Should I Try to Work Again?
A Trial Work Period (TWP) is available for those who want to test their ability to return to work. The TWP is nine months, which need not be consecutive, of making $200 per month or more. During a TWP, a claimant can receive both a paycheck and a disability check.
After a period of disability, claimants are sometimes unsure of their ability to maintain a steady job, and their employers are unsure about making a commitment to them. A claimant might work for several months, then discover that their condition is deteriorating or that the employer is not happy with their performance. They may leave the work force for a month or two, gather strength and motivation, then try again. That's why the nine months of a TWP do not have to be consecutive.
Claimants should not assume that they can earn just below the level deemed Substantial Gainful Activity ($700 per month gross) and stay on disability benefits indefinitely. Although earning under $200 usually doesn't count as a month toward the TWP, consistent earnings of any kind can trigger a Continuing Disability Review.
Earnings can affect eligibility for both SSD and SSI benefits. For those on SSI, earnings may also have an effect on the amount of the monthly benefit itself. However, instead of a dollar-for-dollar penalty, some earnings are "disregarded" to encourage SSI recipients to try working.
The advantages of working, both tangible and intangible, often outweigh reasons to stay on disability benefits. Work incentive programs are supposed to make claimants less anxious about leaving the security of the disability rolls, although medical insurance is always a concern.
An Extended Period of Entitlement (EPE), lasting 36 months, is available if the claimant's working doesn't pan out after all. The claimant can reapply and the Social Security Administration is supposed to expedite the application because the claimant has been determined disabled in the past.