Social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits are granted on the basis of a medical chart review that is intended to provide evidence of the particular disability. Typically, recipients continue receiving the benefits for a number of years until they reach full retirement age, which is at present 67 for people born after 1959. Once you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert into retirement benefits. However, an important question is whether disability benefits can be stopped or taken away due to policy. There are indeed certain reasons why SSDI benefits may be stopped.
- Medical improvement: The SSA (Social Security Administration) periodically reviews the case of all beneficiaries, typically in 3 or 7 year increments, to determine if they are still disabled. These reviews are called “continuing disability reviews” and if the medical condition that makes a beneficiary disabled is seen to have improved, the SSA could find the beneficiary to be no longer disabled and therefore stop the benefit payments.
- Returning to work: If a beneficiary returns to work while receiving benefits, the SSA will decide whether he/she is engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Those receiving SSDI are allowed a nine-month trial work period or TWP while still receiving their full monthly disability benefits. In 2019, monthly income above $880 will activate a trial work period month. The nine-month period occurs over a 60-month period, though the months need not be consecutive. Once the person has completed the nine months of their TWP, he/she will no longer receive disability benefits for any month they earn above the SGA threshold – in 2019 this is $1,220.
- Being imprisoned or institutionalized: Your disability benefits stop for the period of time you spend in the prison or other penal institution after being convicted of a crime. If you are convicted for felony, it could lead to a cessation of the benefits.
- Turning 18 years of age: The SSA will conduct a review of eligibility for a child receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits due to a disability, when the child turns 18. During the re-determination period, the child will continue receiving benefits. The SSA will review the records of the child to see if he/she is eligible to continue receiving disability benefits, and the records will be reviewed under adult disability standards. For a child receiving benefits based on a parent’s eligibility, those benefits may stop once the child turns 18. If the child is disabled, the benefits could continue. The payments could continue for a child who is a full-time student until the age of 19. The SSA will send a notice notifying the re-determination and the recipient must respond to it or the benefits may stop. The decision can be appealed in case the SSA determines the child is not eligible for adult disability benefits.
- Changes in living situation: For those receiving SSI benefits, changes in living situation (such as entering or leaving an institution such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital) may affect their eligibility. SSI benefits may also be discontinued if the recipient leaves the United States for 30 days or more.
Disability benefit recipients have the right to appeal the SSA’s decision to stop their benefits. A sixty-day appeal period is available, which begins with the date of the denial notice plus an extra 5 days for the time taken for the beneficiary to receive the notice. The total time available to request an appeal is 65 days. It is important to appeal because there is always a chance of the cessation being overturned at a state disability agency hearing or an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) disability hearing. In any such situation, you can benefit from the service of an experienced disability attorney. In fact, right from the time of applying for SSDI, an attorney can provide the required support. They utilize medical record retrieval services to gather all the required medical records so that all medical evidence to support the claim is readily available. Having a knowledgeable attorney to assist you with your disability application and appeals (in case of denial of claims or cessation of benefits) will increase your chances of obtaining and retaining your much-needed disability benefits.