Previously in 2020, any month in which a claimant's earnings exceeded $910 was considered a Trial Work Period (TWP). In 2021, this amount has been raised to $940 by the SSA.
What is Trial Work Period?
The Trial Work Period is the grace period granted by the Social Security Administration to its claimants who want an attempt to re-try to gain entry in the workforce again.
A Trial Work Period (TWP) is a long stretch of 9 months' period of time, within a 5 year timeline, during which you can return to work (keeping under SGA) and still continue receiving disability benefits. So, for instance, if you return to work in 2020 during your SSDI benefits' period, and earn $910 per month from your TWP, and in 2021, if you earn above $940 in a month then that one month will be considered as one among the 9 months of your trial work period.
Earning Months and the 5 Year Limit in a Trial Work Period
However, not all months you work would be considered as 'earning months' by the Social Security Administration. In fact, any month in which your income limit exceeds $940 would be considered as one of the 9 month's grace period granted for work by the SSA. Hence, you could take up jobs for any months upto 5 years of TWP and not have your benefits suspended provided that your income limits do not exceed$940 and your 'earning months' not exceed 9 months within the 5 years time.
Typically a claimant can work for 9 months in a 60 month period and keep receiving benefits provided that their income thresholds remain below substantial gainful activity (SGA)
Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) 2021
Once your Trial Work Period ends, the Social Security Administration looks into your personal and professional information to decide whether you are working under substantial gainful activity.
However, even if you are earning above the income limits after the 5 year's grace period, your benefits won't stop right away. Instead, the SSA would enter you into another 36 months extended eligibility period where you would be entitled to special working rules. Hence, during the executive 36 months consecutively in the next three years of your EPE, your SSDI benefits would be determined on a monthly basis. Any month in which you don't earn above the income limit ($940 in 2021) would grant you SSDI benefits automatically. If you do make it above the SGA amount, you won't receive the SSDI income for that month.
** One thing to remember is during your EPE the SSA determines your countable gross income by calculating your gross income minus any work related impairment expenditure (impairment-related work expense, IRWE) you might have had. However, note that impairment related costs or any subsidies due to your condition are not excluded from your income during the Trial Work Period.
Self-employed claimants: In case you are a self employed person, do business, are a digital nomad or a freelancer, the SSA would use a special formula to determine your net earnings from self employment. This is done by determining your annual income divided by 12 (or the applicable number of month if you worked below or above the 12 months). This would determine whether your income limits exceed the SGA amount. But what happens if you start earning on your own and get disabled again anytime after the 36 months EPE?
Expedited Reinstatement Period
For claimants who have both passed their Trial Work Period and Extended Period of Eligibility and have encountered disability again after the 37th month of their EPE, the SSA has special rules. You are eligible to file an application to get your reinstated benefits without having to file for SSDI again. However, the reinstatement period has a limit of 5 years from the 37th month of the EPE. This means if your disability strikes again during anytime in the 5 years of the reinstatement period, you can easily resume your SSDI benefits by filing a request with the application from SSA.
**The above rules apply to persons who are disabled by impairments other than statutory blindness; special rules apply to blind beneficiaries.
If you are having trouble navigating around your Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility or the Expedited Reinstatement Period, you can contact our professional disability attorneys for legal advice.