Disability benefits can be a financial lifesaver for many people with disabilities. However, the idea of returning to work and losing those benefits may seem daunting. Fortunately, Social Security Administration (SSA) offers the Ticket to Work (TTW) program to help individuals with disabilities achieve their employment goals without losing their benefits.
Your Trial Work Period Under Ticket to Work
A Trial Work Period (TWP) is a period of nine months during which a person receiving Social Security disability benefits can test their ability to work. During this period, you can receive your full Social Security cash and medical benefits, regardless of how much income you're earning. That way, if you lose your job or have to stop working due to your disability during a Trial Work Period, your benefits won’t be affected.
You can continue to collect the full amount of benefits in a TWP as long as:
- You continue to have a disability. If your disability shows improvement or you no longer meet SSA's definition of disability, your benefits may be terminated.
- You report your work. You must submit timely progress reports to show you’re actively working on your employment goals. Our dedicated staff can help you report changes in your work, monthly wages, and other vital information so your benefits aren’t unduly suspended.
- You meet the earnings threshold for a Trial Work Month. Beneficiaries must make over a certain amount of income at their job for the month to count toward the Trial Work Period. In 2023, your monthly earnings must be over $1,050. If you’re self-employed, you must earn over $1,050 after business expenses or work over 80 hours at your own business.
It’s important to note that the nine TWP months do not have to be consecutive. Your trial period will continue until you have accrued nine cumulative TWP months within a 60-month period.
Can I Extend My Trial Work Period?
The SSA has built-in “grace periods” for both the first and second phases of returning to work so beneficiaries earn as much money as they can while attempting to establish themselves in the labor market.
A three-month grace period is automatically added to a TWP, allowing you to receive unlimited income and the full amount of your benefits for 12 months. Additionally, if you find that after the grace period, you’re unable to work due to the impact of your disability, your benefits will simply resume.
Once you’ve completed the first nine months, plus the additional three months grace period, you will enter the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). This second phase allows you to maintain eligibility for benefits for several years until you can make enough money to support yourself without them.
TWPs and EPEs can be incredibly valuable as you explore the possibility of returning to work. They allow you to fully test your ability to earn a living without the fear that you’ll immediately lose your benefits if things don’t go as planned. Additionally, they provide some financial stability as you begin to earn an income.
During this time, you’ll be able to adjust to your new work routine, gain skills, and seek additional training or support to help you succeed in your job. We often find that these aspects of the Ticket to Work program offer a confidence boost to disability beneficiaries, helping to make the transition back to work feel less daunting.
Let Us Take You Through the SSA Disability Benefit and Employment Process
If you’re considering returning to work, you need a partner with the experience and dedication of Disability Services of America. Our benefit and employment professionals stay by your side to help you meet the requirements of the Ticket to Work program and reach your ultimate work goals. Please fill out our online contact form or call (888) 689-6760 to complete a quick intake with one of our team members.