Yes, you can lose your disability benefits. Despite what others may tell you, these benefits aren’t permanent.
According to the SSA, you can continue to receive disability benefits as long as you have a disability that prevents you from working. Once you’ve recovered or have returned to work, you can lose those benefits. You can also lose them if you’re found to have committed fraud.
However, the SSA will not automatically cancel your benefits. They will conduct a thorough investigation first. Then they will send you a written notification about your benefits being terminated. It will contain why they’re stopping your benefits and what you can do about it.
In this post, we’re listing down the reasons why your benefits are stopped and how you can appeal the SSA’s decision.
What Can Cause You to Lose Your Disability Benefits?
There are a lot of reasons that can prompt the SSA to stop your benefits. This includes:
1. Return to Work
First off, returning to work will not automatically terminate your benefits. You will only lose your benefits if you are engaging in a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
In general, if you’re earning more than the SSA’s prescribed income limit, you’re considered to be engaging in SGA.
The SGA income limit changes each year. For 2023, non-blind individuals are engaging in SGA if they are earning more than $1,470 per month. If you’re legally blind, your SGA income limit is $2,460. Check out the SSA’s website for the latest figures.
The SSA also has a trial work period for its beneficiaries. During this, you can still receive disability benefits even if you’re working.
If you’re going through a trial work period, your benefits will stop after you’ve worked at least 9 months in a rolling 60-month period. But it will only count as a full month of work if you’ve earned at least $1,050.
This goes without saying. If the SSA determines that you’ve recovered and your condition doesn’t prevent you from working anymore, they can cut off your benefits.
3. Fraudulent Activities
Though most SSA beneficiaries are really disabled, some unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the system. That’s why the SSA is always on the lookout for fraudulent activities.
If they find out that you’re defrauding them, they’ll obviously stop your benefits. You may also have to face legal consequences.
4. Not following your doctor’s orders
For the SSA, not getting treatment or not following your doctor’s orders can signify that you don’t want to get well. This can be interpreted as intentionally prolonging your disorder or letting it get worse to continue collecting benefits.
5. Mistake in an Earlier Disability Determination
If the SSA approved your claim by mistake, they’ll stop your benefits too. In cases like this, the SSA will usually waive the recovery of benefits you’ve already received since you’re not at fault. But if the mistake is due to unintentional misdeclaration on your part, you may have to pay them back the benefits you’ve already received.
6. Not cooperating with the SSA
Just like not following your doctor’s orders, not cooperating with the SSA without any valid reason can mean that you’re hiding something. Besides, if you don’t cooperate with the SSA, they won’t be able to make a proper disability review. So they’ll most likely cut off your benefits.
7. You’ve benefited from a vocational training
Your disability might prevent you from doing the job you were previously doing. But you may still be able to do other types of jobs after vocational training. If your new job allows you to earn more than the SGA amount, you’ll lose your benefits.
How Does the SSA Determine If You’re Still Disabled?
The law requires the SSA to periodically conduct Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR). This is how they will determine if you’re still disabled.
Depending on your disability, you’ll have to go through a CDR once every three to seven years. If improvement is possible, the SSA will review your case every 3 years. If there’s no hope for your condition to improve, they’ll schedule your CDR every 7 years.
However, if recovery is expected, expect your first CDR within 6 to 18 months after your disability onset date.
During the CDR process, the SSA will take a look at your medical and treatment records. They’ll also give you a form where you need to declare all the treatments you’ve had and any vocational training you’ve received. If they’ll need more information, they may also ask you to go through a special test or examination, which they’ll pay for.
The SSA will use the information in your CDR form and your medical records to decide whether or not to continue your benefits.
Can You Lose Your SSI Benefits?
Yes, it’s also possible to lose your SSI benefits. This usually happens if:
1. You are earning more than the SSI income limit.
SSI is a needs-based benefit. So if you’re earning a substantial income, your SSI checks will stop.
The SSI income limit changes each year. For 2023, the maximum monthly SSI income is $914 for individuals and $1,371 for couples.
Note that your SSI payments will only stop on the months you’re earning beyond the income threshold. Once your income falls below the limit, you’ll get your benefits back.
2. You’re incarcerated or admitted to a public institution.
If you’re in prison or institutionalized in a facility run by the government, the SSA assumes that you’ll have no need for SSI. So they’ll terminate your benefits.
3. You have an outstanding arrest warrant.
An active arrest warrant for a felony or escaping from custody will cause you to lose your SSI benefits too. You also won’t be able to claim any retroactive payments until you’ve satisfied your arrest warrant.
4. You no longer meet the SSI’s eligibility requirements.
Aside from the income limit, the SSA has many other eligibility requirements you need to satisfy. If you no longer meet these requirements, you’ll lose your benefits.
This is usually the case when:
- you go out of the country for 30 consecutive days or more
- you lose your eligible non-citizen status
- you’re no longer disabled, or your vision has improved
Can You Get Your Disability Benefits Back?
Yes, it’s definitely possible to get your disability benefits back. If you don’t agree with the SSA’s decision, you have the right to appeal it.
There are four levels to the SSA appeals process:
- Administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing
- Appeals Council review
- Federal court hearing
In general, you have 60 days to file an appeal for each of these stages. Failure to do so can cause you to lose your benefits permanently.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.