically when an SSDI recipient earns $970 or more in one month, creating a “service month.” There is no registration or enrollment.

The trial period will also start automatically if a self-employed person works 80 or more hours in a month, even if they do not exceed the income threshold.

Note: You do not need to apply again or alert the Social Security Administration if several months pass without working and you want to work again. If you are still within the 60 months, the SSA will automatically track your work activity or service when you file your required income reporting form.

What Happens After 9 Month Trial Work Period?

After completing the nine months, your trial work period will be “used up.” The SSA will then begin your Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).

During the EPE, the SSA will evaluate your work and earnings to decide if you can work at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level.

The SSA may also perform a Work Activity Review of your case. They will send you a Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821) to report any significant work activity changes.

What Is the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)?

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) is another work incentive program. After completing the Trial Work Period, SSDI recipients enter a 3-year (36-month) Extended Period of Eligibility.

The EPE begins the month after your Trial Work Period ends and continues for 36 months, whether you are working or not.

During this period, you can continue to receive full SSDI benefits. However, there are rules you must follow. For example, you must:

  • Have a disability or condition that limits your ability to work.
  • Earn less income than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold set annually by the SSA.
  • Track your earnings and report them to the Social Security Administration.

In addition, the SSA will continue to evaluate your monthly work hours and earnings. The SSA uses the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level to decide whether or not you are making a substantial wage.

You will continue to receive benefits for all months your gross earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity level. However, if you earn above the SGA level, you will not receive your benefits.

In 2022, the monthly SGA level is $1,350 or $2,260 for individuals who are blind. The amount changes annually, so keep updated on the SGA earnings limits.

Note: The month SSA determines you are consistently earning over the SGA level, you will receive your SSDI benefits for that month and two more months. These three months are called the “Grace Period.”

The SSA will automatically restart your benefits when your earnings fall below the SGA amount, and you are still in the 36-month EPE period.

How to Apply for a Trial Work Period?

SSDI recipients do not need to apply for the Trial Work Period program.
It automatically starts when you begin working and report income above the monthly earnings threshold.

There is nothing for you to do other than report your income to the Social Security Administration.

Also Read: Prepare for Your Disability Interview With These 6 Questions

SSDI Trial Work Period FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the TWP.

How Many Trial Work Periods Can I Have?

Each claimant is only entitled to one nine-month trial period within five years.

Once you have “used up” the nine months, the TWP ends, and the Extended Period of Eligibility begins.

What Triggers a Trial Work Period?

A Trial Work Period “triggers” when your income exceeds the monthly threshold. In 2022, any month you earn $970 or more will count toward your TWP. Or if you are self-employed and work over 80 hours in a month.

The Social Security Administration will automatically “trigger” a work period. There is nothing you need to do to initiate the TWP other than report your work activity and earnings.

Is There an SSI Trial Work Period?

Social Security Income recipients are not eligible for the Trial Work Period program. However, the Social Security Administration has other work incentives for SSI recipients.

Visit the SSA website for more information about SSI work incentives.

Do I Have to Report My Earnings to Social Security?

Yes! As part of the agreement to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you agree to inform the SSA of any income, regardless if it is earned or unearned. If self-employed, you are required to report the hours you work and your profit after business expenses.

It is also essential to report your earnings to Social Security because they automatically track your Trial Work Period months and Substantial Gainful Activity to your benefit.

You must also report earnings for Medicaid coverage, which you will continue to receive for any month you receive SSDI benefits. Additionally, Medicare has the potential to continue for up to 93 months after your SSDI benefits stop due to earning changes.

How to Avoid a Social Security Overpayment?

What is an overpayment? An overpayment occurs when the Social Security Administration determines you received more benefits than you were owed.

The best way to prevent an overpayment is to report your work activity, and income earned or unearned to the Social Security Administration. Ensure you report your earnings during your Trial Work Period and Extended Period of Eligibility.

It is always better to report all income, even if you don’t think it matters. This will help avoid triggering a Social Security overpayment issue.

You are also required to report changes to your disability or personal information. For example, an address change and changes with your health condition or disability.

Evans Disability Can Help You

If you are struggling with a disability and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to call us at 855-503-0101.

Our devoted team will help you every step of the way through the disability benefits application process. 

Additionally, you can call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visit your local office to apply for disability benefits.