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  • Christopher Le

How does the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period work?

The “trial work period” is a 9 month grace period given by the Social Security Administration to any disability benefits recipient who wants to attempt to re-enter the work force. A disability benefits recipient has essentially 9 months of trial work period in each period of 60 months(5 years). These 9 months do not have to be consecutive.

The trial work period allows you to work for 9 months and still collect disability benefits. If your medical condition has improved to the point that you think you might be able to work again, you can go to work and earn money for that nine-month period of time without losing your Social Security Disability payments. It’s important that notify SSA if you decide to go back to work. So if you want to participate in the program, it will depend on your reporting to the Social Security Administration your work activity, your income, and your expenses.

Will I lose my disability benefits after the trial work period ends? No. Even after the your trial work ends, you can still receive disability benefits for any month in which you do not make more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount which is $1,260 a month or $2,110 a month if you are blind. If you earn more then $1260, you will likely lose your disability benefits for that month.

Even if you don’t receive disability benefits because you are earning over $1260, you will still be eligible to receive Medicare Part A for at least 93 months after the end of the 9 month trial work period. 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 usual.

The Social Security Administration recognizes that while you may be able to successfully return to work, your disability or medical condition may worsen and prevent you from sustaining a job once again. If that occurs, within five years after you return to work, you will be eligible for “expedited reinstatement”. This means you wont have to reapply for benefits and you wont have to wait for benefits while your medical condition is being reviewed.

Although it sounds easy enough, one thing to note is that Social Security has not synced the monthly limits for its trial work period ($910 in 2020) with its monthly limits for substantial gainful activity ($1,260 in 2019, or $2,110 if you are blind). This means that if you are receiving benefits, it is important that you be careful not to accidentally use up your trial work period months by making more than $910 a month. If you are self employed, that figure means $910 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 special type of computer or the use of a wheelchair), the Social Security Administration will deduct those expenses from your gross income before they determine if you are over the limit. So let’s say you have $1,000 in qualifying expenses, you could essentially make $1,900 a month and still be under the trial work period limit.

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