When you are receiving Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are certain financial and legal changes you must report immediately to the SSA. Most of the changes listed in this article involve your income, but know that if your medical condition improves, you have to report this change as well. You can notify the SSA by phone, mail or in person of these changes.
Changes You Must Report if You Are Receiving SSDI
If You Go Back to Work
If you begin working, even if it is for yourself, you must report this fact and the amount of income you're bringing in to the SSA.
If you are still disabled, the SSA will let you work for a trial period and you can keep receiving benefits for up to nine months. If you have to spend money because of your disability in order to go to work (for example, if you have to buy a wheelchair in order to perform your job or get to work), you should tell the SSA, because sometimes the SSA will pay those work-related expenses that you have incurred because of your disability. For more information, see our article on SSDI's trial work program.
If You Start Collecting Other Disability Benefits
If you receive SSDI and begin collecting other disability benefits, your monthly SSDI benefits may be reduced. For instance, if you have been injured on the job and start receiving workers’ compensation (including certain benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act), your monthly SSDI payment may be reduced. You need to tell the SSA if you apply for or begin receiving another type of disability benefit or if you receive a lump-sum disability payment.
If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits (including certain black lung benefits) or other public disability benefits along with your SSDI, the total amount of all the benefits cannot be more than 80% of what your average current earnings were before you became disabled. If the total is more than 80% of what your average current earnings were before you became disabled, the SSA will deduct the extra amount from your SSDI payment each month.
You Receive a Pension From a Prior Job
If you begin receiving a pension from a job that did not pay Social Security taxes, you need to tell the SSA because your SSDI benefits may be reduced. Some common examples of jobs that do not pay Social Security taxes include some jobs in the federal civil service system, jobs with foreign governments, and some state or local pension systems. If you are not sure if your pension is from a job that did not pay Social Security taxes, you should contact the person in charge of your former employer’s retirement plan.
If Your Marital Status Changes
If you get married or divorced, you must tell the SSA, as those situations can affect your eligibility for SSDI if you are receiving benefits based on someone else's earnings record. For more information, read our article on disability benefits and getting married.
Changes You Must Report if You Are Receiving SSI
If the Number of People You Live With Changes
You have to tell the SSA if someone moves into or out of your house, or if you start living in someone else’s home or move out of someone else’s home. Any time there is a change in the number of people who live with you, you must report it to the SSA, including if someone you live with dies or if someone you live with has a baby who will also live with you. You need to report this information because it can affect how much "in-kind" income you have.
If your Living Arrangement Changes
If you move in or out of a nursing home or other institution, you should report this to the SSA, as this can affect the amount of your benefits. In addition, in some states you must tell the SSA if your cooking facilities change or your share of living expenses changes.
If Your Income Changes
If you are receiving income other than SSI, you must tell the SSA about any changes to your income. Changes in your income will generally affect your SSI payments in about two months. And if you are married, you should also tell the SSA about any changes in your spouse’s income.
If Your Resources or Assets Change
In order to receive SSI, you can only have up to $2,000 in resources if you are single, and up to $3,000 in resources if you are married. (Resources include things like cash, checking and savings accounts, and stocks and bonds.) You must tell the SSA about assets that you receive and any new financial account that has your name on it, even if you never use the money or account. Depending on what the account is used for, the SSA may be able to help you set up the account so it will not affect your SSI.
If Your Marital Status Changes
If you get married, divorced, or separated (or get back together after a separation), you must tell the SSA, as those situations can affect your income, and thus your eligibility for SSI. For more information, read our article on disability benefits and getting married.
What Happens if You Don’t Report Changes
The SSA has a lot of ways to determine your financial situation, so it is very important that you notify the SSA as soon as one of the above changes occurs to avoid overpayments and penalties.
Overpayments. If you do not report a change and you are overpaid because of it, you will have to pay back that money, even if you've spent it. Your benefits may be stopped until the overpayment is paid off. Read about what the SSA will do when it discovers an overpayment.
Penalties. If you do not report a change to the SSA immediately, you can be penalized by losing money from your monthly payments. This amount can range from $25 to $100.
If the SSA finds out that you purposefully provided the agency with false information, your benefits will be completely stopped for six months. If it is your second violation, your benefits will be stopped for 12 months, and if it is your third violation, you will not receive benefits for 24 months. In addition, penalties for fraud, which includes making false statements or misrepresentations in applying for benefits, can include imprisonment.