SSDI Work Incentives

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides monthly cash benefits to people who have worked, paid Social Security taxes, and now have a disability that prevents them from working.

Please note that this information only applies only to the SSDI program (not to the SSI program). The two programs have different rules, different reporting requirements, and different work incentives that can be used within the program. For example, you will only have a Trial Work Period (TWP) if you receive SSDI (not SSI).

Trial Work Period (TWP) and Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

Social Security wants to encourage people on SSDI to return to work.

To help facilitate this, they have designed program rules and work incentives to make it easier for people to do just this. Two important program rules are the Trial Work Period (TWP) and the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).

Social Security provides SSDI beneficiaries a nine-month Trial Work Period. During the Trial Work Period, you can work and earn any level of income while still keeping your full SSDI cash benefits. During your nine Trial Work months, you will get your full SSDI benefit regardless of how much money you are earning. Your nine Trial Work months do not need to be used one right after the other.

You can read more about the Trial Work Period in DB101's SSDI article. During the Trial Work Period, you can work and earn any level of income while still keeping your full SSDI cash benefits.

A second important SSDI program rule is the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).

Your EPE begins the month after your Trial Work Period ends and always lasts for three years (36 months). During your EPE, you will get your SSDI benefits in any month that you are earning less than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is $1,220 in 2019 (or $2,040 if you are blind). Your SSDI benefits can stop and restart during the EPE if your income changes.

You can read more about the Extended Period of Eligibility in DB101's SSDI article.

You can use this Calendar Chart to help you keep track of your remaining Trial Work months and Extended Period of Eligibility.

If you have any questions about Trial Work Periods or Extended Periods of Eligibility, Chat with a Hub expert.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)

After your TWP, you can use a work incentive called Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs). If you have expenses that you pay for yourself, that are related to your disability, and that you need in order to work, you can ask Social Security to deduct these expenses to determine if your countable earnings are above or below Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). These expenses are called Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs). Read this DB101 article to learn more about IRWEs and how they can affect your SSDI benefit.

You will need to make a request to Social Security to use IRWEs. You can report IRWEs on the Work Activity Review form that Social Security may ask you to fill out. You can also use this form to ask Social Security to approve your IRWEs. Social Security has to approve any items that you want counted as an IRWE.

Subsidy

If you get support from others to be successful on the job, you may have a subsidy or a special condition.

For example, having a job coach, doing different tasks than others with the same job title, getting help to do your job, or getting extra supervision means you may have a subsidy or a special condition.

You can ask Social Security to deduct the value of your subsidy or special condition when they are calculating your income.

If you have any questions about IRWEs or Subsidies, Chat with a Hub expert.