The Social Security Administration reported in 2022 that disabled workers made up 89% of people receiving Social Security Disability benefits. These individuals likely have plans to one day return to work.
However, returning to work can be a complex decision. The process requires careful consideration of various factors and how work might affect your SSDI benefits.
Trial work period
The SSA encourages SSDI recipients to attempt working again by offering a Trial Work Period. During the TWP, you can test your ability to work while still receiving full SSDI benefits. The TWP allows for up to nine months within a rolling 60-month period in which you can earn any amount without losing your benefits.
Substantial gainful activity
Substantial Gainful Activity is a measure the SSA uses to evaluate your work activity. There is a monthly income threshold for SGA that varies from year to year. If your monthly earnings exceed the SGA limit, the SSA may reduce or discontinue your benefits.
Extended period of eligibility
Once you complete the TWP months, you enter the Extended Period of Eligibility. This period lasts for 36 months, during which your SSDI benefits can continue as long as you remain below the SGA threshold. If your income exceeds SGA, the SSA suspends your benefits.
After the EPE, there is a five-year grace period during which you can request the SSA reinstate your benefits if your income falls below SGA without you having to file a new application. If your earnings increase above SGA during this grace period, the SSA will terminate them again.
Impairment-related work expenses
Impairment-Related Work Expenses are expenses related to your disability that you can deduct from your earnings for SGA calculations. Approved IRWE can help reduce your countable income and keep you below the SGA threshold.
Ticket to work program
The Ticket to Work program is a federal initiative that helps SSDI recipients return to the workforce. It provides vocational rehabilitation services, training and job placement assistance while allowing you to retain your Medicare or Medicaid coverage during your participation in the program.
Keeping the SSA informed about changes in your employment and earnings is essential. Failure to report accurately and promptly could lead to overpayments or penalties. It is your responsibility to provide this information to ensure compliance with SSDI rules.