If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security Administration (SSA) might stop them should you start working again and earn income above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold. Fortunately, you may qualify for reinstatement without having to file a new application if you meet certain criteria. While SSA determines whether your benefits can resume, they will provide you with provisional benefits for up to six months.
If your benefits stopped because you earned too much, but you are currently unable to perform work above the SGA level and are still suffering from the same impairment that qualified you for disability benefits in the first place, you may be eligible for reinstatement. You do, however, need to make the request to have your benefits reinstated within five years from the month your benefits stopped. If you wait longer than that, you will have to show SSA good cause for why you applied for reinstatement late.
You will receive provisional, or temporary, benefits for up to six months while SSA evaluates your claim for reinstatement. These provisional benefits may include Medicare or Medicaid coverage as well as cash payments. The amount of the cash payments will be what it was when you were receiving monthly benefits, adjusted for any cost-of-living increases since then. Even if SSA denies your request, you will likely not have to pay any of the provisional benefits back.
If, during that six-month period, you reach full retirement age, your provisional benefits will stop because you will start receiving retirement benefits. Provisional benefits will also stop if you receive a decision on reinstatement sooner, or you start working above the SGA limit again.
Of course, you could always file an entirely new application, but most people choose the expedited reinstatement route if they can because it will save time. There are some situations in which it might be better to file a new application, however. For example, if you ended up earning much more than you did when you filed your first disability claim, you might receive more in monthly benefits if you start over with a new application.
In the event that SSA denies your claim for reinstatement, you have sixty days from the date you receive the denial letter to file a Request for Reconsideration. If that is similarly denied, you can ask for an expedited reinstatement hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Should the ALJ deny your reinstatement, you can take your case to the Appeals Council.