For those who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you are likely already aware that you can no longer work at your job, earn your previous salary and still receive monthly payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, the SSA has put in place a program specifically aimed at those who wish to return to doing some work and earning some money.
The Trial Work Period (TWP)
If you are collecting benefits because you are unable to work at your job, the SSA places a limit on your monthly income. You cannot make more than $1040.00, a sum that represents what the SSA calls substantial gainful activity (SGA). Exceeding that limit can mean losing your benefits, since the SSA reasons that if you are earning more than that amount, you are doing SGA, which means that you don't qualify for benefits. Fortunately, the Trial Work Period enables people who wish to work an opportunity to earn an unlimited amount, but for a limited period of time. Read on to find out how the TWP works.
The TWP has very specific rules and guidelines, such as:
- While participating in the TWP, you can earn as much money as you wish and still continue to be eligible for your usual Social Security Disability monthly payments at the same time.
- There are limits to the number of months you may participate in the TWP: 9 out of 60 months (9 months out of 5 years). The months do not need to be consecutive.
- While participating in the TWP, only those months where your income exceeds $780.00 is counted in the 9 months. You can reduce your income for TWP purposes by deducting certain allowable work-related expenses. You can make the most of the TWP by saving your qualifying months (the 9 months) for the months that you make the most income, since you may earn unlimited income while participating in TWP.
Occasionally the SSA conducts a check of your earnings and the work you are doing to earn it. Called Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR), these checks are usually triggered by your monthly earnings reports. Being a participant in the TWP doesn't automatically mean that you will be targeted for a CDR, but the SSA may take a closer look at the type of work you are doing to earn that money. For example, if during your TWP you earned money from a job that was essentially similar to the job you had to leave due to your disability, the SSA may deem you able to return to your job, and thus you will no longer qualify for benefits.
To learn more about the TWP program, or to discuss your current social security benefits, contact a local Social Security Disability attorney, such as J W Chalkley III PA.