Factors that Threaten Your Social Security Disability Benefits

After injury or illness, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)[1] or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)[2] benefits can provide you with the financial support and peace of mind necessary to focus on your recovery. While all beneficiaries’ claims are automatically set to be reviewed for validity and relevancy every 3 to 7 years, there are a few life changes which could trigger an unscheduled review, possibly causing the termination of those benefits. To prevent this, it is vital that you understand what these factors are and how they could affect your access to aid.

Age Related Factors- Adulthood and Retirement

Typically, your eighteenth birthday is a milestone to be celebrated. However, if you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, your condition and distribution will be reevaluated upon legally becoming an adult. Depending on the resultant findings, your benefits could be jeopardized.

Another factor that could cause your benefits to be reevaluated is reaching full retirement age (typically between ages 65- 67). Upon reaching this age, your benefits will be transferred from SSDI to the Social Security Association’s retirement benefit program instead. While this might not interrupt the flow of funds to you, it will, technically, terminate your disability benefits.

Health Related Factors- Medical Improvements and Returning to Work

Understandably, when the medical condition for which you began receiving disability benefits improves—as determined by your doctor—the SSA can terminate your benefits.

If, while receiving SSD benefits, you choose to return to work (either full or part time), you could be classified as engaging in “substantial gainful activity (SGA).” This would apply under two circumstances: Primarily, it is triggered if, through your work, you are earning in excess of $1,170 per month in 2017 (up to $1,950 for those who are visually impaired). Additionally, the SGA can be prompted if the agency determines you are engaging in significant mental or physical activity. This can apply for paid work and volunteer work, especially if it is an activity that would typically be paid. In calculating your monthly wages, remember that SSA uses your gross wages NOT your net income.  Also, remember that there is an extra paycheck every three months that you work, so your pay may go over the limit unintentionally. After a few months over the limit, SSA will take notice of your earnings and your benefits can be jeopardized.

Other Sources of Income – Marital Status and In-kind proceeds

A change in marital status could impact your ability to receive SSDI or SSI. If you were unmarried when you began receiving SSI benefits, and later become married to a spouse who earns above the SSDI ceiling, the additional resources obtained through marriage could change the level of your payment. Additionally, if you and your new spouse are both receiving SSI, your payment may shift from the individual rate to a couple’s rate.

For those whose marital status is changed by death or divorce, the situation is slightly different. As the widow of an individual receiving SSI, you are not eligible to continue to receive funds if you remarry before turning 60, and/or if you are disabled yourself and remarry before age 50. If you are divorced, your spousal benefits will end if you remarry.

Another factor that could change your SSDI or SSI status is if you are receiving “in-kind income.” This is defined as any non-cash contributions from other individuals. Typically, this seen as food or housing. The SSA will take a portion of the value of these gifts and count it as income. The ‘additional income’ could reduce your benefit payments.

Changes in Criminal History

The SSA has outlined that if you are convicted of a crime and are incarcerated in a jail, prison or penal institution this will result in a change of your benefits. SSI benefits will continue to be paid until you have been incarcerated for a full calendar month. If you are incarcerated partway through a month, the benefits will be paid out for the current month and continue for the next full month before termination.

SSDI benefits vary slightly in that, instead of a continuous calendar month as specified with SSI, benefits will be paid until you have spent exactly 30 days incarcerated, no matter when your incarceration begins. Once released, you have the ability to either restart (if the incarceration was less than 12 months) or reapply for new benefits.

There are many rules in the SSDI and SSI system which could lead to the termination or temporary break in your benefit payments. Knowing your legal rights and the Social Security Administration’s rules will ensure that your benefits are not stopped unexpectedly or without due cause. If you or someone you know is having difficulty receiving or restarting their SSDI or SSI benefits, or you would like additional information regarding Social Security benefits contact The Law Office of Jeffrey Scholnick today.

[1] SSDI is available for those who have earned the “insured status” with the Social Security Administration (SSA) during their working years.

[2] SSI benefits are available to those whose number of work credits, as determined by their earnings over their period of employment. This is to ensure that, within your employment period, you have contributed a specific amount to the Social Security System.


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