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7 Things to Know About the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Blog  > 7 Things to Know About the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period

7 Things to Know About the Social Security Disability Trial Work Period

Sometimes beneficiaries mistakenly think that once they start receiving disability benefits, they are “stuck” and can never go back to work again, even if their condition improves. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration (SSA) supports individuals who want to try to return to work through various work incentives that allow beneficiaries to attempt to work without jeopardizing their monthly disability income and Medicare benefits. One of these incentives is called the Trial Work Period, commonly abbreviated as TWP.

The TWP, is a special allowance that allows you to work up to nine months without losing your monthly disability payments. Disability Benefit decisions are based on many factors. A common but false assumption is that you have to be bedridden to be approved. While it can be difficult to get the claim approved, many times the individual improves after receiving the benefit. Maybe it’s the additional resources and medical coverage that result in better care, or maybe their disabling condition just isn’t as bad anymore. If enough improvement is made, work may be a possibility again and a TWP would be beneficial. This work incentive is available to all Social Security Disability recipients but the rules can be complicated. Follow these 7 guidelines to clearly understand the TWP:

    1. You Don’t Automatically Lose Your Benefits If You Get A Job.

While in the Trial Work Period, you can work and earn as much as you can and still get your monthly disability benefits.

    1. Your benefit amount remains the same.

Just because you start working and earning more money, more even than what SSA considers to be Substantial Gainful Income, does not mean that SSA will decrease your monthly SSD benefit. You will continue to get the same amount, plus Medicare coverage if it has started, until you exhaust your Trial Work Period.

    1. You have 9 months to attempt work and still receive benefits.

The Trial Work Period is only 9 months. After the 9 months are exhausted, Social Security will evaluate your earnings and determine whether you still meet the requirements.

    1. There is an amount that triggers the TWP.

When you receive Social Security disability, you can still work and earn a small amount each month. But the first month you earn over the TWP amount is the 1st month of your 9-month TWP. Some people exhaust their TWP without knowing it, so it’s important to understand this amount. The limit changes each year with cost-of-living adjustments, but the 2021 TWP amount is $940 a month. If you are self-employed, they do not go by this amount, but rather consider it a TWP service month if you work over 80 hours.

    1. The 9 months do not need to be consecutive.

No matter how much you want to return to work, it may not be a successful attempt. If you stop working after only 2 months, you would still have 7 months left to test your ability to work. If your condition improves, you can use those months to try again at some point in the future.

    1. You must notify Social Security of your earnings.

You should always notify Social Security of any work. The easiest way to is send copies of your check stubs. This helps SSA keep track of your TWP service months and helps prevent a nasty overpayment from Uncle Sam!

    1. You can utilize “Ticket to Work” services for assistance.

The safest way to attempt a return to work is by taking advantage of the Ticket program. The Ticket program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work. This free and voluntary program offers services and supports designed to help people with disabilities reach their career goals. To find a provider that is best for you, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

We always advise our clients to contact us before attempting a return to work so that we can track it and help make sure it is being done according to the work incentive guidelines.