Understanding the Social Security Trial Work Period: A Guide for Disabled Individuals

social security trial work period stack of social security documents

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides crucial financial support to millions of disabled individuals through programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Understanding the complex rules that allow beneficiaries to work without losing these benefits can empower disabled individuals to explore employment opportunities, enhance their quality of life, and achieve greater financial independence. This blog delves into one such important work incentive: the Trial Work Period (TWP).

Understanding SSA’s Special Rules for Working Disabled Individuals

The SSA has established several work incentives designed to encourage and support disabled individuals who wish to return to work. These incentives ensure that beneficiaries can test their ability to work without the immediate risk of losing their benefits. Among these incentives, the Trial Work Period (TWP) is particularly noteworthy.

The Trial Work Period (TWP)

The TWP allows SSDI beneficiaries to work for a total of nine months (not necessarily consecutive) within a rolling 60-month period while still receiving full benefits. During these TWP months, beneficiaries can earn any amount of income without affecting their SSDI benefits, providing a safety net for those testing their ability to work.

How the Trial Work Period Works

The nine-month TWP is designed to be flexible, accommodating non-consecutive months of work over five years. For a month to count as part of the TWP, earnings must exceed the SSA’s specified threshold, which is adjusted annually. This threshold ensures that only substantial work efforts are considered part of the TWP.

Benefits of the Trial Work Period

The primary advantage of the TWP is the opportunity it gives disabled individuals to test their work capacity without risking the loss of SSDI benefits. This period allows beneficiaries to gain confidence in their ability to work and evaluate whether they can maintain employment sustainably.

Post-Trial Work Period: The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

Following the TWP, the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) provides an additional safety net. During this 36-month period, beneficiaries can continue to receive benefits for any month in which their earnings do not exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. This phase helps ease the transition to full-time work by offering continued financial support.

Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

IRWEs are expenses directly related to the beneficiary’s disability and necessary for work. These expenses can be deducted from total earnings, reducing countable income and potentially allowing beneficiaries to stay below the SGA threshold, thus maintaining eligibility for benefits.

The Ticket to Work Program

The Ticket to Work program offers additional support, including vocational rehabilitation, job training, and placement services. This voluntary program is designed to assist beneficiaries in preparing for and finding employment while utilizing the TWP and other work incentives.

Reporting Requirements and SSA Monitoring

Accurate and timely reporting of work activity and earnings to the SSA is crucial to avoid overpayments and ensure continued eligibility for benefits. Beneficiaries must inform the SSA of any changes in their work status or earnings promptly.

Additional Resources and Support

For more detailed information on the TWP and other work incentives, beneficiaries can access SSA publications, contact SSA offices, or seek assistance from advocacy groups and non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting disabled individuals.


The SSA’s work incentives, including the Trial Work Period, provide valuable opportunities for disabled individuals to re-enter the workforce without immediate fear of losing their benefits. By understanding and utilizing these rules, beneficiaries can take confident steps towards employment and greater independence. If you’re considering returning to work, contact Taylor & Associates, who will help you explore these incentives and take advantage of the resources available to you.

Recent news

Contact us