Why Have Your Social Security Benefits Stopped?

What Is the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is an independent government agency that administers Social Security. It is an insurance program that consists of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In order to qualify for these benefits most workers pay into the system through Social Security taxes.

The head offices of the Social Security Agency are located in Woodlawn, Maryland and are referred to as the Central Office. There are tens of thousands of workers employed by the Social Security Agency and it is the largest government program in the United States.

It is estimated that by the end of the 2022 fiscal year the agency will have paid out $1.2 trillion in benefits to 66 million citizens and legal residents of the United States. An additional $61 billion is expected in SSI benefits and $7.5 million to low-income individuals.

This government agency is a vital part of the country's economy and without it millions of already struggling Americans would have nothing. It is a program that many have paid into for decades in preparation for retirement and as an insurance policy against sudden disability.

History of the Social Security Agency

On August 14th 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This led to the creation of the Social Security Board (SSB), a presidentially appointed group of three executives tasked with overseeing the social security program.

With zero budget, staff or even furniture the SSB finally obtained funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It was on October 14th 1936 that the first Social Security office opened its doors in Austin, Texas.

In January of 1937 Social Security taxes were first collected. Just a few years later the first Social Security check was issued to Ida Mary Fuller of Battleboro, Vermont. Ida’s check was dated January 31st 1940 and she received $22.54.

The SSB in 1939 merged with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Civilian Conservation Corp and other government agencies to become the Federal Security Agency. In 1846 under President Harry S. Truman the SSB was named the Social Security Administration SSA.

In 1953 the Federal Security Agency was dismantled and the SSA was placed under the banner of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Finally in 1994 President Bill Clinton made the Social Security Administration an independent body once again.

Why Might Your Social Security Benefits Stop?

It should be noted that generally speaking the Social Security Administration will notify you of changes to your status as a beneficiary and the reason why. That said mail can be lost and lines of communication can be disrupted so in this section we will look at some of the more common reasons your benefits may be stopped.

You Have Returned to Work or Started Volunteering While on Disability

Those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) do so on the understanding that they are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you report or are reported to have returned to significant hours of work or even if you have started to volunteer the Social Security Administration (SSA) may deem you capable of SGA.

There is limited permissible work that a person can undertake and still receive their disability benefits but if you earn over a set amount your benefits can be stopped. This is because the administration deems that your disability is no longer significant enough to prevent you from working.

Your Disability Has Improved

You may not be working or earning other money but if the Social Security Administration is notified of an improvement of your disability your benefits may be suspended. This might be your doctor reporting your condition as “possible” to improve or another citizen reporting to SSA that you are no longer disabled.

If your benefits are suspended for this reason you will likely have to undergo a medical assessment to determine if your condition has reached a point which will allow you to return to gainful employment. The SSA will not pay benefits to individuals who are capable of working.

You Have Reached Retirement Age

The Social Security Administration does not allow double dipping when it comes to benefits so you can’t claim two types at the same time. This means that if you are on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and you reach the full retirement age of 67 you will need to switch to retirement benefits.

This however would not cause a cessation of benefits, what would happen is that SSDI benefits would switch to being retirement benefits. There may be a difference in the amounts received however.

Turning 18 While on Disability or Survivors' Benefits

The age of 18 for the US government is seen as the point a child becomes an adult for legal purposes. As such children who have a qualifying disability who have been receiving benefits will need to recertify their condition when they turn 18. This essentially means that the Social Security Administration requires that these individuals have to undergo a reassessment to determine if their condition still prevents them from earning a gainful living.

Children receiving survivor benefits based on the earning history of a deceased parent may also lose these benefits when they turn 18. This may extend to 19 however if the child is still in full time education. Survivors' benefits end for children of the beneficiary full stop however after the age of 19 unless the individual has a qualifying disability themselves.

Beneficiary Is Incarcerated or Institutionalized

Benefits are a good reason to try and stay on the straight and narrow because if you are convicted and jailed for a crime your Social Security payments are suspended for the duration. If you are sent to prison your benefits will stop until you are released which makes sense because the other prisoners can’t earn money while locked up so why should Social Security beneficiaries?

There are specific rules depending on which benefits you receive which include:

If claiming Social Security insurance benefits they will end one full month after imprisonment commences. You can restart benefits upon release as long as they were suspended for less than a year.

Certain crimes may disqualify you from resuming Social Security benefits even after you leave prison; these include treason, terrorism, parole violation and fleeing a felony.

Being Caught Committing Fraud

The Social Security Administration takes a dim view of fraud as well they might. This system is to supply resources to those who truly need it so when individuals try to defraud Social Security their benefits can be suspended. The disqualifying frauds that can lose you your benefits include:

  • Providing identification details which are not your own.
  • Supplying false information or statements in support of your case
  • Supplying false information concerning income
  • Failing to disclose self-employment status
  • Failing to report assets that would affect your benefits

Simply put, if the Social Security Administration catches you in a lie during application or at a later time they can deny, suspend or ban you from receiving benefits.

Changes in Assets

When we apply for benefits we not only have to report our previous and current incomes but also any significant assets we have access to. It must be proved that we do indeed need the benefits because we do not have the means to support ourselves.

Social Security approves benefits upon the individual making less than $914 a month in personal income and having assets of less than $2000 which excludes one primary residence and one vehicle. This means were the beneficiary to be left a second residence or vehicle as a bequest from family they would be over the threshold of assets and may lose their benefits.

Entry into a Group Living Situation

The Social Security Administration takes into consideration a number of factors when it comes to benefits including a person's living circumstances. A significant change such as entering a nursing home, assisted living or a halfway house may alter your benefits.

Ignoring Requests from the Social Security Administration

As a benefit recipient it is part of an individual's responsibility to respond to all requests from the Social Security Administration for information with regards to their benefit eligibility. Ignoring such requests for example requests for disability reviews can get benefits suspended until the recipient makes contact.

Ignoring requests from the administration for 12 consecutive months can result in termination from Social Security Disability Insurance. This would mean that a new application to rejoin would be required which may be harder to obtain than previously.

Dependents of Beneficiaries who Have Passed Away

The Social Security Administration does not immediately award survivors benefits in the event that a beneficiary passes away. Someone may be dependent on the benefits of a spouse but if they die their benefits stop. The surviving spouse would have to apply for survivors benefits based on the deceased individuals benefits

Change of Address

It is vital to keep the Social Security Administration advised on your correct address. A significant move to a different state may require changes to your benefits and failing to report moves may result in suspension of benefits.

Income Garnishments

There are a number of circumstances under which benefits may be garnished for repayments. This would not be a cessation of benefits but could see a sudden drop in how much you receive. Defaulting on federal student loans, owing back taxes to the US government and unpaid child support can all be garnished from social security payments.

It is important to be aware of these potential financial responsibilities as the government can take repayment from Social Security income to cover these debts.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons that benefits may suddenly end but as mentioned the Social Security Administration will usually warn you and explain the cause of the suspension. If it happens and you did not receive a warning the first step should be to contact the SSA and ask what happened and what you can do to fix the issue.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • "Why Have Your Social Security Benefits Stopped?". SSA Locator. Accessed on May 26, 2024. https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-have-your-social-security-benefits-stopped/.

  • "Why Have Your Social Security Benefits Stopped?". SSA Locator, https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-have-your-social-security-benefits-stopped/. Accessed 26 May, 2024

  • Why Have Your Social Security Benefits Stopped?. SSA Locator. Retrieved from https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-have-your-social-security-benefits-stopped/.