CMP Financial Planning

Can Social Security Benefits Be Stopped?


For millions of special needs families and individuals with disabilities, Social Security benefits provide a key pillar of regular income. I was recently made aware of a situation where, to the shock of the person in question, their Social Security benefits were suddenly discontinued even though the spouse had been receiving SSDI benefits for several years.   This article addresses the two main reasons Social Security benefits might be stopped. 


Changes in Income
If your loved one is receiving SSI  benefits and their monthly income exceeds the 2019 threshold of $771 because of work earnings or payments in kind (e.g. room and board), then that person’s benefits can be stopped. Similarly, if the individual with disabilities on SSDI has work earnings that exceed $1,221 per month in 2019 dollars, then that person is considered to be employed in “substantial gainful activity” and their SSDI benefit can be discontinued. Importantly this threshold includes work income only and does not include unearned income. An important exception to this threshold is if the individual is in a “trial work period” as defined by Social Security.  During a trial work period a person can receive unlimited earnings and still receive full SSDI benefits.


Changes in Disability
The second primary reason SS benefits might be stopped is if a person’s condition improves to the point that according to Social Security they are no longer considered disabled.  The Social Security Administration reviews the medical case files of beneficiaries with disabilities every three to seven years. It is important to respond to Social Security’s request for supporting documentation during their review. For individuals with intellectual disabilities this review is unlikely to result in a disqualification of benefits; however, not responding at all to Social Security’s documentation request could result in benefits being stopped. This is exactly what happened to the person I referred to at n the beginning of this article. Although benefits are in the process of being restored, the family  did go through the financial stress of temporarily not having benefits. 
Social Security benefits for most individuals with disabilities are a key source of regular monthly income. Benefits may be stopped as a result of changes in income and disability. It is important for individuals and families to be aware of the impact these changes might have on their benefits and to communicate those changes to the Social Security Administration. 


References
1.     Barajaktarovisch,Alison, “What Will Cause Your Social Security Disability Benefits to Stop” Disability Secrtets, 2019, https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/page1-5.html.2.     Caplinger, Dan, “3 Ways You Can Lose Your Social Security Benefits”, The Motley Fool, July, 19, 2017, https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/07/23/3-ways-you-can-lose-your-social-security-benefits.aspx3.     Social Security Publication, “Reviewing your Disability”https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10068.html.

By Barry Jamieson