A man on a wheelchair going outside.

Once a disability benefits recipient completes the nine-month trial work period, the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates the recipient’s earnings record to determine if he or she managed to sustain a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) in that period. In other words, the SSA determines whether the recipient made a gainful living during the trial work period.

SGA Threshold

The SSA defines SGA as any income at or above a specific threshold. It evaluates and adjusts this threshold every year to accommodate inflation and the ever-changing cost of living. The threshold currently stands at $1,310 every 30 days for a non-blind recipient.

The SSA terminates benefits of a recipient whose average income during the trial work period hits or surpasses the set SGA threshold. The recipient will, however, continue collecting the benefits if his or her average earnings in the trial work period stay under the SGA threshold. Social security disability lawyers know how SSDI works and can answer all the trial work period questions that the recipient may have.

A trial work period runs for nine months. A month, however, isn’t counted as part of the nine months if the recipient earns below $1,310 or if he or she works under 80 hours a month in self-employment, the amount made notwithstanding.

Getting an Additional Trial Work Period

Once the recipient has spent his or her nine trial work months, he or she will have depleted his or her trial work period. Consequently, he or she won’t be generally eligible for an additional trial work period. The recipient may, however, get an additional trial period in certain circumstances, including:  

  • The recipient’s SSDI benefits end because of working and he or she becomes eligible for benefits once more after applying afresh;
  • The recipient’s SSDI benefits end because of working but he or she qualifies for benefits again via “expedited reinstatement,” or
  • The recipient doesn’t exhaust his or her nine trial work months in five years.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

If the recipient keeps on collecting disability benefits while working, then he or she will enter an extended period of eligibility (EPE) that usually lasts for three years after the end of the initial trial work period. During the EPE, the recipient will remain entitled to SSDI payments. The amount of earnings, however, determines whether a recipient will collect his or her disability benefits every month.