After 12 months of no work activity, a person can attempt to return to work without automatically losing their disability benefits. This is called the Trial Work Period (TWP). During this period, you may earn $1050.00/month (before taxes are taken out) in 2023 (this will increase to $1110.00/month in 2024). You can only earn this amount for a total of 9 months in a 60-month period.
After that, the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) allows you to continue working after you have used up your Trial Work Period. It starts in the month after your Trial Work Period ends and goes on for 36 months, whether you work or not.
During the three years of EPE, you must carefully track your earnings and report them to the Social Security Administration (SSA). They will be evaluating whether your countable gross earnings (earnings before taxes are deducted, minus Impairment-Related Work Expenses and Subsidy) are above Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2023, SGA is $1,470 per month. When the SSA determines you are consistently earning over SGA, you will receive your SSDI benefit check for that month and two more months. The SSA refers to these months as the Grace Period. During the remainder of the 36 months, you will be entitled to your SSDI check when your gross earnings are below SGA.
The SGA amount changes annually, so it is important to keep informed about SGA earnings limits. But remember, no matter how much you are earning, if your disability causes you to either stop working or reduces your earnings below SGA during the EPE, your benefit check will start again when you notify your local SSA office of the change in your wages.