Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can Social Security Disability Benefits Stop?

It is a good day when you get the news that your Social Security Disability benefits claim has been approved. The long, hard application process is over. The Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees that you deserve disability benefits. You may still have to wait a few months before payments begin -the law states that you have to have been disabled five full months before payments start - but at least you know that soon you'll get your first monthly check, with many more to come.

However, could your disability benefits stop? There are only two reasons for that to happen, which is why SSA requires, again by law, to periodically review your case.

Two Disability Reasons -Two Kinds of Disability Reviews

You were approved for disability benefits because your medical condition meets SSA's definition of a disability, and because it is preventing you from earning income. You must continue to meet these criteria to stay eligible for benefits. To make sure nothing has changed, SSA periodically schedules a medical continuing disability review and a work continuing disability review. The type of medical situation that defines your case determines when you can expect to undergo a continuing disability review (CDR).

SSA Determines When to Schedule a CDR

If SSA expects that your disabling condition is likely to improve, you can expect a CDR within six to 18 months after your disability benefits began. According to the medical information they have about you, they may decide that it is possible your condition will improve over time. A case like this will be reviewed about every three years. For a medical condition that is not expected to improve, SSA will review your case once every five to seven years.

Keep Medical Records Up to Date

Even though you are approved for benefits now, it is wise to keep good, ongoing medical records about your condition. Since this is a very important component to your eligibility status, you will want to be prepared to provide updates at the time of a medical review.

What to Expect at a CDR

SSA will contact you when it is time for a medical CDR. First, you will receive a notification letter, and then you will be contacted by your local Social Security office about what you need to do. A disability examiner and a doctor will conduct a new review of all your medical records and may require that you undergo a medical examination, at no cost to you.

The Back to Work Factor

Because disability benefits are for people who can no longer work because of a disability, SSA must make sure that you still meet this requirement. Obviously your medical condition determines your ability to work, which is why the medical CDR is so important. If SSA determines that your disability has improved enough for you to work again, they may decide that you are no longer disabled. Your benefits will stop three months after this determination is made. You do have the right to appeal that decision.

A work CDR reviews your earnings if you have gone back to work while on disability. If you have earned more than the current Substantial Gainful Allowance, your benefits will discontinue.

However, SSA does provide a work incentive program to help people who would rather work than depend on disability benefits. If you are participating in this program, called Ticket to Work, you won't lose benefits, except for any month you earn above SGA, and you will be exempt from a medical CDR during the time you are testing your ability to work again.

No End to Benefits if You Need Them

It is your responsibility to let SSA know if your medical condition is improving, or if you have gone back to work. These factors do change your eligibility for continued benefits. But, for as long as you remain disabled, you can count on receiving your Social Security disability benefits every month for as long as you need them.

Suzanna is an expert author on the subject of Social Security Disability and is employed with Freedom Disability in Shelton, Connecticut. Suzanna writes about information and educational resources on all topics regarding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

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