For anyone who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, big life changes can raise concerns. This might involve moving to another state, getting married, or going back to work. You’ve already applied for SSDI, but do these changes impact your eligibility? What about benefit payment amounts? The short answer is yes. But, it depends on the life change. Some events can impact benefit payments. Others may not.
Seek the advice of an experienced lawyer about the best course of action. They can help to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
What Events Can Impact Disability Benefits?
You must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of major life changes. You can do this online, by phone, or by mail. You can also visit your nearest SSA field office.
Life changes that may impact disability benefits include:
- Your spouse or ex-spouse passes away. You may be eligible for survivor's benefits. Thus, the SSDI payment amount may increase. This is based on your spouse’s earning record.
- Your disability improves. Benefit eligibility depends on being able to work. If your condition gets better and you can work, the SSA may stop payments.
- You start working. This can include both part-time and full-time jobs. Self-employment counts too. If you start earning an income, this may affect SSDI eligibility.
- You receive other disability benefits. The SSA may look at this other income in deciding SSDI benefit payments.
- You go to jail or prison. If you are convicted of a crime, you are generally not eligible for SSDI while serving time. Some exceptions may apply.
- You reach full retirement age. At this point, the SSA converts your SSDI benefits to retirement payments. These amounts are likely not the same. Your lawyer can help you find out.
- You pass away. In the event of your death, SSA will terminate benefits. If you have a surviving spouse or children, they may be eligible for survivor’s benefits.
What Changes Will Not Affect SSDI Benefits?
Other major life changes may not affect eligibility. You still have to notify SSA of these changes. But, you do not need to reapply for SSDI. Examples include:
- You get married. If you qualified with your own disability and earnings record, you will continue to receive benefits. This is different if you qualified in another way. An example is a child who receives benefits based on their parent’s income record.
- You move to another state. Contact SSA before you move. This way, you don’t miss any mail or payments. Moving to another state does not impact eligibility.
- Your living situation changes. If you move in with someone, like a friend or partner, your SSDI benefits are not impacted.
- You receive an inheritance. SSDI eligibility is based on disability and earnings history. An inheritance is unearned income.
- Your household income changes. Since SSDI is based on your earned income, your spouse’s income does not impact benefit payments.
Why Might Social Security Disability Benefits Stop?
There are two main reasons why the SSA may stop your SSDI payments. One, you start working. Or, two, your medical condition gets better. These are the two core factors in qualifying for SSDI benefits.
If you receive SSDI, you can have a trial work period (TWP) of nine months. This lets you test if you are able to work. Earning more than $1,050 in a month triggers the TWP. The nine months of work can span up to a 60-month period. The months do not have to be in a row. After nine months of TWP, earning more than $1,470 per month stops SSDI eligibility. That is the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount as of 2023.
If your medical condition improves and you are able to go back to work, SSA may stop your SSDI benefits. This is based on a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). This reviews your current medical condition. They ask about treatment and daily activities. If they decide you are no longer disabled, they may stop your monthly benefit payments. The SSA typically asks for a CDR every three to seven years.
How Can You Protect the Benefits You’ve Earned?
Just because you qualified for SSDI doesn’t mean you will continue to qualify for SSDI. The SSA reviews your case periodically with the CDR. Major life changes can affect disability benefits too. The federal government may also garnish benefit payments to serve outstanding debt.
A qualified Massachusetts lawyer experienced in Social Security can help. They can review your case and help you prepare for CDRs. They can also advise how to notify SSA of life changes and educate you on the impact these changes can have on your benefits. And, if the SSA stops payments, a lawyer can appeal that decision.