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2 reasons you may lose your SSD benefits


Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is notoriously difficult; most years, over half of claimants are initially denied, according to the Social Security Administration. However, many people may not realize that maintaining disability benefits can also be challenging. As an attorney might note, people in Tennessee can lose their SSD benefits on various grounds. The following two changes are especially common reasons for benefit loss.

  1. Performing SGA

People who engage in "substantial gainful activity," or significant levels of work, may lose their SSD benefits. Each year, Social Security determines an amount of average monthly income that represents SGA. In 2015, the income limit is $1,090 for most applicants and $1,820 for blind individuals. Social Security may also evaluate the amount and nature of the work that a person is performing to determine whether it constitutes SGA.

SSD benefit recipients can temporarily work above the SGA level during a trial work period. In 2015, any month in which a beneficiary earns over $780 is automatically considered part of a trial work period. Beneficiaries can work at this level for nine months over a five-year period without losing their benefits. However, once the trial period ends, people who are working above the SGA level may lose their benefits.

  1. Medical improvements

Improvements to a disabling medical condition may also provide grounds for the loss of SSD benefits. Social Security conducts regular continuing disability reviews to determine whether each beneficiary still qualifies as disabled. For adult beneficiaries, CDRs typically occur once every three to seven years, as a Tennessee SSD attorney could confirm. However, a "triggered" CDR may occur under the following circumstances:

  • The beneficiary reports a medical improvement.
  • The available medical evidence indicates an improvement.
  • The beneficiary's level of work changes substantially.
  • A new treatment for the disabling condition is introduced.
  • Social Security learns that a beneficiary has not been following his or her prescribed treatment protocol.

During the CDR, Social Security requests medical evidence and information about recent medical changes. Social Security then uses a two-step process to determine whether the beneficiary still qualifies for benefits. First, Social Security assesses whether a medical improvement has occurred. Second, Social Security decides whether the improvement affects the beneficiary's ability to work. If the improvement allows gainful work, the individual may lose his or her benefits.

Beneficiaries who wish to appeal the termination of benefits must do so within 60 days. If beneficiaries file their appeals within 10 days, Social Security will continue awarding benefits during the appeal process. Given these short deadlines, Tennessee residents who have recently received notice of SSD benefit termination may benefit from speaking to an attorney about preparing an appeal.

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