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Social Security Issues Final Rules On Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) And Trial Work Period (TWP) Increases

For Immediate Release, January 12, 2001
Contact: Chris Marshall

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published final regulations implementing changes to increase two key income thresholds in its disability programs that limit outside earnings for beneficiaries - Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and the Trial Work Period (TWP) allowance. The final rules, which were published on December 29, 2000, spell out how SSA will now be annually adjusting both limits to reflect annual inflation increasing ("indexing").

For SGA - the limit on monthly outside earnings for SSI and SSDI beneficiaries - these new rules mean that last year's $700 a month limit will increase to $740 a month as of January 1, 2001. Under the new formula, SGA will never be lower than the previous year's amount, although there may be years when no increase will occur. The Trial Work Period is a work incentive meant to provide beneficiaries with a mechanism to test their ability to return to work for a 9 month period without affecting their disability status. For the TWP, the new rules increase from $200 a month to $530 a month the amount of earnings considered to be "services" (the threshold above which a month's earnings are counted against the 9-month TWP ceiling). The TWP limit will be determined by the same annual indexing calculation for SGA, and again, will never be lower than the previous year but could remain unchanged for years when national wage growth is stagnant.

For self-employed consumers using TWP months, the final rule will allow for increased hours, so long as earnings are below the applicable limit. As with the SGA increase, the TWP increase is effective in January 2001. In the case of the SGA increase and the higher TWP level, annual indexing will be automatic in future years.

For SSI beneficiaries, the final rules include an increase in the maximum monthly and yearly Student Earned Income Exclusion, with annual adjustments of the monthly amount for future years. This program allows SSI beneficiaries under the age of 22 who are enrolled in school (including college and vocational or technical training) to exclude from "income" tuition and expenses up to a limit of $400 per month and $1,620 per year. These final rules increase this exclusion to $1,290 per month, with an annual limit of $5,200, effective January 1, 2001. SSA will making automatic adjustments to these limits in future years.

The full text of the final regulation can viewed at:

A copy of NAMI's comments on these regulations can be viewed at:

The new year has brought cost of living increases for all SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. Effective January 1, monthly benefit amounts for SSI and SSDI beneficiaries increased 3.5%. The maximum federal SSI monthly payments to an individual will increase from $512 to $530. For a couple, the maximum federal SSI payment will increase from $769 to $796. Increased payments to SSI recipients began on December 29.

Finally, SSA's office of Employment Support Programs has developed a new staff service position designed to help beneficiaries with disabilities who want to work understand and participate in SSA's work incentive programs, including changes that are occurring as a result of the implementation of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act. This position is called the Employment Support Representative (ESR) and representatives are available across the nation. To contact your local ESR, go to and scroll down to the contact chart.