Return to Work Programs for Individuals Receiving Title II SSDI Benefits: Part I: The Trial Work Period

Claimants often ask: Can I try to return to work without losing my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? The answer is YES! The Social Security Administration offers a variety of return to work incentive programs for you to try returning work without losing your benefits. In this post, I discuss the Trial Work Period (TWP).

Trial Work Period (TWP)
The Trial Work Period is a nine-month period to test your ability to work. A month counts toward the TWP if the beneficiary earns above $880 per month (2019). You continue to receive SSDI benefits during the TWP regardless of how much money you earn. The TWP cannot be combined with any other work incentive period at the same time.

A TWP can begin the first month the beneficiary is entitled to a cash benefit payment “entitlement month” and there is a favorable decision. Your entitlement month is the first month following the 5-month SSDI waiting period. A TWP cannot begin earlier than the date the application was received.

*Special TWP Rules for the Self-Employed
Self-employed individuals use a TWP month in a month that net earnings in a month above the TWP, or they engage in business activity for at least 80 hours in the month. “Start-up” business activities do not count toward the TWP.

The TWP ends when the individual has nine TWP months that fall within a “rolling 60-month window”. Note that these nine months do not need to be consecutive! They do need to all fall within a 5-year period. In order to determine the start of the rolling 60-month window, determine the first month that was at or above the TWP level.

Be sure to keep good records (i.e. wage data)- Social Security may evaluate the work after the fact. Once the TWP ends other work incentives can be applied.

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