As difficult and as time consuming winning a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be, it is not as difficult for the SSA to terminate your benefit's program in case you no longer meet the eligibility criteria.
There are various factors such as changes in your income (if you are earning an income above the threshold levels of substantial gainful activity), health and other issues can lead to an instant termination of your disability benefits. If you were approved for Social Security Disability benefits due to mental health condition and disability benefits or physical disability and have proved to the SSA that your disability is going to last at least 12 months or one year (or longer) from the date of onset of your disability then you are considered still eligible to be receiving the benefits. So if you are applying for Social Security Disability or are already receiving disability benefits, you must make sure you're aware of the factors that could lead to cessation of your benefits.
What causes SSDI benefits to stop?
While the most common reason for cessation of your Social Security benefits is due to your earning an income above the monthly threshold income determined by the SSA – in some cases it may be possible to work while continuing to receive Social Security benefits. However, there are specific rules you must follow.
- -Resuming work while on SSDI
If you return to work while receiving SSDI benefits, the SSA will evaluate your earnings to determine if you're performing substantial gainful activity (SGA). In most cases, substantial gainful activity is when you go to work or go to school full-time. Social Security Administration (SSA) has determined certain thresholds to evaluate whether your income qualifies as SGA. You can also determine whether your work qualifies as SGA by the amount of income you're paid. For instance, for the year 2020, you would be considered to be engaged in SGA if you earn more than $1260 ($2110 for blind claimants of SSDI). Hence, for instance, if you're making $210 a week doing part-time work, or self-employed jobs, your monthly income amount ($840) would not exceed the SGA work limit threshold. Likewise, for someone earning a weekly amount of $400 ($1600 a month) would be considered as performing substantial gainful activity by the SGA.
Also yet, income limits are not the only factor considering your work as SGA. The SSA can also consider your part-time work activity as SGA if you are working too much or carrying out tasks you were listed as unable to perform at the time of you gaining your SSDI benefits.
- -Trial Work Period (TWP) for SSDI
A Trial Work Period (TWP) is a long stretch of 9 months' period of time, within a 5 year timeline, during which you can return to work (keeping under SGA) and still continue receiving disability benefits. So, for instance, if you return to work in 2020 during your SSDI benefits' period, and earn $840 per month from your TWP, then that one month will be considered as one among the 9 months of your trial work period.
The advantage of the trial work period is that this period of time allows someone currently receiving the SSDI benefits to be able to go back to work 'as a trial – as the term indicates' without automatically losing their SSDI benefits. In some cases, you can even work for 9 months during your trial work period while receiving the SSDI benefits all the while, regardless of how much money you're making or how much you earn. However, if, at the end of the TWP if you're still working and receiving SSDI benefits AND earning above the threshold income levels as SGA activity, you will be no longer disabled and the Social Security Administration will cease your disability benefits.
- -Reaching Age of Retirement while on SSDI
While some people may continue to receive disability benefits when they reach retirement age (under special circumstances), many people will get their benefits terminated when they reach the age of retirement. This is due to the federal rule that people cannot continue to receive SSDI benefits and retirement benefits both at the same time. Hence, if you were previously receiving SSDI benefits and then reach retirement age, you will have to opt for one type of benefits (whichever is higher).
This way when you reach retirement age, you will continue to receive monthly checks but the mode of payment will change to your retirement benefits. The SSA will simply change your retirement benefit to a disability benefit (if you opt for the retirement benefits in case they are higher). However, you can also choose to continue receiving the SSDI benefits if that is higher.
- -SSDI Dependents Benefits Stop
In cases where you have dependents receiving benefits on your Social Security Record (eligibility), there are various sets of rules in which case SSDI benefits may stop for those dependents. For instance, if you have a child receiving SSDI benefits on your record, they will automatically stop in certain cases such as (when you reach age over 18) or when they get married. Also, if the dependent receiving the SSDI benefit starts earning on their own, the SSA will automatically terminate their benefits (if those dependents' conditions have become better or if they earn a substantial income).
Similarly, if you are receiving SSDI benefits on your parent's record, you may stop receiving benefits once you reach 18 years of age.
Likewise, receiving benefits on your own work history or SSDI record will not change if you get married or start earning below SGA.
- -Being Incarcerated or Institutionalized while on SSDI
Note that the SSA does not allow for benefits to be received if you have a record of felony or conviction based on serious crimes such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse or have spent some time in the prison.
This is why, in situations where you have already been approved for the SSDI benefits, and get convicted for a crime, your benefits will be ceased for the amount of time you spend in the prison. This means you will not get any benefits for the period you are in the prison. Remember that in case of incarceration, your benefits will be suspended 30 days from the day of incarceration until the time you're eventually released from the prison. In case you opt for a rehabilitation program, you will get some benefits depending on your case (as decided by the SSA).
However, note that the 30 days incarceration time is not exhaustive of the time. In some cases, your benefits will be suspended instantly when you're convicted of a felony even without the 30 day incarceration period.
Lastly, being convicted of little misdemeanors etc, will not suspend the SSDI benefits unless you behave.
Note that navigating the whole process of getting and keeping the SSDI benefits is already very difficult and tiresome – But in cases such as these discussed above (reaching retirement age, dependents getting married or reaching certain years of age, or earning above SGA levels of income, etc, getting convicted of a felony, etc will terminate your benefits). If you need help getting benefits or navigating the disability process, you can seek counsel of our disability attorneys.