Stages of a Trial Work Period
Frank J. Dito, Jr.
When you engage in work that results in monthly earnings of $720 or more for a period of 9 months, you are considered to be in the first stage of a trial work period. These 9 months do not have to be consecutive to be considered a trial work period; they only have to occur within a 60-month timeframe.
This first stage of a trial work period will cease once the 9th month is over. After this, your Social Security disability benefits may continue in the second stage of extended eligibility which lasts for 36 months. During this stage, you are still eligible for your Social Security disability benefits as long as your monthly earnings do not exceed $1,000 ($1,640 if you are blind). Please keep in mind these are the limits for 2010 and may change next year.
If your earnings exceed the $1,000 threshold, your Social Security disability benefits may cease in the third stage of your trial work period. At this point, you will be considered able to work and no longer in need of benefits. However, should your disability render you unable to work in the 5-year period following your trial work period, your disability benefits may be reinstated at an expedited rate.
The purpose of the trial work period is to allow recipients of Social Security disability benefits to test their ability to return to the workforce without fear of losing their benefits should that attempt be unsuccessful. The periods of extended eligibility and convenience of reinstatement without a new application takes some of the fear out of attempting to return to work after being disabled.
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