According to the Social Security Administration, individuals may receive Social Security disability if they are unable to participate in substantial gainful activity. However, the SSA does not want to discourage any person from attempting to work, which is why it offers Social Security work incentives. What are the incentives, and do any apply to you?
Trial work period
The most common incentive for encouraging disabled individuals to rejoin the workforce is the trial work period. The trial work period allows injured parties to test their ability to work for a cumulative total of nine months within a 60-month period. During this trial period, you can work as much or as little as you are able — which means you can earn as much as you are able — without forfeiting your Social Security benefits. The only stipulations are that you must continue to have a disability, and you must report your earnings to the SSA. Any month in which you earn $910 (as of 2020) constitutes a trial work month.
Extended period of eligibility
If your trial work period goes well and you decide to return to work, you have an additional 36 months to continue to receive benefits for those months in which your earnings are not “substantial.” As of 2020, “substantial” refers to any earnings that exceed $1,260, or $2,110 if you are blind. You do not need to reapply for benefits to qualify for this extended period of eligibility.
Work expenses related to your disability
Some individuals find that they are able to work after developing a disability, but only at considerable cost to themselves. For instance, due to your inability to drive or bike to work, you may have to take a taxi or public transportation. The SSA may deduct your additional expenses from your monthly earnings to decide if you are still eligible for benefits.
If you stop receiving benefits because you earn a substantial amount, you have five years from the date your benefits stop to ask for reinstatement. You will not have to reapply for benefits or wait for the SSA to review your application to wait for your benefits to restart.