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.

My daughter suffers from severe bipolar disorder and other forms of mental illness. She initially applied for disability and was rejected. My lawyer gathered significant supporting information to represent us in my daughter’s hearing and provided additional support as requested by the judge. In court, she fought hard to win my daughter’s case and I believe her extra effort on our behalf resulted in the judge understanding the truth in my daughter’s case and gaining her disability benefits that are sorely needed. Without my attorney’s knowledge of the process, outstanding presentation to the judge and required supporting information for my daughter’s case, we would not have succeeded. She has always kept us informed of pertinent issues and has been totally responsive to any of our requests for information. Thank you, you did a great job!!!

- Dennis