If I am Awarded Social Security Disability Will My Benefits be Cutoff Later?

If I am Awarded Social Security Disability Will My Benefits be Cutoff Later?

There is always the possibility that Social Security will cut off your disability benefits, if your continuing disability review (CDR) shows that either a) you are now earning the current substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount each month; or b) your medical records indicate significant improvement in the medical condition or conditions for which you were awarded disability.

The Social Security Administration likes to encourage recipients to rejoin the workforce if they feel up to it, and so it allows them to try working again without penalty. Social Security allows you a nine-month trial work period, during which you can earn as much as you are able, above and beyond the established SGA amount. (Keep in mind that this is not 9 consecutive months, but 9 months that could be scattered over a period of 5 years, so be sure to keep track. Even if you haven't worked in 2 or 3 years and decide to try out a temporary job, if it is the tenth month out of the past 5 years in which you've earned the SGA amount, your benefits will be suspended.)

After 9 months of substantial gainful work activity, your benefits are suspended, and a 36-month extended period of eligibility (EPE) goes into effect. During the EPE, you can stop work if your medical condition once again deteriorates, and your disability benefits will be reinstated, regardless of your salary at the time. However, if after 36 months you are still able to work, your disability is cut off.

Yet even this termination of benefits is not necessarily final. You have five years to work keeping one foot in the door, so to speak. At any time during the five years from the date your benefits were cut off, you can apply for an expedited reinstatement of your benefits if the medical conditions for which you were originally awarded disability are now severe enough to prevent you from performing work at a substantial gainful level.

Social Security will honor an expedited reinstatement for 6 months, during which time you will continue to collect disability while the examiner reviews your current medical records for evidence of a worsening in your condition or a return of symptoms.

That said, the majority of people who are approved for disability do not return to work, and continue to collect benefits until they either reach the age of full retirement, or until their death. CDRs do not normally result in cutting off benefits to those who have already been approved unless there has been significant medical improvement or significant work activity on the part of the claimant.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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