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Can I lose SSD benefits once they are approved?

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Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits is notoriously difficult, given the Social Security Administration's rigorous criteria. As any disability lawyer in Tennessee can explain, people who currently collect benefits are not exempt from these standards. Beneficiaries can lose their benefits if the SSA determines they no longer qualify as disabled.

Decisive changes

Changes in employment status or medical state can cause benefit loss. The SSA uses a medical improvement review standard to determine whether a person is still considered disabled. If a beneficiary's condition has improved enough to allow gainful employment, the person can no longer collect benefits.

Besides medical improvements, the SSA may consider changes in residual functional capacity. As any disability lawyer in Tennessee knows, RFC describes a person's functional abilities with the disability factored in. If RFC improves, a person may no longer qualify for benefits.

The SSA additionally may consider whether a person is engaging in substantial gainful activity. In 2015, work producing monthly income over $1,090 is usually considered SGA. For blind individuals, the income limit is $1,820. If a beneficiary starts performing SGA, he or she cannot continue collecting benefits.

Review process

The SSA conducts Continuing Disability Reviews to evaluate whether beneficiaries remain eligible for benefits. The prognosis of the condition determines the frequency of these reviews. If medical improvement is likely, a review will take place 6 to 18 months after benefits are awarded. If improvement is feasible, a review takes place every three years. In other cases, a review is held once every seven years.

If a condition is not anticipated to improve, the SSA sends the beneficiary a Disability Update Report. This form asks questions about recent work history, health and medical treatments. If a condition will likely improve, or if the Disability Update Report indicates improvement, the SSA sends another form. The Continuing Disability Review Report asks more extensive questions about recent work and medical history.

The SSA determines whether beneficiaries still qualify for SSD benefits based on the information they provide. The SSA may also order consultative examinations if information needed to make a determination is missing.

Review triggers

In addition to scheduled reviews, the SSA may conduct triggered reviews. The following developments provide grounds for unscheduled reviews:

  • Medical evidence or the beneficiary's statements indicate medical improvement.
  • A new treatment for the condition becomes available.
  • The SSA learns that the beneficiary is not following prescribed treatments.
  • The beneficiary resumes working.

These changes are not necessarily grounds for benefit loss. However, they may adversely affect a beneficiary's likelihood of receiving ongoing benefits.

If the SSA halts benefits, beneficiaries have a right to appeal the decision. Beneficiaries may want to seek assistance from a disability lawyer in Tennessee during this process.

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