Losing Disability Benefits: What Can Cause You to Lose Your Disability Benefits?

by Margot Lester   ·  3 weeks ago  

Understanding why Social Security might suspend your disability benefits is crucial for anyone relying on this financial support, as any interruption can cause unnecessary financial hardship. But what can cause you to lose your Social Security disability benefits? Losing disability benefits can happen for several reasons, such as changes in your condition and income, or failure to comply with Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements. Learn more about what life changes can cause you to lose your Social Security disability benefits below.

Why Did Social Security Suspend My Benefits? Key Takeaways and Criteria

  • Your disability benefits may be suspended if your medical condition improves significantly.
  • Earning more than the substantial gainful activity limit of $1,550 for non-blind individuals in 2024 can halt SSDI benefits.
  • SSDI benefits convert to retirement benefits at full retirement age, which does not affect the amount of benefits.
  • Benefits are paused if you are incarcerated for more than 30 days following a conviction but can be reinstated upon release.
  • Failing to cooperate with Continuing Disability Reviews can lead to a suspension of benefits.
  • Exceeding SSI’s asset or income limits results in suspension, as the program is intended for those with minimal resources.
  • You have the right to appeal a suspension decision and request benefit reinstatement, potentially with legal assistance.
  • Programs like Ticket to Work support employment endeavors for disability recipients without immediately affecting benefits.

SSDI vs. SSI: Losing Your SSD Benefits

When it comes to the reasons Social Security Administration (SSA) might stop your benefits, it’s important to recognize the differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs serve vital roles but operate under different rules affecting when and why benefits may be suspended.

SSDI: Reasons for Benefit Suspension

SSDI benefits are typically suspended under several circumstances, reflecting changes in a recipient’s life or health that affect their eligibility:

  • Reaching Full Retirement Age: When recipients reach the full retirement age (currently between 66 and 67), SSDI benefits seamlessly transition to retirement benefits, maintaining the same payment amount.
  • Return to Work: If recipients engage in what is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA), earning more than the threshold amount ($1,550 for non-blind individuals in 2024), it can trigger a suspension.
  • Medical Improvement: Significant improvements in health that suggest a recipient can return to work may end benefits after a Continuing Disability Review.
  • Incarceration: Benefits are suspended if the recipient is incarcerated for over 30 continuous days following a criminal conviction.
  • Death: All benefits cease upon the death of the beneficiary.

SSI: Reasons for Benefit Suspension

SSI, aimed at helping individuals with limited income and resources, also sees benefits suspension for different reasons:

  • Income and Asset Limits: Benefits are suspended if countable income exceeds $943 per month or assets surpass $2,000 for an individual.
  • Reaching Age 18: For young recipients, benefits are reevaluated under adult disability standards once they turn 18, which can lead to suspension.
  • Changes in Living Arrangements: Any changes that increase a recipient’s income or reduce their expenses, like moving in with family who provide free housing, can affect eligibility.
  • Incarceration: Similar to SSDI, incarceration results in suspended benefits for the duration of confinement.

GOOD TO KNOW: The SSA requires accurate and up-to-date information regarding your health, income, and living situation. Failing to provide this information, or providing false information, can not only stop your SSD payments but also lead to a demand for repayment if overpayments are discovered.

Understanding these details helps clarify why Social Security might have stopped your disability benefits and what you can do to either prevent this or address it if it happens.

Losing Disability Benefits Due to Medical Improvement

The Social Security Administration (SSA) conducts what is known as a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) to monitor the progress of medical conditions in individuals receiving SSDI and SSI benefits. This process is crucial for determining if a recipient’s health has improved to the extent that they are capable of returning to work.

What is a Continuing Disability Review (CDR)?

A CDR is a routine assessment by the SSA to ensure that individuals receiving disability benefits still meet the medical criteria for disability. Recipients are notified via mail to provide updates about their current health status. This includes detailed information on recent doctor visits, treatments, medications, and daily activities. An SSA representative reviews this information alongside previous medical records to decide whether benefits should continue.

How Often Do CDRs Occur?

CDRs are typically scheduled based on the severity and expected progression of a recipient’s medical condition. They generally occur every three to seven years but can be more frequent if significant medical improvement is anticipated.

Appealing a CDR Decision

If you disagree with the outcome of a CDR, you have 60 days from the date of the decision to request a hearing. This hearing allows you to present additional evidence and testimonies to support your case. If the initial appeal does not reverse the decision, you have the option to escalate the matter to an administrative law judge. Additionally, within 10 days of the hearing officer’s decision, you can request that your benefits continue pending the outcome of your next hearing.

This structured review and appeal process ensures that decisions regarding the continuation of disability benefits are fair and consider all relevant medical evidence and personal circumstances.

GOOD TO KNOW: In some cases, earning a significant amount of money might also trigger a CDR, as this suggests a potential improvement in the recipient’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.

Losing Disability Benefits by Returning to Work

SSI and SSDI recipients can work full- or part-time while getting SSD as long as they don’t exceed the SSA’s substantial gainful activity (SGA) rules allowance. In 2024, the SSA halts SSDI benefits if you take home more than $1,500 a month or $2,590 if you’re blind. It stops SSI benefits if your monthly income exceeds $943. While some earnings may not count as income, the SSA does factor in things like free meals and housing or food. 

GOOD TO KNOW: These limits can be challenging to figure out, which is why some decide to work with an experienced disability lawyer to file claims.

Working While on SSD 

The Ticket to Work Program helps people on SSDI and SSI access career counseling, vocational rehabilitation and training, transitional and education programs, and job placement. Your full disability benefits continue while you’re in the program as long as you don’t go over SGA. If you do, the SSA puts you on a trial work program for nine months. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Representatives at the Ticket to Work Help Line (1-866-968-7842, TTY: 1-866-833-2967) can help you figure out if you’re eligible and answer your questions. Or you can serve yourself via the program’s getting started webpage

What Can Make You Lose SSDI Benefits?

Your SSDI benefits can be stopped for reasons besides better health and excessive income, such as: 

Aging Out

When SSDI recipients reach full retirement age, which is 66 for those born from 1943 to 1954 and 67 for those born later, their disability benefits automatically convert to Social Security retirement benefits. This transition is smooth and does not affect the amount received. The change merely reflects a shift in the classification of benefits from disability to retirement as the recipient reaches the age designated by Social Security guidelines.

Losing Dependent Status

For beneficiaries who receive SSDI dependent benefits, these benefits conclude when biological, adopted, and step-children turn 18, unless they are still in high school, in which case benefits extend until age 19. This policy reflects the assumption that dependents become self-sufficient adults who no longer need supplementary income through the SSDI program after these ages.

Being Incarcerated After a Conviction

According to the SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program, SSDI benefits are suspended if the recipient is convicted of a criminal offense and confined for more than 30 continuous days. However, these benefits can be reinstated once the individual is released. To facilitate this, recipients must contact their local Social Security office with their official release papers. No specific forms are required beyond these documents. If the individual is in jail awaiting trial, SSDI benefits will continue until a conviction is rendered.

What Can Make You Lose SSI Benefits?

The SSA can suspend your SSI payments for additional reasons, including:

Turning 18

When an SSI recipient or their disabled child turns 18, the SSA conducts a review to reassess eligibility under adult standards, which consider both medical and non-medical factors like income and resources. If the review results in a denial of continued payments, the decision can be appealed. This transition is crucial as it marks the shift from child to adult status in the eyes of the SSA, often resulting in stricter eligibility criteria.

Going Above the Asset Limits

SSI is designed to help those with minimal financial resources. If an individual or a couple’s assets exceed $2,000 or $3,000, respectively, including cash, land, personal property, life insurance, stocks, and bonds, the SSA may reduce or terminate the benefits. This asset cap ensures that SSI support is allocated to those most in need of financial assistance due to limited resources.

Changing Living Situation

Changes in living situations can significantly impact SSI eligibility and benefit amounts. For instance, if a recipient moves in with someone who provides free or reduced-cost housing and food, their SSI payments may be reduced or stopped, reflecting the reduced financial need. Additionally, if an SSI recipient is incarcerated for more than 30 days, their benefits are suspended but can be reinstated if the incarceration lasts less than 12 months. For longer detentions, a new application is necessary after release.

SSI and the PASS Program

If you receive SSI and work part-time, you can participate in PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support), which allows you to save money to get back to work and reduce your need for support. The funds aren’t counted as “income” or “assets”, so they don’t negatively impact your monthly payments. You can use PASS allocations for things like: 

  • Assistive technology for employment-related use
  • Childcare or elder care
  • Gear, uniforms, tools or safety equipment necessary for work
  • Job training and coaching
  • Resume writing
  • Supplies, training and coaching to start a business
  • Transportation costs for getting to and from your job

GOOD TO KNOW: If you have impairment- or disability-related work expenses, you may be able to subtract them from your monthly earnings while determining eligibility.

Enrolling in PASS is easy:

  1. Set your work goal and outline the items and services you need to be successful. 
  2. Fill out the PASS Form SSA-545-BK.
  3. Submit to your Social Security office for approval. 
  4. Wait to hear from a PASS expert. 

What Can You Do If You Lose Your Benefits?

Even if you comply with all the requirements, there are times when you might still lose your disability benefits. If your benefits have stopped for reasons other than returning to work, the key is not to panic. Instead, take proactive steps to address the situation and get your benefits reinstated.

Restarting Your Coverage

  1. File a New Application: If your benefits have ceased due to reasons like changes in your medical condition or SSA administrative updates, it’s important to reapply. Filing a new application allows you to present current information and any new medical evidence that supports your claim of disability.
  2. Expedited Reinstatement (EXR): For those whose benefits stopped because of employment and it’s been less than five years, you can apply for expedited reinstatement. You won’t need to complete a new application for this process. Simply contact the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778), and a representative will guide you through the process. This option may allow you to receive up to six months of benefits while the SSA reviews your case.
  3. Request for Reconsideration: If your request for expedited reinstatement is denied, you have the option to file for reconsideration. This can be done online, where you’ll be prompted to provide details and your re-entry number, or via fax or mail by downloading and completing the necessary forms from the SSA website.

Important Considerations

  • Documentation: Ensure that all your documentation is thorough and up-to-date. This includes medical records, work history, and any correspondence from the SSA.
  • Legal Advice: Consulting with a disability lawyer can provide you with guidance and increase your chances of reinstating your benefits.

Work With a Disability Attorney to Preserve Your Benefits

Instead of wondering, “What would cause me to lose my disability benefits”, consider working with a skilled disability lawyer. Because they know the rules inside and out, legal counsel can lower the stress and time burden of navigating the federal disability system. They can help you apply for SSD and get terminated benefits back. 

Are you ready to see if you qualify? Click here to get a FREE, no-obligation consultation before starting your claim.

Losing Disability Benefits: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What triggers a trial work period?

SSDI recipients who earn too much ($1,100 in 2024), trigger a 9-month trial work period (TWP). During the TWP, you don’t have to worry about earning too much and losing your benefits. But after the TWP expires, you won’t receive payments for any month you exceed the SGA.

What can cause you to lose your Social Security Disability benefits?

There are a lot of things! The most common is earning too much money while working even part-time. Other reasons include aging out, getting better and changing your living arrangements.

How can you get your SSI benefits reinstated?

You can try to restart your SSI benefits by filing for expedited reinstatement within 5 years of losing them, or filing a new application if your benefits stopped more than 5 years ago. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778) to get started

How can you get your SSDI benefits reinstated?

You can try to get your SSDI benefits back by filing a new application if your benefits ceased more than 5 years ago, or requesting expedited reinstatement if they were suspended less than 5 years ago. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778) to begin the process.

Margot Lester

Margot Lester is the CEO ofThe Word Factory,a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coachand organizational communications trainer,helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter:@word_factoryLinkedIn:linkedin.com/in/margotlester.