pBabyHandandMoney_2562346_sDisabled individuals in Illinois must meet set financial criteria to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. To ensure ongoing eligibility, the Social Security Administration requires notification of changes in financial status. Many people may think they do not need to report changes below the substantial gainful activity threshold of $1,070. However, several financial changes should be reported regardless of size.

Substantial changes

Benefit recipients should immediately let the SSA know about any attempts to return to work. Changes in current work hours, duties or pay should also be shared. These changes may affect benefit eligibility. Fortunately, people who give the SSA sufficient notice may be able to enter a trial work period.

During this 9-month period, disabled individuals can work and continue receiving benefits regardless of their income. Any month when income exceeds $770 is counted as part of the trial. After 9 qualifying months, the SSA evaluates whether the recipient still qualifies for benefits.

Benefit recipients should also inform the SSA if they apply for or begin receiving other public disability benefits. Total public disability benefits are capped at 80 percent of the worker’s prior average wages. Benefits such as workers’ compensation may affect the value of disability payments.

SSD recipients should notify the SSA if they start receiving pension payments from a job that did not pay Social Security taxes. People who receive benefits based off a spouse’s earnings record should also advise the SSA of this change. Pensions from jobs Social Security did not cover may reduce SSD benefit amounts.

Finally, people who receive SSD benefits based on another person’s earnings record should report changes in marital status. This is not a financial change that directly impacts SSD eligibility, but it may affect an individual’s right to receive spouse’s or survivors benefits.

Risks of non-reporting

Failure to promptly or accurately report financial changes to the SSA can have serious consequences. These include:

  • Garnishment of overpayments. The SSA will withhold future benefit checks until overpayments have been balanced. Benefit recipients may request that the SSA withhold less than the full amount of each check.
  • The SSA may penalize people by decreasing the monthly benefit each time a financial change goes unreported. Each reduction may range from $25 to $100.
  • Benefit loss. If the SSA determines an individual has knowingly provided false information or made misrepresentations, the individual temporarily loses benefits. Payments cease for 6 months after the first offense, 12 months after a subsequent offense and 24 months after a third offense.

People with uncertainty about reporting changes should consider meeting with an SSD lawyer. A lawyer can help a recipient understand what must be reported and how a given change may affect benefit awards.