Losing Disability Benefits

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The Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income programs both provide monetary benefits to disabled individuals although they are based on different economic eligibility criteria. Social Security Disability is available to workers who have earned enough work credits over their lifetime and within the last ten years.

Supplemental Security Income disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have never worked or who do not have sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

With either program, it is possible for a recipient to lose his or her benefits. Some of the ways that a person can lose benefits include:

Improvement of Health

Both disability programs are based on the individual having a severe impairment or combination of impairments that is expected to last at least 12 months and prevents the claimant from working. If a personís health improves to the point where he or she can reenter the workforce, the claimant can lose his or her benefits. This affects SSI and SSD recipients regardless of age. The Social Security Administration encourages people to return to work if they are able to and creates some incentives to encourage this.

The Social Security Administration makes revisions to the recipientís eligibility and benefits based on the health status of the individual and may use a continuing disability review to monitor this status. The frequency of continuing disability reviews depend on the severity of an individualís disability as well as the possibility that health conditions may improve. In some instances, age may also be a factor.

Assessments are reevaluated every three years or every seven years based on these factors. However, the guidelines are not as rigid for successive assessments as when the recipient first applied for Social Security. There may be health evaluation requirements that may need to be met. If an individual does not make scheduled appointments, this failure can provide disqualification of any and all benefits. Likewise, a person may be required to submit updated medical records or provide other information. If he or she fails to do so, he or she may lose benefits.

Earning Too Much

Even if a personís health has not improved but the individual is earning enough money, he or she can lose benefits. This can happen if the individual earns over the substantial gainful activity limit. This amount changes each year, but in 2016, it was $1,130 for non-blind individuals and $1,820 for blind individuals. However, an exception allows an individual to return to work on a trial period, to observe if the person is capable of working. During the trial, benefits continue, and will do so for nine months without disqualification. After receiving this amount of income for nine months, benefits will cease. This does not have to be nine consecutive months.

Receipt of Retirement Benefits

When a person has reached retirement age, disability benefits come to an end as retirement benefits kick in at the qualifying age. The retirement benefits come from a different program, and an individual cannot receive both disability benefits and retirement benefits.


If the recipient is incarcerated, he or she is disqualified to either part or all disability assistances. Some felony convictions cause a permanent loss of benefits.

Increase in Income

Since SSI is based in part on a householdís income, a person can lose these benefits if the household income changes. For example, if the claimant is approved for benefits while his or her spouse is unemployed, and then the spouse became employed, benefits may be reduced or lost due to these factors. If an individual marries and collects SSI, the benefits may be reduced or stopped. If a person starts to receive benefits from anotherís earnings, such as survivor benefits or benefits from a divorced spouse, he or she can lose his or her disability benefits.

Other Reasons for Disqualification

Other disqualifications include changes to living situations, institutionalization and benefits of anotherís earnings. If the receiver is placed in an institution, such as a nursing home or an institution for mental health, this affects benefits. If an individual leaves the U.S. for 30 days or more a person may be disqualified of eligibility wholly or partially.

Changes that Require Assessment

At the age of 18, an individual that receives benefits is reassessed from minor status to the SSI standards of an adult status. The determination of the assessment could stop the benefits entirely and disqualify the person.

An individual should always contact the Social Security Administration with any and all changes of address or residence. Failure to notify the administration may also affect the benefits and eligibility of the recipient. It is best to keep up to date with any changes and notify the Social Security Administration immediately.

Contact a Lawyer

Loss of benefits and disqualification may be challenged when a lawyer is representing the individual. If benefits are lost, a previous receiver may reapply, or an appeal may be attempted to re-obtain loses.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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