Social security disability benefits are paid only so long as the individual remains disabled. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will cease paying benefits if the individual can engage in substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Disability Reform Act of 1984 established conditions for the cessation of disability benefits based on a lack of disability, which include:
- medical improvement in the individual’s condition (decrease in the severity of the impairment) such that he can now engage in substantial gainful activity;
- medical or vocational advancements that have benefitted the individual in his work capacity such that he can now engage in substantial gainful activity;
- the individual’s impairment is not as disabling as first determined and the individual can engage in substantial gainful activity;
- the previous disability determination was in error;
- the original determination was obtained by fraud; or
- the individual is, in fact, engaged in substantial gainful activity.
Individuals receiving disability benefits are charged with the responsibility of notifying the SSA of any improvement in their condition. In addition, the SSA periodically reviews an individual’s disability status. This continuing disability review is initially achieved through questionnaires and telephone calls. An individual’s refusal to cooperate in this fact-finding exercise may result in the termination of his benefits. Completed questionnaires are examined to determine whether a complete medical review of the individual should be performed.
In the event that benefits are terminated, the individual may participate in the appeals process. If requested within a specified time frame, individuals may elect to have their benefits continued during the appeals process. No overpayment for these continued benefits will be charged against the individual as long as he had a good faith belief that he remained disabled.
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