An Extended Period of Eligibility refers to the period of time during which someone who has recently stopped receiving disability benefits because of a return to work can begin receiving them again. Benefits are automatically restarted without the claimant having to reapply if they become unable to work again because of the same impairment. This period lasts for 36 months from the end of a Trial Work Period, giving disability recipients an additional incentive to return to work on a trial basis.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) established the extended period of eligibility, or EPE, to protect disability recipients who may want to return to work but aren’t sure if their disability will allow them to do so. With EPE, recipients can try to return to the workforce and if they find that they’re unable to do so within 36 months from the end of their Trial Work Period they can automatically restart their disability benefits. If they become disabled again outside of this 36-month window they will have to submit a new application to Social Security for consideration of whether they meet the criteria to receive benefits again.
The Extended Period of Eligibility is the last step before someone fully reenters the workforce after receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Prior to this, claimants enter a trial work period, which lasts for 9 months. Disability benefits continue throughout the trial work period. At the end of the Trial Work Period, benefits end, but they now have the Extended Period of Eligibility.