Can I lose my Social Security disability benefits?

After successfully filing for Social Security disability benefits, you may wonder how long your benefits will last. Generally, you are eligible for disability benefits as long as you remain disabled. However, several situations can cause you to lose your benefits.

Continuing Disability Review

All recipients of Social Security disability benefits must have their health checked periodically. How often this happens depends on your recovery expectations.

  • If your condition is expected to improve, your case will be reviewed within six to 18 months of the start of your disability benefits.
  • If your condition can improve, your case will be reviewed approximately every three years.
  • If no improvement is expected, your case will not be reviewed for at least seven years.

When you are initially approved for disability benefits, your notice will indicate when to expect the first review.

What can cause you to lose benefits?

Simply put, if the Social Security Administration decides there is evidence that you are no longer disabled, your benefits may be terminated. This happens in one of two ways:

  • If you are able to work at a level that the SSA considers “substantial”, this may cause you to lose your disability benefits. The level of income that triggers this determination changes each year. For 2021, an average income of $1,310 or more per month is considered substantial. This amount is higher if you are blind ($2,190 or more per month.)
  • If your medical condition has improved to the point that you are no longer considered disabled, your benefits will cease.

Also, remember that these are not the only ways to lose benefits. For example, if you do volunteer work that proves you are able to work normally, your benefits may be withdrawn. It can also happen if you work for a friend or family member at a level that would allow you to earn a normal wage, even if you work for free or are underpaid. If you need more information, you can find out more here.

Additionally:

  • If you are incarcerated, you will stop receiving disability benefits on the date of your conviction. If in the future you are discharged, you can apply for reinstatement of benefits.
  • Once you reach retirement age, you will stop receiving disability benefits. Instead, you will start receiving retirement benefits. As these are generally equal, the change is only technical.
  • If it is determined that your disability claim is fraudulent, you may lose your disability benefits and face criminal charges. This can happen if you give false information about your identity, your level of disability, your income or if you are self-employed. You can also be sued for fraud if you do not report anything that may affect your eligibility for benefits or if you use someone else’s benefit money fraudulently.

Benefits may be reduced or terminated if you show a change in assets or income. For example, if you move in with a family member who pays for your expenses or if you acquire valuable property (over $2,000), your benefits may be reduced.

The Ticket to Work program

If you think you can return to work but don’t want to risk losing your disability benefits, there is a solution. The SSA allows disability beneficiaries to apply for work incentives that will allow them to attempt to re-enter the workforce while keeping their benefits protected in case they are forced to stop working again.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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