People approved for Social Security Disability benefits are not required to try to work again. After all, the Social Security Administration has determined that SSD recipients are unable to work due to a disability.
Still, many people receiving disability benefits decide to attempt to return to the workforce. Perhaps their condition has improved over the years, or new technology has emerged that can help accommodate their condition.
Perhaps due to financial incentives, SSA likes to encourage SSD recipients to go back to work when possible. It provides recipients nine months to attempt to work. The agency calls this the Trial Work Period. During these nine months, you are allowed to earn any amount of income and still receive your full SSD benefits.
The nine months need not be consecutive, but they are provided within a 60-month window. Any month in which you earn more than a certain income counts as a Trial Work Month. For 2016, the income threshold is $810. Once you have accumulated nine such months within the 60-month window, your Extended Period of Eligibility begins.
During this time, which lasts 36 months, you will continue receiving your SSD benefits, but only if your work income does not exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity limit. For 2016, the SGA level is $1,130 per month, and $1,820 for blind people.
Once SSA decides an SSD recipient has established a pattern of countable income above SGA, it puts him or her into a grace period that lasts three months. During that time, the recipient will get his or her benefits no matter what their income is. But after that, he or she will not get any SSD for any month in which he or she earned more than SGA.
Nobody whose disability prevents them from working should be forced to try. Instead, they are entitled to the level of SSD benefits that their condition warrants.