Most of the work incentives for people who have SSDI have a time element to them. These include:
- Trial Work Period (TWP): This is a time for you to try working without your SSDI changing at all. There is no upper limit on what you can earn during a TWP. There are 9 months in a TWP, which do not have to be used all in a row.
- Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE): When you have completed your TWP, you will enter the next phase of your benefits status, the EPE. This lasts for 3 years following the end of your TWP. During this time, you will be eligible for benefits as long as you still have a disability. Payments may be suspended if your countable income goes above a certain level (see SGA below), but payments can be restarted. SSDI payments will not terminate completely because you work during the EPE.
- Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA): Sometimes jobs don’t work out. If your job ended, or your income was cut, within 6 months because of your disability or because support services ended, that period of time might not be counted at all by SSA.
- Expedited Reinstatement (EXR): If your benefits do get terminated, they can be reinstated if your countable income drops within 5 years. You can receive up to 6 months of provisional payments while SSA is processing your EXR request.
- Extended Period of Medicare Coverage (EPMC): When your SSDI payments stop because of earned income, your Medicare will not stop right away with it. Medicare part A (hospitalization) will continue to be free for at least 93 months after the end of your TWP (in many cases much longer). You can keep Medicare parts B and D as long as the premiums are being paid.
Other work incentives have to do with your countable income. After your TWP, SSA will compare your countable income with a standard called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA.) In 2020, that level is $1,310 ($2,190 for blind). However, not all income is necessarily counted.
- Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs): If you pay for something that is related to your disability and that you need to be able to work, that expense can be deducted from your countable income (kind of like a tax deduction). The most common type of IRWE requested is medical expenses, but you could also use disability-related transit services, attendant care services, durable medical or adaptive equipment, service animal expenses, or anything else that fits the criteria.
- Subsidy: Some employers will make allowances or accommodations for a person with a disability to work. In some circumstances, SSA can take these accommodations into account when determining how much of your income to count. Your countable income could be less than what you were actually paid.
- Special Conditions: Some people receive job coaching or other assistance from an outside agency while they are working. If you have a job coach that works with you onsite to help you do your job, your countable income can be reduced.
All of these work incentives are about keeping benefits that you already have. There is one work incentive, however, that could get you something that you didn’t have before.
- The Employed Individuals with Disabilities (EID) program: If you have a disability and you are working, you could qualify for Medical Assistance through the EID program. This can supplement your Medicare and save you a great deal of money. It can even pay for some services that Medicare does not cover. You can earn more than $77,000 a year and have $10,000 in assets and still qualify for Medical Assistance through EID.