What is a social security work trial period?


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is designed to help you financially if you become unable to work due to a health problem. But if your health improves, you may feel ready to start working again. A trial work period (TWP) gives you the opportunity to test the waters without losing your benefits.

A TWP is one of many work incentives the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers to help people re-enter the workforce after a period of disability. These serve as a sort of guarantee for SSDI beneficiaries to see if they can work consistently over time.

You are allowed to work and collect SSDI, but the SSA places strict limits on how much you can earn. Benefits may end if you engage in what Social Security considers “substantial gainful employment” (SGA). In 2021, the SGA limit is $ 1,310 per month, $ 2,190 per month for the blind. (The limits are adjusted annually to reflect national salary trends; in 2022, they will increase to $ 1,350 and $ 2,260, respectively.)

But Social Security recognizes that people who collect SSDI may experience fluctuations in their health or find accommodations in their workplace that encourage them to try again. A TWP gives you nine months out of a five-year period during which you can earn any amount of income while still receiving your SSDI payments.

How it works

Social Security counts one calendar month for your probationary period if you earn more than $ 940 before taxes. (In 2022, that will be $ 970.) If you are self-employed, working more than 80 hours per month counts as one TWP “month of service”, even if you do not exceed the income threshold.

The nine months do not have to be consecutive. Say, for example, after a year on SSDI, you get a part-time job. You earn $ 1,000 the first month, $ 800 each of the next three months, then $ 1,000 again. Social Security will consider that you have used up two of your nine-month probationary period.

You don’t have to sign up for a TWP. On the contrary, social security tracks your months of service when you declare your salary or self-employment, as required of disabled beneficiaries. TWP ends after you accumulate nine months of service over a rolling 60-month period, or when Social Security determines that you are no longer disabled.


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