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Trial work period what is it?

Claimants who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) due to a severe health condition which is expected to last 12 continuous months and does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity.


Some of these claimants, however, may find that after a certain period of time that their condition improves to such a degree that they want to attempt to reenter the work force. The incentive not to work is strong, however. Claimants are potentially sacrificing hundreds if not thousands of dollars each month and medical insurance.

With this in mind, the SSA decided to create the Trial Work Period, which is essentially a program that allows SSDI recipients to attempt to reenter the workforce while continuing to receive SSDI benefits, including Medicare.

Substantial Gainful Activity- what is it?

Although the Trial Work Period is a great idea, it’s a bit difficult to understand. In fact, some claimants trigger a Trial Work Period unintentionally. With this in mind, it’s important to make a simple blanket statement: If you are going back to work at all, it’s important to contact the SSA and find out the details about the Trial Work Period.

What is a Trial Work Period?

First, to understand Trial Work Period, claimants must first understand the notion of substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SSA defines substantial gainful activity as completing “significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.”

More specifically, SGA includes performing work the SSA considers “substantial,” which can include part-time work, even if you are not paid, or work which is gainful, which is working and earning $1,130 per month (non-blind) or $1,820 per month (blind).

How does the Trial Work Period work?

So, let’s get to the basics of the Trial Work Period. The Trial Work Period is a set period of time, right now designated as 9 months within a 5 year window, that claimants may test their ability to work. Within this time frame if a worker makes $810 (in 2016) in gross earnings they will trigger a trial work month.

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. During a five year time period you may have nine trial work months, although the months do not have to be in consecutive order. After you have “used up” your nine months, the Trial Work Period is over.

What is the Extended Period of eligibility?

Now this gets a little more fun…

After the Trial Work Period ends, you enter a period of time referred to as your Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). During this period of time, you will continue to earn your SSDI benefits each month if your gross earnings each month remain below the SGA level ($1,130 in 2016).

Earning more than the SGA allowable amount, however, will initiate a 3 month grace period where you will to receive SSDI, even if your earnings spike above the SGA amount. If you continue to work at an SGA level each month after the grace period ends, however, your SSDI benefits will be terminated.

It’s important to note, however, that if your benefits terminate, there are periods of time within this process that reinstating benefits may be simpler than reapplying for SSDI, but eventually, working too many hours can terminate SSDI benefits during the EPE period.

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