When you start getting your disability benefits, it appears that you and the Social Security Administration (SSA) are now in correspondences with each other. You provided sufficient proof that you were truly disabled and are unable to work due to a medical condition. Not only that, but also that your disability isn’t temporary and you expect to be disabled for at least one year. But now, you will need to continuously prove to the SSA that you should still be awarded disability benefits that took so long to get.
Fraud is a serious issue for the SSA, and they have to address it every day. When someone gets benefits under pretenses, they are committing fraud. Fraud is becoming more prevalent since the recession, and the SSA is putting more resources into discovering and punishing fraudulent acts involving Social Security disability benefits, starting with its consistent evaluations of each recipient’s disability status. No one wants to have to defend themselves from a fraud claim, especially if you’re not guilty. So stay ahead and use the following tips to avoid a fraud investigation:
- Keep SSA Informed Regarding Your Work Status. Notify the SSA of any changes in your employment, which may include your work hours, the type of work, and how much you’re earning. Hiding that you’re working or lying about your work status is considered as fraud to the SSA.
- If You Work, Stay Below the Maximum Income Amount. Stay aware of the SSA’s “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) amount. The SGA amount is $1,180 a month, gross for 2018. If you’re blind, the SGA amount increases to $1,970 a month, gross. So if you’re working or plan on working while receiving Social Security disability benefits, pay extremely close attention to how much you’re earning and never exceed the maximum earning limit. Earning more than the maximum amount without alerting the SSA is considered fraud.
- SSI Benefits Can Only Be Paid in the U.S. If you move internationally, you need to let Social Security know that immediately and understand that your Social Security disability benefits will be suspended. Keeping your SSD benefits while living outside of the U.S. is also fraud.
- Report Your Eligibility for Other Disability Benefits. If you learn that you’re eligible to earn different forms of disability benefits, alert the Social Security Administration. The SSA will adjust your disability benefits accordingly to a loss of payments or additional payments from other sources. If you apply for other disability benefits or if you receive a sum of money relating to your disability, let the SSA know. An example would be a litigation settlement. The SSA will consider your behavior fraudulent if you do not alert them of all other outside disability benefits that you’re collecting.
- Report Changes in Your Situation. If you’ve moved domestically or your work situation changes, you need to report that to the SSA. Changes that the SSA needs to be aware of are the death of a spouse, divorce, losing custody of a minor who is receiving benefits, the death of someone for whom you have been receiving benefits, being convicted of a crime, moving, or changing your name. If you refuse to alert the SSA about any of these changes, you will be seen as committing fraud. If you aren’t certain what change is necessary to report, it’s better to be safe than sorry so just alert the SSA as soon as possible.
- If Your Disability or Medical Condition Improves. If your medical condition improves enough so that you can begin working again, notify Social Security asap. It’s obviously very tempting to continue to collect Social Security disability benefits to help support yourself even after finding a job, but doing so would be committing fraud since you actually no longer need government assistance.
To conclude, the best things you can do to avoid being accused of fraud are:
- Constantly speak with the Social Security Administration.
- Learn and stay up to date with any rule and regulation changes that could pertain to you.
- Notify the SSA of any medical, personal, and work status changes.