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Extended Period of Eligibility


After the Trial Work Period, the 36-month Extended Period Eligibility starts. During this phase, Social Security will see if the beneficiary has countable income above the Substantial Gainful Activity level. During the Extended Period of Eligibility, the beneficiary receives SSDI every month that countable income is at or below the Substantial Gainful Activity level.

About the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

Important puzzle pieceThe 36-month Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) is an SSDI work incentive. It begins immediately after the ninth TWP month and runs for 36 consecutive months whether the beneficiary is working or not. The EPE discussion that follows assumes the beneficiary continues to be disabled under SSDI criteria.

When the beneficiary works during the EPE, the following will happen:

  • The first month of SGA-level work (in 2024, more than $1,550 of countable earnings for the non-blind or $2,590 for the blind) triggers a Cessation Month. (For an explanation of SGA, see below.)
  • When this occurs, the beneficiary will still be eligible for a 3-month Grace Period, allowing the beneficiary to receive SSDI payments for the Cessation Month and the next 2 months.
  • After the Grace Period, and for the remainder of the EPE, SSDI eligibility will be determined month-by-month. If countable earnings are at or below the current year’s SGA level, the beneficiary is eligible for an SSDI payment for that month. If countable earnings are more than the SGA level, the beneficiary is not eligible for an SSDI payment for that month.

Note: During the EPE, SSDI will always be paid for a month when countable earnings are at or below the SGA level set for the year.

What Is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

Hand holding cashThe Social Security Administration (SSA) defines SGA as monthly countable earnings above a certain dollar amount. During 2024, that amount is $1,550 (or $2,590 for those who are blind). If the SSDI beneficiary has countable earnings that are more than the SGA level for the year in question, they are said to have performed SGA in that month.

SGA becomes relevant only when a beneficiary completes the TWP and the EPE begins.

Gross monthly earnings can be reduced in three different ways before comparing countable earnings to the current year’s SGA amount:

  • Subtracting any earnings for paid time off (e.g., paid vacation, holidays, personal time, or sick time)
  • Subtracting the cost of any Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)
  • Subtracting any dollar amounts attributed to work-based Subsidies or Special Conditions.

For more information about these reductions, see Tool 4.

Note: The SGA amount is usually increased each year based on the National Wage Index. You can find a chart of SGA levels since 1975 on the SSA website.

SSDI Benefits during the EPE

After the ninth TWP month, the EPE begins and continues for 36 consecutive months. During the EPE, the first month with countable earnings above the SGA level is the Cessation Month. SSDI payments will continue for that month and the next 2 months. These 3 months are called the Grace Period.

After the beneficiary has a Cessation Month and Grace Period within the 36-month EPE, eligibility for SSDI will be determined monthly. SSDI will be paid for months when countable income is at or below the SGA level. SSDI will not be paid for months when countable income is more than the SGA level. Because Social Security will review wages every month, it is important for beneficiaries to report wages every month during the EPE. Prompt reporting helps prevent overpayments.

Note: A benefits planner can help a beneficiary to understand when SSDI is likely to be paid or not paid during the Extended Period of Eligibility.

Example of an EPE: Sedona

Person uses computerSedona, age 40, began receiving SSDI in January 2017.

She started working part-time as a receptionist at an accounting firm in October 2017, earning $900–$950 per month in gross monthly wages between October 2017 and December 2018. For the first 9 months of working, her monthly wages were more than the dollar amounts needed for a TWP month (over $840 in 2017; over $850 in 2018). As a result, her ninth TWP month was June 2018.

Sedona continued to qualify for an SSDI payment during the period of October 2017 through December 2018 for two reasons:

  • For the first 9 months she qualified for her SSDI payment because she was in her TWP.
  • For the remainder of 2018 she qualified for her SSDI payment because her countable monthly earnings were not over the SGA level of $1,180 in 2018.

Effective January 2019, Sedona was given additional work hours and duties. She now earned $1,300–$1,400 per month, which was more than the $1,220 per month SGA level for 2019. This made January 2019 her Cessation Month and allowed Sedona to continue getting SSDI payments for a 3-month Grace Period of January through March 2019. Then, because her April countable earnings were more than the $1,220 SGA level for 2019, she was not entitled to an SSDI payment for April 2019.

The table below illustrates how Sedona’s countable earnings during her EPE increase over the 2019 SGA level, triggering her Cessation Month and 3-month Grace Period.


Countable Earnings

SSDI Payment?

Special Month

July 2018




August 2018




September 2018




October 2018




November 2018




December 2018




January 2019



EPE 6, Cessation Month, Grace Period Month 1

February 2019



EPE 7, Grace Period Month 2

March 2019



EPE 8, Grace Period Month 3

April 2019




SGA level (not blind): 2018 - $1,180, 2019 - $1,220. (SSA’s table of SGA amounts by year.)

Note that Sedona’s EPE continued through June 2021. During her EPE, if her countable income was not over the SGA level, she qualified for an SSDI payment for that month.

SSDI Benefits after the EPE

Octagonal stop signDuring the EPE, a temporary “suspension” of SSDI occurs when countable monthly earnings are more than the SGA level, but after the EPE, SSDI is “terminated” when the beneficiary has countable earnings more than the SGA level.

After the final EPE month, if a beneficiary has already experienced a Cessation Month and Grace Period, the first time they have SGA-level countable earnings, their SSDI benefits are terminated.

If the beneficiary completes the EPE without experiencing a Cessation Month, the first time they have SGA-level earnings after the EPE will trigger a Cessation Month and the 3-month Grace Period during which SSDI payments will continue. Because the Cessation Month in this scenario is also the Termination Month, no payments will be made after the Grace Period.

Getting SSDI Again

If a beneficiary’s SSDI is terminated due to SGA-level wages after the EPE, there are two possible routes for them to regain their SSDI benefits status:

  • if they are no longer working at the SGA level and other criteria are met, they can have their SSDI restored through Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) (See Tool 5.)
  • If they are no longer earning at the SGA level, they may apply for SSDI again, with a new application.