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Recipients of Social Security disability benefits have the option of returning to the workforce if they are able to do so. The Social Security Administration encourages individuals approved for disability benefits to return to work as a means to reduce the number of people dependent upon federal benefits by offering many supports to increase self-sufficiency.

Many people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time while undergoing treatment for physical injuries or mental disorders. A return to employment may require adapting to their disabilities along with learning new skills that are useful in the job market.

One of the biggest supports you get to help you transition back to the workplace while on SSDI benefits is the Trial Work Period.

The Social Security Administration offers this as an incentive to encourage disability recipients to pursue their goals of financial self-sufficiency. You may have questions about your benefits status after the Trial Work Period ends. Here’s what you need to know.

Work Rules

Individuals applying for SSDI benefits are evaluated to determine if they meet the SSA’s specific definitions of physical or mental disability. Applicants who are approved may test their ability to work and still meet the requirements for disability benefits.

The SSA is specific about what it considers work. You must be employed or self-employed and earn wages or make a profit for the services you perform. Work done as part of therapy or done as part of a daily routine around the house is not considered work in this case.

Trial Length

The Trial Work Period is nine months that can be used at any time during a five-year period. Your nine-month Trial Work Period doesn’t have to be consecutive. However long it takes you to accumulate nine months over Trial Work Level ($880 in 2019) within that five-year period is the length of the Trial Work Period.  The SSA allows you to test out your ability to work with the Trial Work Period without being at a risk of losing your disability benefits due to your earnings.

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After the Trial

Once your Trial Work Period is completed, the SSA will consider the work you do going forward and review your earnings to determine if you are able to maintain substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA describes a level of work activity that is physical or mental, or both.

Your earnings through SGA will affect whether you will continue to receive disability benefits. The SSA sets an earnings threshold of $1,220 (in 2019) a month for a single, non-blind individual recipient of disability benefits. Make more than the SGA limit and your SSDI benefits could be discontinued. You may request reinstatement of your benefits within five years if your disability prevents you from working, and you would not have to file a new application for benefits.

Extra Time

You also qualify for an Extended Period of Eligibility during which you would continue to work and receive SSDI benefits. The 36-month extension follows the end of the Trial Work Period, and your earnings will determine whether or not you receive disability benefits for the month you worked. If your earnings are below the SGA threshold, you will continue to receive disability benefits. Exceed it and you don’t receive an SSDI benefits payment for that month.

Your Work Partner

A return to the workforce can be less daunting if you can land a job and work for a trial period without jeopardizing your Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. DisABLEd Workers USA can help you get started through the Ticket to Work program. Ticket to Work helps SSDI recipients return to the workforce with vocational training, job placement and career counseling through partnerships with Employment Networks. If you are a recipient of SSDI benefits help and planning a return to the workforce, call DisABLEd Workers USA at 877-291-9806 to find out more about the SSA Ticket to Work program, its requirements and how to apply.