Trial Work Period iconThe Trial Work Period is one Work Incentive that helps people who use Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) test their ability for 9 months while continuing to receive benefits. Learn more about this employment Social Security support to help you on the path to financial independence.

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Myth Busted: Trial Work Period

Feb 28, 2018

Trial Work Period iconHave you heard this myth? "If my benefit payments stop because I started making money through work, and then I have to stop working because of my disability, I will have to reapply for benefits all over again."

Social Security has special rules called Work Incentives, and today, we'll explore one that helps bust this myth for people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In our Work Incentives Wednesdays series, we'll explore Work Incentives to show you how they may help you along the path to financial independence.

Stage 1: Trial Work Period

If you receive SSDI, the Trial Work Period (TWP) is a Work Incentive that allows you to test your ability to work for at least 9 months. During the TWP, you'll receive full SSDI benefit payments no matter how much you earn – as long as you report your work activity and you continue to meet Social Security's rules for disability.

Each month counts separately, they don't have to occur together. Any month you earn more than Trial Work Level (TWL) during a 60-month (5-year) period counts toward your TWP. If you do not complete a full TWP during a 5-year period, Social Security may exclude some earlier months of work the next time they look at your earnings to decide if you have used your Trial Work Period.

What if I receive SSI?

Rules for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are different as earnings may reduce the amount of the SSI check without eliminating it, depending on how much income has been earned. Keep in mind that any amount earned may affect your SSI benefit payment. Find out more in Social Security's Red Book. A Ticket to Work service provider can also explain how these and other Work Incentives work.

Trial Work Level

Social Security uses TWL, which is the amount of earnings you have in a month before subtracting taxes, to decide if a month counts toward your TWP. In 2018, if you haven't used all of your TWP yet and you earn $850 or more in a month, that month counts toward your TWP.

For example, if you earned $1,500 in January 2018 and $700 in February 2018, you will have used 1 of 9 TWP months.

If you are self-employed, any month during which you work over 80 hours or have net earnings from self-employment (NESE) over $850 counts toward your TWP.

Social Security cannot use other Work Incentives when deciding if your work exceeds the TWL. However, using other Work Incentives, like Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE), may help you pursue your work and financial goals once you complete your TWP.

Remember: Report your wages

Whether you receive SSDI or SSI, it is very important to let Social Security know about work activity and wages earned. A Ticket to Work service provider can explain Social Security's work and wage reporting requirements and may assist with reporting earnings to Social Security.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

You can call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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