Will My Disability Benefits Stop Because I'll Earn More Than $1,220 This Month?

Oct 19 2019 - 1:10pm

Hi Larry,

I'm so confused! Please answer this question, I'm getting conflicting information!
I'm in my 9th trial work period. I'm way over $1,220.00 in this month and a few other
trial work months. Handing in my earnings to my advocate. Will they drop me cause I'm over the
amount, or am I now able to go month to month below or above the $1,220? I'm aware of the grace period
but will I be dropped if my trial work periods were too significant in earnings?? Thanks Rochelle

Hi Rochelle,

I'll do my best to explain the rules, but there is no simple explanation. After your 9 month trial work period (TWP) is completed, Social Security will need to determine whether or not your subsequent work is substantial gainful activity (SGA). The monthly SGA guideline for 2019 is $1,220, but that amount changes from one year to the next. Even if your work after your TWP is determined to be SGA, though, you would be paid for at least the first 3 months (grace period) following the 9th TWP month, and for any of at least the 33 subsequent months in which you earn less than the SGA guideline. That 36 month or more period that follows the TWP is referred to as an extended period of eligibility (EPE).

The SGA determination will be based on your average monthly earnings, so earnings in excess of $1,220 in a single month wouldn't necessarily cause your disability benefits to stop. However, if your average monthly earnings over a period of several months or more following the completion of your TWP exceed the SGA guideline, then Social Security could determine that your work is SGA and say that your period of disability has ceased. In that event your benefits would be suspended starting with the first month of above SGA level earnings after the 3-month grace period, and your EPE and your entitlement to disability benefits would end effective with the first month in which you earn above the SGA guideline after 36 months have passed since the end of your TWP. You could, however, be paid for any month in which your earnings don't exceed the SGA level for at least the first 36 months following the end of your TWP, and your benefit payments and EPE could extend indefinitely provided that you never earn in excess of SGA level after 36 months have elapsed since the end of your TWP.

For additional information, you may want to try referring to the following Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf.

Best, Jerry