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  • Christopher Le

Why were my Social Security Disability benefits taken away?

While the majority of people who are approved for Social Security or SSI disability will continue to receive their disability check for many years, its possible your benefits could be taken away. If you’re applying for Social Security disability or SSI, or are currently already receiving Social Security or SSI benefits, it’s important to know what could cause your disability benefits to stop.

Social Security Disability (SSDI) vs. SSI

What can cause your benefits to stop differs between the two disability benefit programs that are operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The first program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It’s based on an individual previous earnings history and whether they have worked enough and paid Social Security taxes to be eligible for benefits. Someone who has not worked long enough to have sufficient “work credits” is not eligible for SSDI regardless of their disability.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program. It is not necessary to have paid Social Security taxes, or to have even worked, to be eligible for SSI. However, there are limits in the amount of income and resources that someone can have to qualify for SSI benefits.

What Can Cause SSDI Benefits to Terminate?

The most common reason for someone’s Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits to stop is because they have returned to work.

Returning to Work While on SSDI

If you return to work while receiving SSDI benefits, SSA will determine if you are engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The biggest factor in determining if an individual is earning at SGA level is the amount a person is making or being paid. In 2021, if an individual earns more than $1310 ($2190 is blind), then they are considered to be earning over SGA. So, let’s say you are making $250 per week doing part-time work, you would not be working over the SGA limit. However, it’s possible that even if you are marking $250 per week, if you are working a lot of hours, it’s possible for SSA to determine that your job duties constitute SGA even if you are earning less than the SGA limit. So it is very tricky how this all works.

There is what is called a trial work pwriod. This is an exception to the SGA rule. This trial work period allows someone who is currently receiving SSDI benefits to attempt to return to work without automatically losing their SSDI benefits. Normally you can work for up to 9 months during your trial work period without losing your SSDI benefits, regardless of how much you are making. If you are still working after that 9 month trial work period and earning over the SGA limit, you will likely no longer be considered disabled and your Social Security payments will likely terminate.

Reaching Retirement Age While on SSDI

Social Security disability beneficiaries who reach full retirement age (currently 66) will begin receiving social security retirement benefits instead. So you will still receive social security benefits, but it will now be classified as social security retirement and not social security disability.

Being Incarcerated or Institutionalized While on SSDI

If you go to prison or other penal institution after being convicted of a crime, your social security disability benefits will cease for the period of time you are incarcerated. Your SSDI benefits will be suspended after 30 days of incarceration unless you participate in a rehab program and will be reinstated after your release.

In addition, certain felony convictions will cause your benefits to cease even without incarceration. Being convicted of a misdemeanor will not affect your SSDI benefits unless you're sent to jail for a month or more.

When Social Security Dependents Benefits May Stop

If you are receiving dependents benefits based on someone else's earnings record, your benefits could stop if: you get married, turning a certain age, or a change in living arrangements.

What Can Cause SSI Benefits to Stop?

The most common reason for an individual to lose SSI benefits is either having too much income, working or having a certain amount of net resources.

Going Above the Income or Asset Limits

If you are receiving SSI and your income or assets rise above the limits for SSI, your benefits will likely cease. In 2021, the individual income limit for SSI is $794 per month, and the asset limit is $2,000. So, for example, if you come across an inheritance or maybe your settled a personal injury claim and now hold

over $2000, you could lose your SSI eligibility. Below are reasons why your SSI benefits might stop:

Increase in income. If you begin receiving an income from any source that puts you over the SSI income limit, your SSI benefits could cease.

Free food or shelter. The SSA also considers non-cash food and shelter that is provided by someone else as income. So If you receive housing or food from a friend of family member for free, SSA will count a portion of it as income, which could result in your SSI benefits being lowered .

Spouses income. A portion of a spouse’s income is considered to be “deemed” to SSI recipients, meaning it is counted as income when determining their SSI eligibility. Maybe your spouse gets a raise, maybe they get a higher paying job, or maybe you marry someone who earns a good income, these are all factors and reasons as to how someone could lose their SSI benefits.

Parents income. Some of a parent’s income is deemed to a child SSI recipient. This could lead to ineligibility for a child to receive SSI benefits.

Increase in your assets. If you receive a lump sum, for example from an inheritance or maybe a personal injury settlement, and this lump sum increases the total amount of your assets and brings you above the resource limit ($2,000), this could cause your SSI benefits to stop.

Returning Back to Work

SSI benefits could stop if you return to work and SSA finds you're no longer disabled. Keep in mind your trial work periods are not available under the SSI program, but SSI does have a Ticket to Work Program with work incentives.

Turning Age 18

Children who are receiving SSI will likely be evaluated as an adult when they turn 18. This too could cause their benefits to stop if SSA determines they are no longer disabled under the adult standard

Changes in your Living Situation

If you enter or leave an institution such as a nursing home or halfway house, this will likely affect your SSI eligibility. Also keep in mins that if you leave the U.S. for 30 days or more, your SSI benefits will cease.

Medical Improvement Can Cause Both SSDI and SSI to Stop

If your disabling condition(s) improve, the SSA can find that you are no longer disabled, causing your disability benefit payments to stop. SSA may review your case periodically to determine whether you are still disabled. This is called “continuing disability reviews”. SSA is looking to see if you are still medically disabled to determine if they will still continue paying or if they will cease your benefits. Usually about 85% of beneficiaries continue to receive their social security disability benefits after their review.

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