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The SSA Ticket to Work Program has been advantageous to those who receive SSI and SSDI benefits due to a disability. It helps benefit recipients explore ways to re-enter the workforce, which can provide greater income mobility and improved quality of life for those with disabilities. Many people who receive disability benefits find themselves wanting the greater income mobility afforded by returning to work. However, they don’t want to risk losing their benefits by engaging in work that may negate their disability claims or SSDI payments. For example, if a recipient of benefits begins work and forfeits disability benefits, what happens if that recipient finds out that working with a disability is prohibitive and must cease employment? Before the Ticket to Work program, that recipient faced a risk of losing income in such a circumstance. However, the SSDI Work Incentives allows disability benefit recipients to try work for a period before forfeiting benefits to maintain continuity of income.

The Trial Work Period is a benefit to many who want to pursue a career without losing benefits, but participation requires compliance with a few criteria. To those who aren’t familiar with the program, the process and requirements of the program may be confusing. Read more here to learn what you need to know about the SSDI Trial Work Period component of the SSA Ticket to Work Program before enrolling.

What is the Trial Work Period?

The Trial Work Period is a time-frame that is given to disability benefit recipients who want to try to ease back into the workforce and find gainful employment. The period lasts for nine months and begins the first month in which the recipient meets the minimum threshold for income, which is $880 in 2019. Recipients of SSDI get nine months for their Trial Work Period. During the nine-month Trial Work Period, you can earn as much as you want and continue to receive your full disability benefits. In other words, you keep both your full disability payment and the income you received from working. The nine months don’t have to be consecutive months.

What if You Find You Can’t Work?

If at any point during the nine-month Trial to Work period you find that your disability continues to prevent you from making a living, you can cease work and continue to receive your full benefits. Your work status in no way jeopardizes your benefits during the Trial Work Period. Also, if you begin work but find you must quit after a month, for example, you can still return to work if your condition improves and you want to try work again. Your Trial Work Period lasts as long as it takes you to accumulate nine months over the threshold ($880 in 2019). If you do not use all of your nine months within a rolling 60-month timeframe (5 years) some of your months might drop off and you’ll get that month back! When you complete your Trial Work Period successfully after accumulating nine months over $880 (in 2019) and your disability benefits are suspended because you continue to work, you have five years after you successfully return to work to have your benefits reinstated through expedited reinstatement if you find you can no longer work. Expedited reinstatement means you won’t have to complete the entire application process again and will receive a decision on your reinstatement of benefits in a much shorter time. You will receive temporary benefits while Social Security makes a decision to reinstate your benefits.

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What Happens After Nine Months?

If you are successful in your return to work and complete the nine-month Trial Work Period, that doesn’t necessarily mean your access to disability benefits is halted fully. Even after the Trial Work Period is complete you can still receive your full benefits in any month in which you don’t make more than the substantial gainful activity or SGA amount for your disability for the next three years, which is an incentive called the Extended Period of Eligibility. However, if your income exceeds the maximum SGA at any time, your benefits will cease for the months that you are over SGA. Even if your disability income ceases, however, you will still have access to Medicare for at least 93 months after the end of your nine-month Trial Work Period. When those 93 months are over, you can continue Medicare coverage by paying a premium.

If you’re ready to re-enter the workforce but don’t want to jeopardize your disability benefits, consider utilizing the Trial Work Period to test the waters and ensure that you can adequately support yourself without benefits. It provides an effective safety net for those who are willing to work but unsure if they can successfully re-enter the workforce. To learn more about the SSDI Trial Work Period or the SSA Ticket to Work Program, visit DisABLEd Workers at https://www.disabledworkersusa.com/ticket-to-work/.