Once an applicant is approved to receive Social Security disability benefits, they might try to go back to work. A trial work period is given by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to those who are taking home benefit checks to encourage them to go back into the job market.
A trial work period spans for a complete 9 months. During this window, designated applicants will still receive a monthly check by the SSA, but once the trial work period has ended your benefits may be suspended.
Keep in mind, a trial work period spans for 9 months, yet only the months where you bring home more than $850 a month contributes toward your trial work period. This number is evaluated and adjusted each year by the SSA. So it is important that you verify your salary before beginning any form of work.
Also, the months that contribute to your trial work period are not required to be consecutive. Which means any months out of the 60-month calendar, which is used by the SSA to determine trial work periods, may contribute towards your trial work period of 9 months.
Once Your Trial Work Period Is Over
Once your trial work period has been fulfilled by nine eligible months, the SSA will evaluate your earnings record to make sure you that you maintained substantial gainful activity (SGA) during the period. This practically means that the SSA will be able to know if the work you completed earned you enough income to sustain yourself.
The SSA defines substantial gainful activity as income at or above a particular threshold. That amount is reviewed and possibly adjusted each year to compensate for inflation and changes in the cost of living. The 2018 SGA threshold is $1,180 each month for a non-blind, single recipient of Social Security disability benefits.
If your average earnings during your trial work period meet or exceed the set SGA limit, then the SSA will suspend your Social Security disability benefits. However, if you managed to earn below the set SGA amount, then you will continue to receive monthly benefits from the SSA.
What Is An Extended Period of Eligibility?
If you continue to receive monthly disability benefits and are able to perform expected work duties, then you will qualify for an extended period of eligibility or EPE. This window, which consists of 36 months after you’ve ended your trial work period, will allow you to maintain eligibility for disability benefits. However, your monthly earned income during your EPE will determine if you will continue to be paid monthly disability benefit checks by the SSA.
Specifically, during the 36-month span after finishing your trial work period, any month where your monthly income met or exceeded the SGA limit will result in the SSA not providing you a disability benefit check. However, if you’re able to earn an income that is below the limit, then you will continue to receive the expected disability benefit amount for that month.
After your 36-month EPE, you will continue to receive disability benefits as long as you do not meet or exceed the SGA threshold. This means that if you earned more than the SGA threshold during month 42, then the SSA will suspend your disability benefits, even if you do not exceed the SGA threshold during any following months.
If you become disabled after the end of your EPE, you may apply for expedited reinstatement of benefits, under the condition that it has been less than 5 years since you last received a disability benefit check. If it’s been longer than 5 years since you were last receiving SSD benefits, then you will need to complete and file a brand new application for Social Security disability benefits if you become disabled again.