When someone has paid enough into the Social Security trust fund, that person is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if he or she becomes disabled and cannot work. A disabled person who has not paid enough into the Social Security trust fund may still be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. In Southern California, if you need to receive disability benefits through either of these programs, start by consulting an experienced Los Angeles Social Security disability attorney.

If you receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) through either SSDI or SSI, you are obligated by law to report any changes that may impact your qualifications to receive benefits. Changes that may affect your benefits must be reported to the Social Security Administration immediately – no later than the tenth day of the month after the change takes place.

Notify the SSA by phone, mail, or in person whenever a change occurs that could affect your benefits. The changes you need to report include a change of address or income. If you are traveling outside the U.S. for thirty or more consecutive days, the SSA needs to know that too.

If you receive disability benefits, any change in your medical condition must also be reported. Have your claim number with you when you report a change. If your benefits are based on your own work, your claim number is your Social Security number followed by the letters “H-A.”

If your benefits are based on someone else’s work, the award notice you received when your payments began shows your claim number. You also should be prepared to give the date that the change took place.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DECEIVE THE SSA OR FAIL TO REPORT A CHANGE?

Changes in your life can change your benefits. You may be owed extra payments, or you may have been overpaid, which means you need to pay back the overpayment amount. In some cases, if you fail to report a change as required or in a timely manner, the SSA may apply a penalty that will reduce your benefits.

If you intentionally make a false statement to the SSA, your disability benefits will temporarily cease. For the first violation, benefits are stopped for six months; for the second violation, 12 months; and for the third, 24 months.

If you take a job or become self-employed while receiving disability benefits, no matter how little you earn, you must tell the SSA. If you still suffer from a qualifying disability, you will qualify to work for a trial work period, and you can keep receiving disability benefits for up to nine months. If you return to work, the SSA wants to know about any special work expenses required because of your disability – such as specialized equipment, a wheelchair, or even prescription drugs, and the SSA also needs to know when there’s any change in the amount of those expenses.

Disability benefits through SSDI or SSI may be reduced if you also qualify for your state’s workers’ compensation program or if you’re eligible for disability benefits through certain federal, state, or local government programs. You must tell the Social Security Administration if you apply for another type of disability benefit, if you receive another disability benefit or a lump-sum settlement, or if any of your benefits change or stop.

WHAT IS THE “TICKET TO WORK” PROGRAM?

The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program was established by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that is designed to help people who are receiving disability benefits “find good jobs, good careers, and better self-supporting futures.” If you are offered and accept employment as a result of your participation in the Ticket to Work program, you must notify the Social Security Administration.

If you change financial institutions or open a new bank account, be sure to tell the bank that you want direct deposit for your SSDI or SSI benefits. You can change your direct deposit information online (if you have a “My Social Security” account) or over the telephone.

Have your new and old bank account numbers handy when you call the SSA. Changing someone’s direct deposit information takes the SSA about thirty to sixty days. Do not close your old account until you are certain that your SSDI or SSI benefits are going to the new account.

The Social Security Administration needs to know if you begin to receive a pension from a job for which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes – for example, a pension from the federal civil service system, some state or local pension systems, nonprofit organizations, or a foreign government. Receiving a pension from a job for which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes may reduce your disability benefits. The SSA also needs to know if the amount of that pension changes.

ARE DISABILITY BENEFITS AFFECTED BY MARRIAGE OR DIVORCE?

If you marry or divorce, your SSDI or SSI benefits may be affected, depending on the kind of benefits you receive. If your benefits are stopped because of a marriage or a remarriage, they may begin again if the marriage ends.

If you change your name through marriage, divorce, or court order, you need to tell the SSA immediately. If you don’t, and you have direct deposit, the payments may not reach your account, and if you receive checks, you may have difficulty cashing them if your identification differs from the name on your check.

You are required to tell the Social Security Administration if you have an outstanding arrest warrant for flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, for escape from custody, or for any flight-related or escape-related crime. You cannot receive disability benefits or any underpayments that may be owed to you for any month in which there is an outstanding arrest warrant for any of these offenses.

You also must tell Social Security immediately if you are convicted of a crime. Disability benefits or underpayments that may be owed to you cannot be paid for the months a person is incarcerated for a crime. Anyone charged with a crime who is found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity cannot receive disability benefits while confined to any institution by a court order and at public expense.

In Southern California, if you have any questions regarding disability qualifications and benefits, or if you have any questions about changes that must be reported to the SSA, your questions can be answered by an experienced Los Angeles Social Security disability attorney. You can report changes in your life as required by the SSA online at www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling toll free at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hearing-impaired, call TTY 1-800-325-0778. You can also mail the information to your local Social Security office or go there in person if you prefer.