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What is the trial work period when receiving disability?

Tennesseans who are getting Social Security disability benefits for an illness, medical condition or injury might have a goal of returning to work. However, they may be worried about losing their disability benefits. This is where a trial work period can be beneficial. With the trial work period, the recipient can try to work while still being viewed as disabled by the Social Security Administration. The person can perform services for as many as nine months without losing disability benefits. It is not required for these months to be consecutive. Once the nine months has passed, the SSA will not consider the disability to be at an end. When the trial work period is over, the SSA will account for the work that was done in that time as a factor in deciding whether to end the person's disability benefits or not.

The term "services" can be confusing and it is important to understand what it means. "Services" can constitute activities that might not be substantial gainful activity (SGA), but are activities that is usually done for pay or profit. The SSA will generally not view work that is done without compensation to be services if it is for therapeutic purposes, for training or if it is work that is done as part of a daily routine during the day at home or to care for oneself. Activities performed as a volunteer will not be considered as services.

A person is entitled to the trial work period if he or she is entitled to receive disability benefits. The following are not entitled to have a trial work period: those who are not entitled to disability benefits; if the person performs work that demonstrates the ability to take part in SGA activity during a waiting period for benefits; if the person demonstrates the ability to perform SGA within 12 months of the start of the impairment that led to an inability to work; and for a month before the month of the application for SSD benefits.

It is laudable for a person who is applying for or receiving SSD benefits to try and get back to work. However, a failure to understand the rules for a trial work period can result in losing the benefits completely. Speaking to an attorney can help one understand the trial work period.

Source:, "404.1592. The trial work period.," accessed on Feb. 13, 2017

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