SSD and working

I’m sorry if this has been posted before; I’m sure it must have been but I just can’t find it.

I’m getting a lot of conflicting information regarding working while on SSD, so I went to the source. This is what I found:

A trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During your trial work period, you will receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you report your work activity and you continue to have a disabling impairment. In 2011, a trial work month is any month in which your total earnings are over $720, or if you are self-employed, you earn more than $720 (after expenses) or work more than 80 hours in your own business. The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period.

Does this mean if you earn LESS than $720 it’s not considered a trial work period?

After your trial work period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not “substantial.” In 2011, we generally consider earnings over $1,000 ($1,640 if you are blind) to be substantial. No new application or disability decision is needed for you to receive a Social Security disability benefit during this period.

Does this mean you still receive full SSD benefits if you’re earning under $1000?

And what happens after the 36 month period?

I’d like to try to find a full-time job (yeah, I know) and just be done with disability altogether. But in the meantime, I have the opportunity to return to the work I did before I got sick. It’s very casual, very sporadic work; I might work 2 days a month one month, then work 10 or 12 days the next month. I’d never bring home more than a few hundred in any given month. But while I’d gladly give up disability for full-time employment, I really can’t jeopardize it over a few small jobs here and there.

I know this all ought to be self-explanatory, but I’ve gotten feedback from a lot of different people in the same situation and none of their experiences match up with what I’ve copied from SS’s website, or with each other.


A good booklet for learning about Social Security’s work incentive programs is the Red Book, which provides information and examples of various work incentive programs.

For information from a work incentives expert, there are WIPA (Work Incentives Planning and Assistance) personnel in every state to answer your questions. Here’s a fact sheet with a link to the state directory:

In addition there are Work Incentive Seminars (webinars or live) that you can register for for free):


  • If you’re receiving Social Security benefits you need to report your gross earnings every month and you should keep track of any expenses that you have to pay related to your disability any month that you work.
  • If you earn less than $720 (in 2011) in a month, that month of work does not count as a trial work month. If you earn $720 or more in any month, you use up one of your 9 trial work months.
  • After you’ve used all 9 trial work months, any month that you earn at the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) level (at least $1000 in 2011) you shouldn’t get SSDI benefits for that month UNLESS you have out-of-pocket expenses related to your disability that Social Security has approved as “impairment related work expenses.” These can reduce your countable earned income below $1000 for that month. The work incentive law tried not to penalize those with disabilities and associated medical expenses who were trying to work to improve their standard of living.
  • Under the “extended period of eligibility” work incentive, if you continue to work and earn more than $1000 a month after the end of your trial work period, any month you make less than $1,000, you can get SSDI benefits for that month by notifying Social Security but without having to reapply.
  • If your disability causes you to stop working at a substantial gainful activity level within 5 years of when you started working in spite of your disability, your SSDI benefits can be immediately reinstated by your notifying Social Security under “expedited reinstatment.” You don’t have to reapply. Social Security will review your case to see if your disability is severe enough to warrant you receiving SSDI and if by some chance, Social Security decides you’re not disabled, you don’t have to pay back any payments received while Social Security is reviewing your case.
  • If you are on dialysis still while you’re working, your free Medicare Part A and premium Part B and premium Part D coverage will continue no matter whether you get SSDI cash benefits or not. If you are not on dialysis (say you have a kidney transplant) and are disabled due to something other than ESRD, the “continuation of Medicare” work incentive extends free Medicare Part A and premium Part B and premium Part D coverage to 93 months (7.75 years) after the end of the trial work period.
  • If you continue to work with your disability past 93 months, “Medicare buy-in” allows you (or your state if you are limited income and assets) to pay a premium to keep your Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D coverage.