Can You Work While Receiving SSDI Benefits?

In certain situations and under certain conditions, a person receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can test out their ability to work while still collecting their full SSDI benefit.

Trial Work Period Program (TWP)

The Trial Work Period (TWP) program allows SSDI recipients to attempt to return to work while still receiving their full monthly benefit. The goal is to permit disabled individuals the opportunity to try to return to work on a trial basis without penalty.

If you are on SSDI, the TWP allows you to work a total of nine months, not necessarily consecutively, during a five-year period without penalty. During the nine-month TWP, you can earn an unlimited amount without affecting your benefit; however, once the nine-month TWP is exhausted, you will lose your benefits for any month in which you earn more than the Social Security substantial gainful activity threshold, which changes annually.

A month will count toward your nine-month TWP if you earn more than $780 in that month or, if you are self-employed and work more than 80 hours in that month. The Social Security Administration uses gross earnings (not "take-home") to determine whether you meet the income threshold, but will allow the deduction of monthly expenses related to the your disability that permit you to work, such as medical supplies or job coaching.

If you receive SSDI benefits and earn any income, you are required to notify the Social Security Administration of your earnings and any disability-related expenses. Failure to do so could result in an overpayment or otherwise adversely affect eligibility for benefits. In the event of an overpayment of benefits by the Social Security Administration, you are required to make re-payment, which can negatively impact your ability to make ends meet.

An experienced Social Security Disability attorney at Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, LLP, can help you navigate the Trial Work Period to help you return to work, while still maintaining your monthly benefits.

Extended Period Of Eligibility (EPE)

Once the nine-month TWP is exhausted, the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) begins. The EPE is a 36-month period when you continue to receive your full SSDI benefit as long as you remain disabled and earn less than Social Security's substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold. In 2015, the SGA is $1,090 per month for non blind individuals and $1,820 per month for blind individuals.

If you earn over SGA in any month during the EPE, you lose your benefit for that month and will no longer meet the Social Security Administration's standard for disability. At that point, you will be entitled to an additional two months of SSDI benefits before they are stopped. If after your SSDI benefits are stopped, but during your remaining EPE period, you stop working or your earnings fall below the SGA, you should immediately notify the Social Security Administration and your benefits will be restarted without having to file a new application.

After your 36-month EPE re-entitlement period ends, your benefits will continue only as long as you are medically disabled and do not earn SGA or above. If you earn SGA or above for even one month after your EPE period ends, your benefits will immediately terminate. If within five years of the termination of your benefits, your medical condition again causes you to be disabled from work, you may be eligible for an expedited restatement of your SSDI benefits.

Having an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who can help you understand the SSDI eligibility requirements, including the Extended Period of Eligibility, and guide you through the re-application process can make all the difference in your claim.

Contact Our Massachusetts And Vermont Social Security Disability Attorneys

For consultation with a lawyer about your eligibility for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, contact Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, LLP. We have offices in North Adams, Pittsfield and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as in Bennington, Vermont, to serve you. You can reach us in Massachusetts at 413-358-4652, and in Vermont at 802-681-4729 or via email.

All cases are handled on a contingent fee basis — you will not have to pay any attorneys' fees unless we win compensation in your case.