Keeping Your Disability Benefits

August 21st, 2013 Social Security Disability

Once an individual is approved for disability benefits, there are a few issues that may arise which could cause those benefits to stop.

Whether already on benefits, or inquiring about eligibility, it’s important to be aware of these issues. First, and most obvious, if there has been medical improvement and the disability ends, the Social Security Administration (SSA) could find that the disability has ended. SSA periodically conducts “continuing disability reviews” to investigate whether an individual’s disability has continued, or if there is some other factor, such as medical improvement, which may result in a termination of benefits.

Another common issue is returning to work. Since the effect an impairment has on an individual can vary significantly from person to person, SSA uses a more objective approach to evaluating whether the impairment should be considered a disability under their rules: whether an individual can work despite their impairment(s).[i] If a Social Security Disability recipient works, that work must not arise to the level of Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) with a few exceptions. For 2014, the monthly SGA amount is $1070 ($1800 for statutory blind individuals). One major exception is the trial work period (TWP). As an incentive to allow disabled individuals receiving benefits to test their ability to work, SSA created the TWP. Any month in which earnings exceed $770 trigger a TWP. However, these earnings won’t inherently eliminate benefits until there is at least 9 months of earnings (not necessarily consecutive) in a rolling 60 month period. Importantly, TWP applies only to beneficiaries of Social Security Disability and not to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.[ii] For SSI recipients, monthly resources become an issue. For 2014, the individual asset limit is $2000 per month with an income limit of $721 per month. However, there are countless nuisances and exceptions to these limits.

Moreover, when a SSD beneficiary reaches full retirement age, disability benefits will cease and automatically transition to retirement benefits, but the amount will remain the same. Further, felony convictions, certain warrants, and confinement to a prison or other penal institutions for a crime conviction depending on the length of time, could terminate benefits.[iii] The criteria for children is different and will be explored in a later blog entry. For more information, contact one of our experienced attorneys today at 888-886-6400.

[i] In the case of an adult. The criteria for children is different.

[ii] SSI recipients may, however, be eligible for the ‘Ticket to Work Program’ and the ‘Plan to Achieve Self Support.’ For more information, see http://www.ssa.gov/work/overview.html and http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/pass.htm, respectively.

[iii] For more information, see Article ‘Felony Convictions and Warrants Impact Social Security Benefits.

Merry Christmas Samantha and Stu! While I think of you often, I like to write you a card every Christmas to thank you both for representing me with my Social Security Disability Claim. (Awarded February 2008) I am still living with my daughter in North Carolina. I continue to be under a doctor’s care and take my medications. Stu – the day of my hearing, you advised me to get up every day, put on make-up and get dressed to feel better. I do and it works! Thank you both, and enjoy the holidays! I will never forget! Dictated by Christine (Written by husband Steve)

- Christine C.