Trial work period – The 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 2012, 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.
Extended period of eligibility – 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 2012, the Social Security Administration generally considers earnings over $1,010 ($1,690 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.
Expedited reinstatement – After your benefits stop because your earnings are substantial, you have five years during which you may ask the Social Security Administration to start your benefits immediately if you find yourself unable to continue working because of your condition. You will not have to file a new disability application and you will not have to wait for your benefits to start while your medical condition is being reviewed to make sure you are still disabled.
Continuation of Medicare – If your Social Security disability benefits stop because of your earnings, but you are still disabled, your free Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months after the nine-month trial work period. After that, you can buy Medicare Part A coverage by paying a monthly premium. If you have Medicare Part B coverage, you must continue to pay the premium. If you want to end your Part B coverage, you must request it in writing.
Work expenses related to your disability – If you work, you may have to pay for certain items and services that people without disabilities do not pay for. For example, because of your medical condition, you may need to take a taxi to work, instead of public transportation, or pay for counseling services. The Social Security Administration may be able to deduct these expenses from your monthly earnings before it determines if you are still eligible for benefits.