SSR 79-38


PURPOSE: To revise current policy by establishing an increased dollar amount which will be used in determining, under the disability provisions of titles II and XVI, when work activity is excluded from "services" for trial work period (TWP) purposes.[1] This new dollar amount will serve as a measure of whether the activity is insignificant, so that the month should not be included as a month of "services" in the TWP.

CITATIONS (AUTHORITY): Sections 222(c)(2) and 1614(a)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act; Regulations No. 4, section 404 1536 and Regulations No. 16, section 416.936.

PERTINENT HISTORY: The 1960 amendments to the Social Security Act mad a 9-month TWP generally available to disability beneficiaries. It was instituted to encourage disabled individuals to return to work by permitting them to test their ability to sustain work over an extended period without the risk of losing their benefits. During the TWP, a disabled individual (except, under title II, a disabled widow or widower and disabled individual who did not serve a waiting period), who has not medically recovered from his or her impairment, is permitted to render "services" in employment or self-employment without being considered able to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

During the 1960's, there was no device for preventing insignificant work from being included as a month of "services" in the TWP. Experience showed that a beneficiary frequently used up several months of a TWP while making intermittent and insignificant efforts to work while remaining severely impaired. When this individual finally reached a productive earnings level, the TWP was exhausted; and thus he or she was immediately faced with benefit termination before demonstrating the capacity to sustain competitive employment on a regular basis. To remedy this situation, on December 12, 1968, the Commissioner approved the existing policy that work activity for earnings not exceeding $50 a month will be excluded from the TWP on the basis that the work involved may be viewed as "insignificant work which does not in any real sense constitute a trial work or rehabilitation effort."

When the Supplemental Security Income program was established in 1974, the same TWP provision was adopted. The same definition of "services," including the insignificant work exclusion of $50, was also extended to this program.

Wages, earnings and the dollar figure which ordinarily represents SGA have risen in the past 10 years while the $50 figure has remained static. Accordingly, it has been determined that the exempt amount should be increased to $75.

POLICY STATEMENT: Work activity for earnings which are at or below $75 a month will not be considered "services" for TWP purposes. Therefore, months in which there is work activity for earnings of $75 or less will not be included in the TWP under the disability provisions of titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.

Only the dollar criterion is changed as a result of this revised policy. The hourly work test which the self-employed are additionally subject to, i.e., work activity of the self-employed person amounting to more than 15 hours a month constitutes "services" for the purposes of the TWP, remains unchanged.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The policy is effective for work performed after the calendar year ending December 31, 1978.

DOCUMENTATION: The evidence requirements relating to the monthly earnings amounts are not changed by this Program Policy Statement. As before, the monthly earnings amounts must be satisfactorily explained.

FURTHER INFORMATION: The amount of the increase in the "exempt" amount was determined after considering the increase in the average earnings of workers in private industry which occurred after December 1968 when the $50 figure was established as well as its estimated cost.[2]

The feasibility of providing for a systematic adjustment of the SGA monetary guidelines is currently being studied. If it is decided that a systematic SGA mechanism should be put in place, a mechanism for an automatic adjustment of the exempt "services" amount will also be considered.

CROSS-REFERENCES: Claims Manual section 6717B; Disability Operating Manual section 503.

[1] A TWP begins with the month in which individuals disabled under titles II and Xvi (except, under title II, disabled widows or widowers and the disabled who did not serve a waiting period) become entitled to benefits It ends with the month in which disability ceases for medical reasons, or with the 9th month-not necessarily consecutive-in which the beneficiary has rendered "services", whichever comes first.

The term "services" means work activity which is performed for payment or gain or which is determined to be of a type normally performed for payment or gain. Work activity need not be at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level for it to be considered "services." Work performed without payment, merely as a therapeutic measure or purely as a matter of training, or work usually performed routinely at home or in self-care, is not considered "services."

[2] Office of the Actuary memorandum of November 2, 1978; Office of Research and Statistics memorandum of March 30, 1978.

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