Disabled workers who receive Social Security disability benefits must understand that the federal government may terminate those much-needed benefits. In 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) ceased providing benefit payments to 870,827 disabled workers.
The government was not callous about doing so for it had legitimate reasons. There were a couple good ones: the worker reached full retirement age or recovered from the medical illness and was able to return to work. And there was one not-so-good reason: the death of the disabled worker.
Retirement, death, return to work
The number of disabled workers who had their SSD benefits terminated in 2019 represents the second most since 1960. The only year on record to have more was 2018, which recorded 876,857 workers having their SSD benefits terminated.
The top three reasons why workers had their SSD benefits terminated in 2019 were:
- The disabled worker attained full retirement age: 520,905 (59.8%) Full retirement age in 2019 was 66 years old. The SSD benefit then gets automatically changed to retired worker benefits.
- Death of the beneficiary: 240,514 (27.6%) Sadly, more than 1 out of 4 disabled workers who received SSD benefits died before their full retirement age. In these scenarios, dependents who are eligible may receive survivor benefits.
- Does not meet medical standards: 104,669 (12%) In many of these situations, the worker no longer has a disability, has recovered from his or her medical ailment and has reentered the workforce. Those who returned to work (55,850) accounted for more than half of the terminations in this category. Another reason for benefits termination: a disabled worker’s failure to cooperate.
A disabled worker must understand that those SSD benefits may eventually convert to retirement benefits if he or she reaches full retirement age. You should not view the termination of SSD benefits as a negative thing, either.