What happens when Social Security wants to cut you off of disability?
Social Security reviews most disability awards every few years. Usually, this just entails providing a medical release, Social Security gets your medical records, and most of the time that is the end of the process because there was no substantial change in your health.
However, it is becoming more and more common for Social Security to find that a claimant’s health improved since disability was awarded. This often results in a cessation notice. A cessation notice is a letter that Social Security sends a disabled person informing them that they are no longer disabled and that their benefits will be cut off.
When a disabled individual gets a notice like this, it is imperative that they act quickly. There are two major concerns at this point. Getting the appeal filed and determining whether to receive benefits while the appeals are pending.
While you have 60 days to file an appeal, you only have 10 days to let Social Security know if you want your benefits to continue until the appeals are resolved (a process that often takes over a year).
If Social Security is trying to cut you off of benefits, you should get a qualified social security disability attorney to represent you. If Social Security is trying to cut you off, it is very likely that medical evidence was provided to them which could reasonably be viewed as showing medical improvement. You should get a lawyer to combat such an interpretation of your records if you feel that you are still disabled.
How is the process of hiring a lawyer different after a cessation notice as compared to when you applied for benefits?
When you apply for Social Security benefits, you are not receiving anything from Social Security. If you win, Social Security will back pay your benefits to either the time you applied (in the case of Supplemental Security Income) and sometimes up to one year before you applied (in the case of Disability Insurance Benefits). Your lawyer gets paid out of this lump sum back pay (25% of it with a cap of $6,000).
If Social Security is trying to cut you off benefits and you opt to have the benefits continue until your appeals are resolved, there will be no back pay. Social Security paid you this money as your case progressed and if you win, the result is a continuation of your monthly benefit. Accordingly, unlike when you applied, there is no back pay that can be divided between you and your lawyer. Most law firms (including ours) therefore require a retainer in order to represent you when Social Security is trying to cut you off benefits in the event that you opted to keep receiving benefits while the case was pending. This retainer will usually require a larger up-front payment and then monthly payments while the case is pending. If you win, we will usually keep these payments as our fee. If you lose, we will return this money to you.
If you opt to continue to receive Social Security while your cessation appeals are pending, you need to be aware that you will owe these benefits back to Social Security if you end up losing your appeals. If you opt to stop your benefits while the case is pending, then there will be a back payment, and your lawyer will get paid a percentage of that if you end up winning rather than through the retainer and monthly payments discussed above.
Please call us at 877-230-5500 or contact us on our website if you are interested in applying for benefits or if you would like to discuss what to do if Social Security is trying to cut you off of disability benefits. We are happy to advise you about these issues.