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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.

Earnings trigger a trial work period

During a trial work period, a beneficiary receiving Social Security disability benefits may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled. We do not consider services performed during the trial work period as showing that the disability has ended until services have been performed in at least 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) in a rolling 60-month period. In 2018, any month in which earnings exceed $850 is considered a month of services for an individual's trial work period. In 2019, this monthly amount increases to $880.

Monthly earnings that trigger a trial work period
Year Monthly earnings ($)
1978 & prior50
For more information, please see section 404.1592 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Method used to determine earnings that trigger a trial work period

Monthly earnings in 2019, used to determine whether a month is part of a trial work period, is such amount for 2001 multiplied by the ratio of the national average wage index for 2017 to that for 1999, or, if larger, such amount for 2018 ($850). If the amount so calculated is not a multiple of $10, we round it to the nearest multiple of $10. Below are details on how we determined the latest amount.

Calculation details
Amounts in
2001 monthly earnings$530
1999 average wage index30,469.84
2017 average wage index50,321.89
Computation $530 times 50,321.89 divided by 30,469.84 equals $875.31, which rounds to $880
Higher amount $880 exceeds the amount for 2018, so the amount for 2019 is $880

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