Most of my posts have focused on what happens when you are denied for SSI or SSDI benefits, but even people whose claims have been approved sometimes run into questions that need answers. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions.
1. I was just approved for SSI/SSDI. When will I start receiving benefits?
It will usually take about a month or two to start receiving monthly checks. If you were approved for back benefits (see #3), you will usually get your back benefits a month or two after your monthly checks start.
2. How much will my check be?
If you were approved for SSDI, your benefit amount is tied to how much you paid into the system when you were working. On average, SSDI recipients receive $700-$1,700 per month. If you were approved for SSI, the maximum monthly benefit you can receive in 2018 is $750 for an individual, or $1,125 for a married couple. You may get less than this, however, if you are receiving income from other sources.
3. Why was I was approved for back benefits?
If SSA determined that your disability began while you were waiting for benefits, or before you applied, they will pay you for those months that you were disabled but not yet approved for benefits. You will get a check for the total lump-sum due.
4. Why do I have a Representative Payee?
If SSA determines that you are unable to manage your funds independently, they have the power to appoint a Representative Payee to handle your payments for you. Oftentimes SSA will make this determination if there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, or a cognitive impairment that limits a person’s ability to manage their finances. Your Payee will receive your payments from SSA, and is responsible for using the money to pay for your needs. You can always challenge the appointment of a Representative Payee.
5. I’ve been receiving benefits for years. Why are they looking at my case again?
SSA completes Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) of all individuals approved for benefits. This typically occurs every 1, 3, or 7 years. When your CDR occurs depends on your age and impairments. Generally, younger individuals with impairments that are likely to improve will have their cases reviewed more frequently than older individuals with terminal conditions. During your CDR, your case will be sent to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to review your case for any medical improvements that would disqualify you for benefits. Your benefits will be terminated if DDS determines that you are no longer disabled.
6. Why were my benefits decreased?
This could happen if you were overpaid by SSA in the past, or if you are receiving SSI and SSA finds that you have income that they did not consider before.
7. Why were my benefits stopped?
There are a number of reasons why SSA may have stopped your SSI or SSDI payments. They may stop your benefits if you are no longer disabled; if you returned to work; if you reached retirement age; if you are incarcerated or institutionalized; if your income or assets rise above the SSI limits; if you were receiving benefits as a child and turn 18; if you leave the country; or if you enter or leave a nursing home or similar institution. If the SSA terminates your benefits, you can appeal their decision.
8. Can I get more benefits?
If you are receiving SSI, your monthly benefit can increase if your income from other sources decreased. Your SSI or SSDI benefit will also increase slightly each year to account for cost of living adjustments.
9. I’ve started working again. Can I still get benefits?
Yes, within limits. You can still receive SSDI benefits if you are earning less than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. In 2018, this is $1,180/month. If you are receiving SSI, however, you can only earn $750/month due to the separate income and resource requirement for SSI recipients. If you return to work you must report it to SSA. SSDI recipients receive what is called a Trial Work Period (TWP). During this 9-month period, you can work and still receive your monthly benefit. If you continue working after the TWP is over, however, your monthly benefit will stop. Though this is TWP 101, there are more facets to the TWP that are important to know if you return to work. These facets will be discussed in a later post.
If you are currently receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits you may still encounter problems with the SSA. If you ever receive a letter from the SSA that you don’t understand, DO NOT IGNORE IT. An experienced disability attorney can help you make sense of any SSA correspondence, and help you prevent a cessation of your benefits.