Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Example: Work Rules Focus

Ruth's Story

For three years, Ruth had been getting $1,100 per month in SSDI benefits. When she was offered a part-time job with a flexible schedule, Ruth spoke with a certified benefits counselor so that she'd understand how the job would affect her benefits.

Ruth told the benefits counselor that she'd be earning $1,300 in some months, less in others, depending on her schedule. The benefits counselor explained that while $1,300 was higher than SSDI's Trial Work month level ($1,110 in 2024), that wasn't a problem: Ruth could earn more than the Trial Work Month level nine times in five years (sixty months) and keep getting SSDI benefits no matter how much she earned. During this five-year Trial Work Period (TWP), it didn't matter whether the nine Trial Work months were in a row or spread out.

Ruth decided to take the job, because the Trial Work Period meant she could try out working and still get her full SSDI benefit. After nine months earning more than the Trial Work level, Ruth's Trial Work Period ended. She called up her benefits counselor, who told her that the next three years (36 months) were her Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). For three years, she'd keep getting an SSDI benefit whenever her monthly earnings were less than $1,550 (the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level for people who aren't blind).

Ruth was happy in her job and started working more hours, so that she now made $2,300 per month, enough to live on even if she stopped getting SSDI. There was actually a three-month Grace Period when Ruth made more than the SGA level and kept getting SSDI, but after that her benefits stopped in any month she earned more than $1,550.

Work went well and Ruth stopped getting SSDI benefits for seven months, but then her health got worse and she had to cut back on her hours. For the next four months, she made $1,300 per month. She reported the change in income to her local Social Security office and her SSDI benefits started up again, because she was still in the Extended Period of Eligibility and was making less than the SGA level ($1,550).

After the four months, Ruth was feeling better and increased her hours so that she was earning $2,300 per month again. At that point, her SSDI benefits stopped, because Ruth was making more than the SGA level.

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