In order to ascertain that recipients of disability benefits are truly and permanently disabled, the SSA continuously reviews your medical condition as well as your ability to work so as to assess whether you should continue to receive benefits.
Disability benefits are only granted to individuals who have an impairment that prevents them from participating in any substantial gainful activity. Therefore, if your condition improves, the SSA can decide to cut off your benefits.This article will cover reasons as to why the SSA can decide to terminate your benefits and what steps you should take when you are notified of this decision.
Reasons Why the SSA Can Stop Your Benefits
Continuing disability reviews
When you are initially approved for disability benefits, the SSA might make a decision to review your medical condition after a certain amount of time (if your condition is expected to improve). This process is called a Continuing Disability Review (CDR), and it can be conducted in one year, 3 years or 7 years from the date you were granted disability benefits.
During the review, the SSA will request updated records on your health, treatment, any work you have done and your daily activities. If the SSA determines that your condition has improved to the level that you can return to work, they will provide you with a notice of termination of benefits. You will continue to receive benefits for two months after this determination is made.
Returning to work
If you are working and earning a substantial income while receiving disability benefits, the SSA might terminate your benefits. This decision will depend on how much income you are earning and the state of your medical impairment. Recipients of disability benefits are allowed a 9-month trial work period where they can experiment on their ability to work.
After this trial period is over, you will not receive benefits for any month that you earn more than the minimum threshold for substantial gainful activity (which is $1,170 as of 2017). Continued earning of income above this threshold will have your benefits terminated.
Significant changes in living conditions
Recipients of SSI (where eligibility is based on low income) can have their benefits suspended or terminated if they enter an assisted living home or other senior living residence. The stay, however, would have to be long-term (over 90 days) before the SSA can consider such modifications.
Appealing for Reinstatement of Benefits
If the SSA decides to terminate your benefits, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal process works in much the same way as a denied disability application, with some differences in the timelines.
Appeal within 10 days to keep receiving benefits
Upon the receipt of a termination letter, you can submit an appeal within 10 days in order to keep receiving benefits while your appeal is under review. Because the appeals process is lengthy, if you are in need of your benefits, you should prepare your appeal within this timeline in order to keep receiving your much-needed benefits during the appeal process.
Appeal within 60 days of receiving Termination letter
If you are not able to submit an appeal within 10 days, you still have an extended period of 60 days to file an appeal. You will however not receive benefits during the appeal process until the appeal is ruled in your favor.
Appeal a Continuing Disability Review Decision
If the SSA terminated your benefits as a result of a CDR, you can appeal the decision through your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. The DDS has officials who are specifically tasked with reviewing appeals arising from CDR and the surrounding medical conditions.
If the review by the DDS upholds the initial decision, you will have a hearing in front of a Disability Hearing Officer (DHO). DHOs have special knowledge around medical and legal issues surrounding CDRs.
If the DHO upholds the termination decision, you can continue the appeals process by seeking a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), an appeals council, and then the federal district court.
In some cases, if the SSA determines that you are no longer medically disabled, you can skip the reconsideration stage and proceed to request a hearing in front of an ALJ.
If your benefits were cut off because you were working and earning more than the minimum SGA threshold, you may be eligible for an expedited reinstatement (EXR) once you stop earning more than this threshold amount. EXR allows you to get your benefits back without having to reapply, which makes the process proceed much faster.
In order to qualify for EXR, you must have stopped working due to your original disability and your medical condition must not have improved from the last time you applied.