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Loss is a legitimate risk

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits can be challenging, as any attorney Social Security can attest. Many Chicago SSD recipients know this but underestimate the difficulty of keeping their benefits. Unfortunately, individuals who are still disabled may face benefit loss after various life changes. People receiving benefits should understand what factors frequently result in this outcome and what measures can help prevent it.

Triggers for benefit loss

The SSA may stop benefits due to changes in a recipient’s medical condition, employment status or living arrangement. Changes in living arrangements include entering institutions such as nursing homes, becoming incarcerated and reaching retirement age. Losses relating to living arrangements often are unavoidable.

Medical improvements can lead the SSA to determine that an individual is not disabled. The SSA conducts disability reviews every three to seven years to determine whether a condition is still disabling. A review can also be triggered if one of the following things happens:

  • Medical evidence shows the condition improving.
  • The individual reports a medical change.
  • The individual breaks from the prescribed treatment plan.
  • Medical advances lead to new treatments.

Even after medical improvement, the SSA may find an individual disabled. However, if the SSA believes the individual can work, benefits will cease.

Resuming employment can also cause benefit loss. If an individual starts working while receiving benefits, this could trigger a continuing disability review and subsequent benefit loss. If the individual starts earning more than $1,070 monthly, he or she loses eligibility for benefits.

There is one exception to this earnings limit. Current benefit recipients may participate in a “trial work period” and work for a set period without losing benefits eligibility. If an individual’s monthly earnings exceed $770, the SSA usually considers the employment a trial work period. During the 9-month period, the individual continues receiving benefits. Afterward, the SSA reviews average monthly earnings to determine whether the job constitutes substantial gainful activity. If so, benefits stop.

Preventative measures

Besides recognizing these triggers, SSD recipients should take steps to prevent benefit loss. Recipients must always notify the SSA of medical changes and provide documentation to support an ongoing claim. Similarly, recipients should advise the SSA of changes in employment and discuss entering a trial work period.

If the SSA decides an individual is not disabled, the individual can ask for reconsideration. If this appeal is denied, there are three subsequent levels of appeals. Until the final decision, the individual can continue receiving benefits. However, if the SSA ultimately finds the individual is not disabled, the individual may have to pay back those benefits. Considering this, recipients facing benefit loss often benefit from partnering with an attorney.