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Can Your Social Security Disability Benefits Be Reversed?

Many people who are approved for Social Security Benefits assume that the battle is over when their Social Security Disability claim is approved. The question is, can Social Security Disability benefits be taken away once awarded, or will they automatically continue until retirement age is reached?

The fact of the matter is, Social Security Disability benefits are not guaranteed for life. You must continue to meet the requirements of Social Security Disability in order to continue receiving benefits until retirement age (at which point the Social Security Disability benefits convert to Social Security Retirement benefits).

Social Security Disability cases are reviewed periodically and certain factors may affect your ability to continue receiving Social Security Disability payments. If you receive Social Security Disability benefits and are wondering whether or not your benefits will be revoked there are some things you need to keep in mind.

Continuing Disability Reviews

The Social Security Administration conducts regular reviews of Social Security Disability cases. These reviews are called Continuing Disability Reviews, or CDRs. The frequency of your CDRs will depend on whether or not your disabling condition is expected to improve. If improvement of your condition is expected, you will likely have a CDR every year or so. If improvement is possible but not likely, the reviews will usually occur once every three years. For those who are considered to be permanently disabled, a review will occur once every seven years. In most cases these reviews will not result in a reversal of your Social Security Disability benefits. If, however, your condition has improved and you are able to return to work, then your Social Security Disability benefits will be stopped.

If the Social Security Administration decides that you are able to return to work and revokes your Social Security Disability benefits, your monthly payments will not stop immediately. You will still receive Social Security Disability payments for another two months. However, many people feel that the decision to stop their benefits is unfair and unwarranted. If this is the case, you need to appeal the decision. You technically have 60 days to appeal a decision to stop your Social Security Disability benefits, however, if you want your benefits to continue during the appeal process you must file the appeal within 10 days of the decision. Just keep in mind that you may have to pay back any benefits you receive during the appeal process if your appeal is not successful.

The best way to avoid this situation altogether is to have ongoing documentation of your continuing disability. Maintain visits with your doctor and make sure your doctor documents how your condition affects your day-to-day life. The Social Security Administration will want to see this evidence at the time of your Continuing Disability Review.

Substantial Work Activity

Your Social Security Disability benefits may be put at risk if you begin earning money while receiving Social Security Disability benefits. When on Social Security Disability, you may earn up to $720 each month without your benefits being affected. If, however, you earn more than $1,000 per month the Social Security Administration will consider it to be substantial income. At that point your benefits may be at risk.

If you earn a substantial income while receiving Social Security Disability benefits, your benefits will not be stopped immediately. There is a nine-month “trial work” period in which you can keep your Social Security Disability benefits while earning income. After you have earned a substantial income for a total of nine months out of a sixty-month period, your Social Security Disability benefits will be discontinued.

Incarceration Can Stop Disability Benefits

One of the other reasons that Social Security Disability benefits may be discontinued is if you are imprisoned. If you are charged with a crime and are incarcerated for more than thirty days, your Social Security Disability benefits can be suspended. You will be able to reinstate your benefits once you are released, but you will not be entitled to any Social Security Disability benefits while you are in jail.

The Bottom Line

Most people who are receiving Social Security Disability do not need to worry about their benefits being reversed or revoked unless their condition improves and they are able to return to work. If, at any time, the Social Security Administration does decide to revoke your Social Security Disability benefits, you may want to hire a Social Security Disability attorney to help you with the appeal process. Proper representation can increase your chances of appealing the decision and continuing your Social Security Disability benefits.