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Trial work is a program that applies to people already entitled to Title II disability benefits. Sometimes Title II recipients will attempt to return to work to see how it goes. Social Security encourages this, and allows a 9-month period for a person to still receive disability benefits while testing his or her ability to work. However, this trial work needs to be managed properly to avoid unwanted consequences.

Some disability recipients try working part-time, and may earn less than the SGA amount. They may assume their disability benefits will not be affected by this part-time work. But the trial work amount is quite a bit less than SGA, and this can cause problems for people who earn more than the trial work amount, and do not keep track of their months of trial work.

After 9 months of trial work, Social Security can terminate your benefits if you reach the level of SGA. The 9 months of trial are not necessarily consecutive, so a few months here and there of part-time employment can consume the trial work period. The SSA looks at a rolling five-year period for trial work, so that 9th month of trial work can sneak up on you.

Here is how to handle trial work when you are receiving diability benefits:

  1. be aware of the the trial work issue.
  2. keep track of your earnings, particularly if you are only working part-time. Keep your paystubs.
  3. let your local Social Security office know that you are working, and give them copies of your paystubs.

The goal is for both you and Social Security to know when you have reached the 9th month of trial work, so there are no surprises. You want to avoid an overpayment, where Social Security realizes after the fact that they have continued to pay benefits after 9 months of trial work, and seeks to get the overpayment back.

The 9th month of trial work is important for another reason. It tolls the beginning of the 36-month reentitlment period.