If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, they are subject to termination for a variety of reasons. Although it is rare to lose your benefits, it is possible, so let’s discuss some of the ways it could happen.
As initial matters, your disability benefits will cease once you reach full retirement age (FRA), which depends on the year you were born. At that moment, your disability benefits automatically switch to retirement benefits. Disability benefits will also terminate when a beneficiary dies, but qualified family members may become eligible for survivor’s benefits at that point.
You may also lose your benefits if you are arrested and serve time in jail. If you are receiving SSI benefits when you are arrested and facing charges, your benefits will stop after you have been incarcerated for one month; your benefits will resume upon proof of release from prison. If you are receiving SSDI benefits when you are arrested, your benefits will cease once you have been convicted of the crime. Keep in mind that conviction of certain felonies, such as defrauding Social Security Administration (SSA), will result in lifelong termination of benefits.
Barring the above, the most common ways to lose your disability benefits are the improvement of your condition and/or an increase in income. SSA conducts continuing disability reviews (CDRs) every three or seven years, depending on the likelihood your condition will improve and your age. These periodic reviews do not often result in termination of benefits and are designed to make sure that beneficiaries still meet the eligibility requirements for benefits.
As an adult, you could lose your benefits if your condition has improved medically as it relates to your ability to work, and you are able to engage in work above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold for that year. In 2021, SGA is considered income of $1,310 per month.
Children receiving disability benefits will be reviewed prior to their eighteenth birthdays; if they are disabled, their benefits will likely continue, but they may be terminated if the child is not disabled and was, instead, collecting benefits based on a disabled parent’s work record. In the former instance, children’s benefits will cease if they have improved medically, and their impairments are no longer “severe” or “marked” with respect to functional limitations. Children’s benefits can also be terminated if they fail to follow prescribed treatment, they cannot be located, or they fail to cooperate with the SSA.
If you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity, that usually means that your condition is no longer disabling enough to keep you eligible for benefits. SSA will also consider the fair market value of volunteer labor and may terminate your benefits, even if you are not working to receive income.
With respect to SSI benefits, the stringent income and asset limits make termination or temporary suspension of benefits likely if you exceed the prescribed thresholds. For example, an individual receiving SSI benefits in 2021 cannot collect income over $794 per month. Likewise, an individual cannot possess more than $2,000 in assets. Free food and shelter are considered in-kind income and could affect your benefits.
If your situation has changed, and you are worried about a potential impact to your benefits, consult a trusted disability attorney to review the facts of your case and advise you on any options you may have.