Trial Work Period

Unless medical recovery is an issue, an individual receiving Social Security based on disability is entitled to a nine-month Trial Work Period (TWP), which allows the individual to test work skills while maintaining full benefit checks regardless of any income earned. The TWP can start with the first month the individual is eligible for SSDI benefits or the month in which the individual files for benefits, whichever is later. The TWP continues until the individual has accumulated 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) in which the individual has performed "services" within a rolling 60-consecutive-month period. SSA currently considers an individual has performed "services" in a month if they earn over $720 (this is the 2011 amount) or works over 80 hours in self-employment in the month.. The dollar amount is adjusted each year based on the national average wage. During the TWP no other incentives (i.e., IRWE, subsidy,) are considered.

When an individual has completed nine service months (1/92 or later), count back 60 consecutive months to see if the nine service months were completed in that 60-month period.

If not, the service months that fall before the 60-month period are disregarded; the service that months that fall within the 60-month period are counted, and the TWP continues. Each time thereafter that a service month is used, count to determine if nine service months have been completed within the 60-month period, until the TWP has been completed.

Individuals are entitled to a TWP for each period of disability.

Learners should keep in mind that the TWP amount has varied across the years and they should use the TWP amount that corresponds to the year during which wages are being looked at. Table 2 details the changes in TWP amounts over the years.

Table 2: Trial Work Period Amounts and Self Employment Hours

2011 $720.00 / 80 hours
2010 $720.00 / 80 hours
2009 $700.00 / 80 hours
2008 $670.00 / 80 hours
2007 $640.00 / 80 hours
2006 $620.00 / 80 hours
2005 $590.00 / 80 hours
2004 $580.00 / 80 hours
2003 $570.00 / 80 hours
2002 $560.00 / 80 hours
2001 $530.00 / 80 hours
1990 to 2000 $200.00 / 80 hours
1979 to 1989 $75.00 / 80 hours
1968 to 1978 $50.00 / 80 hours

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