Working After the Social Security Disability Benefits Award

Working After the Social Security Disability Benefits Award

By: Disability Group (

Have you received Social Security Disability Benefits? There’s a common misconception is that any work done after receiving an award for Social Security disability benefits will terminate those benefits.  In fact, however, a person receiving benefits may work and still receive many benefits.

Trial Work Period

The SSA does not consider work by claimants to mean that disability has ended until it exceeds the “trial work period.”  The “trial work period” is a 60-month period during which the claimant worked for at least 9 months.  These months – called “trial work months” – can be spread out over the 60 month period, and count if the claimant earned at least a certain amount.

If self-employed, a “trial work month” is any month where the claimant either earned the amount stated above, or worked more than 80 hours in their own business.  The SSA’s website has a handy table to determine whether monthly earnings in a given year are enough to count as a “trial work month”.

Benefits Past the Trial Work Period

Working claimants who exceed the “trial work period” can still receive SSDI benefits in those months where their earnings are not “substantial” (another handy table at the SSA’s website can show you how much the “substantial” monthly earning rate is for a given year).  Claimants will not receive benefits for any month where their earnings exceed the “substantial” amount.

Any work expenses that result from disability, however, can deduct from earnings enough to grant claimants benefits despite “substantial” earnings.  These expenses include prescription drugs, wheelchairs, and any specialized work equipment needed to perform a job.

Even after SSDI benefits have stopped because of earnings, claimants have certain options.  They have five years in which they can ask SSA to reinstate disability benefits because a condition has again become disabling.  In this case, no new disability application is required.

SSI Benefits

SSI eligibility is based on financial need.  SSI benefits can decrease or stop when a beneficiary’s income increases.  Likewise, if income drops within the eligibility cap, SSI payments will automatically start again.

If a disabled SSI recipient works, they may continue to receive payments until their combined income exceeds the SSI income limits, which varies by state.  Like before, if a beneficiary becomes unable to work again due to disability within five years of SSDI benefits ending, they may ask SSA to reinstate their benefits.

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months after SSDI benefits have stopped due to earnings, as long as claimants are still disabled.  After this period has expired, claimants can buy Medicare Part A coverage by paying a monthly premium.

Medicaid coverage generally continues even after SSI benefits stop.  Coverage may stop, however, if income reaches a certain level, varying by state and reflecting the cost of local health care.  Contact your local Medicaid office to determine your local income levels and other restrictions.

The SSA wants claimants to work if possible, and employment should not be viewed as immediately terminating all benefits.  Speak to your attorney or the SSA office to see how it might affect you.