For many who contact us wanting to learn more about the Ticket to Work program, one of the most misunderstood components is the use of the 9 months Trial Work Period. I believe the main reason for the confusion lies in the difference between Trial Work Period (TWP) and Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). We will explore the steps of Trial Work Period for a clearer understanding of its use as well as its excellent, important advantages, and then see when SGA is applied.
What is Trial Work Period (TWP)?
The first time after entitlement that Social Security disability beneficiaries go to work, they may access a work incentive called the Trial Work Period. The TWP effectively suspends the “able to perform Substantial Gainful Activity” part of the disability definition regardless of how high earning might be, as long as the beneficiary reports work activity and has a disabling impairment. That means that beneficiaries may attempt to work without immediately losing their benefits during the TWP. The TWP provides beneficiaries an opportunity to test work skills while maintaining full benefit checks, no matter how much the individual earns. Each year Social Security sets a monthly amount to use as a guideline for determining use of TWP months. The TWP guideline for 2021 is $940 /mo. 80 hours of self-employment.
When does TWP Begin?
A TWP month usually begins the first time after entitlement to SSDI, beneficiary begins working and earns over the TWP guideline.
Using TWP months
SSDI beneficiaries use a TWP month each time gross earnings go above $940 /mo. or 80 hours of self-employment.
Completing the TWP
The TWP ends only when a beneficiary performs nine months of work over the TWP guideline within a rolling period of 60 consecutive months. The TWP months do not have to be consecutive for Social Security to count them.
What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?
After TWP ends is when SGA measures come into play and the next set of work incentives become available. Substantial Gainful Activity is the non-medical determination about whether an individual’s work represents SGA. Social Security makes SGA determinations and, in that process, will look at the value of work activity as compared to a specific dollar figure known as the SGA guideline that can change yearly. The SGA guideline for 2021 is $1,310 per month for disabled individuals and $2,110 per month for blind individuals. If there is a pattern of work showing that the individual is able to maintain at SGA level of income, it may affect their disability benefits. This is where the next set of work incentives called Impairment Related Work Expenses can be used to reduce the countable earned income.
Seeing now that Trial Work Period and Substantial Gainful Activity are two separate guidelines used at different phases of the Ticket to Work program, we hope that this information has been helpful in understanding where and when they both apply and their important advantages.
‘Till next time,