When you have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), several years after you are approved, Social Security may look at your case again to see if you are still disabled. These inquiries are called Continuing Disability Reviews. While it is easier to pass a review of your disability than it is to win your initial application for benefits, many of these reviews are wrongly decided and benefits cut off. What happens if Social Security conducts a review and cuts off your benefits?
Social Security cessation cases
To qualify as disabled you must have a condition that makes you unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” for at least 12 months. In theory, therefore, you could qualify even if you will someday recover from your impairments. Fortunately, some people do recover and are able to return to the workforce, either in their former capacity or in a new job.
In a Continuing Disability Review, Social Security reviews recent medical records to see if you you are still disabled. If Social Security contacts you about cutting off your benefits, always cooperate with them. If you fail to cooperate, they can use that as grounds to cut off your benefits.
If your benefits are terminated you have the right to appeal. When you appeal, you can ask that the benefits be continued pending your appeal. This way, while you are fighting over your case, you will continue to receive your benefits. However, if you eventually lose your cessation case, Social Security will ask you to repay what you received.
A recent Disability Alabama cessation case
Disability Alabama helped a claimant with their cessation case upon referral from Legal Services Alabama. The claimant had been approved many years ago for severe mental health issues. Fortunately, their situation had improved significantly. As one would hope, due to treatment and the stability provided by their disability benefit this person was living a stable, independent, non-injurious life. Unfortunately, Social Security initially took this improvement to mean that they could return to work. Nothing was further from the truth.
Qualifying for disability because of anxiety
At a hearing, the claimant was able to show that while their worst and most self-destructive symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder were reasonably controlled, they still struggled mightily with disabling anxiety. Claimants can qualify automatically for disability under a listing for anxiety. However, the claimant’s anxiety must be significant and meet the conditions for severity listed by Social Security.
For those like this recent Disability Alabama client for whom anxiety causes panic attacks, a disproportionate fear of being in public, and an inability to interact with others - they may meet the “listing” for anxiety and thereby qualify for disability.
Where to get help
- It can be hard to find an attorney for cessation cases. Attorneys are usually paid a contingent fee out of a claimant’s back benefits. However, in cessation cases, there are often no such back benefits.
- Disability Alabama and other lawyers take cessation cases on referral from legal services organizations. If you’re in Alabama then that organization would be Legal Services Alabama. If you are in Alabama and get notice that Social Security is cutting off your benefits, apply to Legal Services Alabama for help.
- The most important thing is to follow all deadlines for appeal. You should find those deadlines in your cessation letter. Unless you know they have mailed an appeal for you, remember to appeal, even if you have contacted Legal Services Alabama or another organization for help. Sometimes it can take some time for a legal services referral to go through - don’t let your appeal deadline pass while you’re waiting for a lawyer.
- Contact Disability Alabama with questions about your Social Security disability cessation case.