Social Security stopped my benefits

“Help, Social Security Stopped My Benefits!”

Important: We updated this article in October 2022 with the most current SSA policy data. When you’re counting on Social Security benefits to make ends meet, it can be terrifying to lose those payments. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t know why Social Security stopped my benefits,” check your mailbox. You may have a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) about suspending or terminating your benefits. While it’s easy to determine why payments stopped in some circumstances, others aren’t so clear. In fact, the SSA can stop your benefits without you expecting any changes and with little or no communication.

“Social Security Stopped My Benefits With No Warning. How Does This Happen?”

The SSA uses a complex system that allows them to suspend or terminate benefits as needed. And sometimes, they do make mistakes. But most often, there’s a good reason why this happened to you. Below are eight reasons your payments might stop when you least expect it.

Reason #1: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Got Better”

If the disabling condition(s) that qualify you for SSD benefits improve, then your payments may stop. The SSA has strict rules about who qualifies for benefits and who doesn’t. What’s more, they also periodically review cases to ensure payments only go to eligible beneficiaries. This is called a continuing disability review (CDR), and it typically happens every 3-7 years. If symptoms from your mental or physical condition improve enough for you to start working again, the SSA may stop your benefits.

Generally, it’s easier to pass a CDR than it is get approved for benefits the first time. If you got approved within the last three years, though, your payments likely stopped suddenly because of unreported health changes. If your doctor said you’d improve when the SSA first approved you (but it would take more than 12 months), they may review your case even sooner. And if you have a severe disabling condition, your reviews may happen once every seven years (or possibly longer). There’s not an exact science to CDRs, but SSI beneficiaries stop having them once they’re 65 years old. If your disability benefits stopped suddenly, the SSA likely thinks you’re well enough to work again. If you feel you still cannot work, you may need a Social Security attorney.

Reason #2: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Moved Without Telling Anyone”

If you move to a different address without notifying the SSA, here’s why they may stop paying you benefits:

  1. If you’re expecting a lump-sum payment or expedited check in the mail, keep your address current! Otherwise your checks could get returned, which can trigger a stop-payment notice on direct deposits, too.
  2. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and move to another state, it can also put a stop on your payments. Some states administer federal SSI with their own supplemental benefit payments. In other areas, the SSA may also administer supplements on the state government’s behalf. It could affect where your money comes from if you move without telling anyone.

Social Security disability is a federal benefit program. So if you move to another state, you don’t need to re-apply. However, you do need to notify the SSA whenever your address changes. Otherwise, your benefits may stop with no warning.

Reason #3: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Didn’t Cooperate With Their Requests”

The SSA may have mailed you a disability update letter that you failed to complete and return. Or, maybe they told you to show up for a medical exam you couldn’t attend and you forgot to reschedule. You must comply with any program requirements and requests to stay eligible for benefits. These eligibility requirements may include medical exams, disability update reports and other SSA requests for information. If the SSA mails you a letter and it’s automatically returned, they can stop your benefits without notice.

Reason #4: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Defaulted On Student Loan Payments”

If you owe money on federally backed student loans, your Social Security benefits likely won’t stop — but they may get smaller. If you default on student loans, the government can’t garnish more than 15% from your Social Security payments. Are you an American over age 50 with a permanent and total disability that likely won’t improve? Then you may qualify for a full discharge on any unpaid federal student loan balances.

Reason #5: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Owe Back Taxes”

If you owe the IRS back taxes, they can also garnish your Social Security checks up to 15% each month. (Typically, though, they’ll send you multiple mailed notices before they do this.) However, the IRS may also work with you directly to create a payment plan that you can afford. Contact them to see if you can pay back the taxes you owe in monthly installments. IRS agents may offer you a compromise and settle for less than you actually owe. In certain circumstances, the IRS might classify your account as “currently not collectible” on the balance owed. However, if you owe money to the IRS or for federal student loans, we recommend talking to a lawyer about your options.

Reason #6: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Due To Unpaid Child Support”

Much like student loans and income taxes, parents who owe child support may have their benefit payments garnished. Family law is incredibly complex, so if you’re not current on child support payments, talk to a lawyer about your options.

Reason #7: “Social Security Stopped My Benefits Because I Worked Too Much”

If you earn too much money (more than $1,470/month for SSDI or SSI), then you no longer qualify for benefits. Working too many hours or earning too much money can make the SSA automatically stop your payments.

However, the SSA often gives you a nine-month trial work period to test out working with your disability. They do this to see if you can manage most work tasks while you’re still recovering. But if you work more than nine months total in any five-year period, the SSA will suspend your disability benefits. If you go back to work full-time and are still employed 10 months later, the SSA will automatically terminate your payments.

Reason #8: “My Benefits Stopped After My Arrest”

The SSA automatically suspends Social Security benefits for anyone that goes to jail or prison for over 30 days. If you’re getting SSI and stay in jail or prison for more than 12 months, you’ll need to re-apply when you’re released.

“What If I Think They Made a Mistake?”

We’ve heard people say “Social Security stopped my benefits for no reason,” and hey — mistakes can happen! Luckily, you have 60 days to appeal if the SSA either suspends or stops your disability payments in error. But to avoid missing a single payment, you have to move fast. Appeal within 10 days after receiving the SSA’s termination letter, and you’ll keep getting monthly benefit payments. Request that your payments continue while the SSA reviews your appeal for their decision.

Related: When Do Most People Stop Getting SSDI Payments?

You may need professional help filing your appeal if your benefit payments suddenly stop. The SSA isn’t perfect, and mistakes can happen. Letters get lost in the mail, and it’s possible they accidentally terminated your payments without cause. No matter why your payments stopped, a lawyer gives you the best chance to get back any money the SSA now owes you. If you get an overpayment letter from the SSA, a lawyer can help you dispute the amount or potentially settle for less than you owe. All our lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing to get professional help fighting the SSA now. And if a lawyer does help you win your appeal, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.