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Claimants who have recently gone through the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) grueling process of appeals and approval are thankful when it’s finally over. However, once you’ve been awarded Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, there is no guarantee you’ll continue to receive them for the rest of your life. In fact, you’ll regularly be evaluated through the SSA’s continuing disability review (CDR) every three to seven years for work activity and medical improvement.
During a CDR, someone from the SSA will request copies of your medical records and determine if you’re able to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). On a positive note, the reviews aren’t as strict as your application and most continue to receive their SSD benefits after. However, if the SSA sees a sudden and significant spike in your earnings, you may additionally be subject to a review.
In either instance, what scenarios could terminate your benefits? Consider the following three.
Returning to Work
While claimants can work in a limited capacity while collecting SSD, engaging in SGA will stop your benefits if the following occurs:
- You Return to Work: If you resume your previous job or one like it at a full-time capacity, the SSA will determine that you no longer need benefits. How is this evaluated? The SSA either looks at your monthly earnings or the skills you’re able to perform and determines if it meets SGA requirements.
- You Complete Your Trial Work Period: Claimants who want to gradually return to gainful employment have the option of doing a Trial Work Period, in which you can return to the workplace, earn about $840 per month as of 2017 and not lose your disability payments for the time. This period lasts nine consecutive or non-consecutive months over a five-year period. If you’re performing SGA by the tenth month, your benefits are suspended and you start what’s known as an extended period of eligibility (EPE). You need to be successfully employed over this 36-month period. If your earnings reach or exceed SGA levels ($1,130 as of 2016) after 36 months, your benefits are officially terminated. If not, either through a lack of working or reaching SGA levels, your SSD payments resume.
For your CDR, the SSA assembles your medical records and if these indicate that your initially approved condition is improving, they no longer consider you disabled.
However, if you believe that your condition has not improved or reached the level where you can successfully return to work, you have 60 days to request an appeal, which involves meeting with a Hearing Officer. Here, you and a lawyer can form a case through evidence and witnesses to testify about your condition. If the Hearing Officer determines that you’re no longer disabled, you can still appeal your claim to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 10 days.
Incarceration or Institutionalization
In the event a claimant has to spend time in prison or in an institution after being convicted, the SSA temporarily stops your benefits. After you’re released your benefits may resume, unless you’ve been charged with a felony conviction. In this latter case, a felony on your record may bar you from receiving SSD benefits.