Can Social Security Disability Benefits Be Terminated?
If you depend on Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) for financial security, the thought of losing those benefits is distressing, especially after months of waiting for approval, doctor’s appointments, and caseworker meetings.
Whether you receive your SSD benefits from employer-paid insurance (such as after an injury at work) or you’re awarded benefits as part of your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the requirements to maintain eligibility are still the same.
If you’ve received a notice of termination of SSD benefits, you’re likely worried and wondering what your next step is. An attorney with experience handling SSDI claims and benefits termination can help you understand your options.
What Leads to a Loss of Social Security Disability Benefits?
The federal government and insurance companies have specific guidelines they must follow before terminating approved SSD benefits, including giving the recipient an opportunity to demonstrate why their benefits should continue.
A termination notice can be triggered under a few different circumstances, so if you’ve received such a letter, your first step is to determine which source (government or your own supplemental insurance policy) is terminating benefits and what the stipulated reason is.
The most common reason for termination of benefits is that the recipient is no longer disabled or their physical condition no longer qualifies them for eligibility.
Different insurance policies have different definitions of disability, so the qualification for the benefits you receive from the government may be different from what qualifies you under a supplemental insurance policy.
The SSDI’s definition of disability is determined by the person’s ability to work. For a successful disability claim, you must be able to prove that you are:
- Unable to perform the job duties you did before your injury
- Unable to adjust to another type of work because of the limitations of your condition
The disability must be anticipated to last at least one year or to be likely fatal. If your condition improves to the point that you no longer qualify as disabled (as per the definition of the agency providing the benefits), your benefits will be terminated.
Reviewing SSD Benefits for Recipients
Once you receive your benefits, your status and claim will be reviewed periodically by the Social Security Administration (SSA), although the review is a less cumbersome and stringent process than your initial application was.
If you return to work, your benefits will likely be terminated because the SSA will consider working as being engaged in a substantial gainful activity (SGA) — a disqualification for disability benefits.
The threshold for SGA is monthly earnings over $1,470. However, the SSA may also disqualify a person who earns less than this if it deems the individual capable of working more (engaging in SGA) according to their job duties.
This disqualification can overwhelm many people who suddenly find themselves in a financial bind. Although a lawyer may seem like an optional expense, the truth is that a legal advocate can help you understand the law and how you can most effectively fight to keep your benefits.
How Should You Respond to an SSD Benefits Termination Letter?
If you’ve retained legal counsel, they can reply to the letter on your behalf. The SSA or the insurance company providing your benefits must follow specific protocols for terminating the benefits. If they do not, then your benefits may have been illegally terminated and should be reinstated.
All insurance carriers providing disability benefits are required by federal law to give a timely and detailed explanation of the reasons the benefits are terminated. This letter must also include how you may prevent termination by submitting specific pieces of information (usually evidence to support your need for the benefits).
For example, the insurance company is required by law to evaluate the statements and evaluations from your doctor in good faith as part of your benefits termination appeal.
The SSA also has a benefits appeal process, including the opportunity to have a hearing with a state Social Security official. However, you need to act fast — you have only 10 days to file an appeal for the termination decision and request a hearing in order to keep your benefits until the conclusion of the hearing.
An experienced disability lawyer can ensure that your appeal and request for a hearing are handled properly so you don’t miss the deadline or have the appeal dismissed because it was incomplete.
Do You Need Help After Termination of Social Security Benefits?
Filing an appeal to reinstate your SSD benefits can be a complicated process — it’s not one you should navigate on your own. A disability insurance attorney experienced in fighting Social Security benefits denials and terminations can help you take the next steps. Call us today at (833-613-0618) to speak with a local SSD attorney.