Preserving benefits with an Illinois disability lawyer

Most Social Security Disability beneficiaries know firsthand that qualifying for SSD benefits can be challenging. However, many beneficiaries may think benefit loss is unlikely once benefits have been awarded. Unfortunately, as any Illinois disability lawyer can explain, SSD benefits are never awarded on a permanent basis. The Social Security Administration may terminate a person’s benefits on various grounds.

Ongoing eligibility criteria

SSD beneficiaries must meet various requirements to remain eligible for benefits. A person may lose benefits for the following reasons:

  • Performing substantial gainful activity — in 2015, this is work with monthly income of at least $1,090. The SSA makes exceptions for beneficiaries who have resumed working as part of a Trial Work Period.
  • Showing medical improvement — the SSA uses a medical improvement review standard to evaluate whether medical changes affect a beneficiary’s eligibility. If medical improvement makes a person reasonably capable of gainful employment, the SSA halts benefits.
  • Engaging in criminal activity — a beneficiary cannot collect SSD benefits while he or she is incarcerated. People convicted of certain felonies may permanently lose eligibility for SSD benefits.
  • Reaching retirement age — Social Security Disability and retirement benefits are never awarded concurrently. The SSA converts SSD benefits to retirement benefits when the beneficiary reaches the appropriate age.

The SSA conducts regular Continuing Disability Reviews to determine whether beneficiaries still qualify for SSD benefits. As any Illinois disability lawyer understands, these reviews may occur on schedule or based on changes in the beneficiary’s life.

Review process

The SSA typically conducts CDRs every three years. Reviews may be scheduled more frequently if a condition is anticipated to improve. If a condition is permanent or unlikely to improve, reviews may take place less often. Unscheduled reviews may occur if a person resumes SGA, shows medical improvement or stops following treatment protocols. The development of new methods of treatment for the disabling medical condition may also result in an unscheduled review.

If medical improvement is unlikely, the SSA sends the beneficiary a short form. This form contains questions on recent work, training, education and medical changes. If a beneficiary’s answers suggest the beneficiary no longer qualifies for benefits, the SSA sends a more detailed 10-page form. The SSA initially sends this form to people with conditions that could improve and people receiving triggered reviews. This longer form asks specific questions about the disabling condition, functional limitations, medical tests and treatments.

If the SSA determines a person no longer qualifies for benefits, the person can challenge the decision. This process is distinct from the process for appealing a denied claim. Thus, former beneficiaries may benefit from working with an Illinois disability lawyer who understands this unique type of appeal.