Can Taking Certain Medications Cost You SSDI Benefits?
Managing a disability usually requires following a complex treatment plan that includes taking a number of medications to address pain and other forms of dysfunction. These medications are often one of the few medical options that make a noticeable difference in a person’s ability to get through the day with some degree of normalcy, and are also used as an indicator of how disabled a person is for purposes of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Medication and SSDI benefits are a tricky issue, however. While SSDI disability claimants are not required to take medication to be approved for benefits, if certain medications could improve a condition, and a person elects not to take them, the Social Security Administration (SSA) could use this decision to question how disabled a person is. On the other hand, many medications used to treat disabling conditions create side effects that diminish a person’s capacity to function in the work environment, which could support a finding of disability. There is no specific medication that will automatically qualify someone for disability benefits because every person reacts differently to medications, even chemotherapy, which is known to be toxic to the body over time. Thus, medication side effects could be a factor in the evaluation of a person’s ability to perform work, but the underlying disabling condition must still be severe enough to compromise his/her functional capacity. Further, the SSA will not award SSDI benefits to those addicted to or abusing illegal drugs, regardless of the how disabling the drugs may be, unless it is connected with a severe psychiatric condition that cripples a person’s ability to control their actions. Additionally, SSDI recipients taking medically-approved marijuana for the management of pain and other problems are worried they could lose benefits in light of the continued illegality of marijuana at the federal level. An overview of the how medication could affect the continued receipt of SSDI benefits, and other circumstances that could cause the termination of monthly benefits, will follow below.
Improvement to Condition Due to Medication or Other Factors
Once benefits are awarded, the issue with medications is no longer the severity of side effects, but whether the drug improves a person’s condition to the point that a return to work is possible. As new drug therapies become available, SSDI recipients could see their benefits go away if a particular medication sufficiently alleviates their symptoms so that work is now feasible. An improvement in a person’s medical condition is the most common reason disability benefits are cut-off, and the SSA performs periodic assessments, typically every three to seven years, of an SSDI recipient’s continued disability. The stoppage of medical treatment is one of the first things the SSA will evaluate, and it assumes it means a person is no longer disabled. Unfortunately, this stance does not account for those who give up on pursuing treatment for complicated conditions, or those unable to afford effective treatment.
Earning Too Much Income
For 2017, SSDI recipients are permitted to earn some income, up to $1,170 a month, but if someone returns to work full-time or for an extended period, the SSA will view this as engaging in a “substantial gainful activity (SGA).” A finding of SGA by the SSA means a person is no longer eligible for benefits because he/she is not considered disabled. The SSA does offer a work program for disability benefit recipients so these individuals can determine if working is possible without losing benefits, but this only lasts for a specified period of time (nine months), although participation does exempt someone from a medical review of disability during the trial period.
Additionally, income received from pensions, alimony and public assistance, such as free housing, would also count towards a person’s monthly income, and could render him/her ineligible for disability benefits if it exceeds the allowable maximum.
Talk to a Disability Insurance Attorney
Getting and keeping disability benefits is a critical issue for anyone dealing with a disabling condition or impairment. If you have concerns about obtaining or retaining benefits, talk to a disability insurance attorney as soon as possible. Strict deadlines to appeal the denial or termination of benefits must be satisfied to avoid filing a brand-new application for benefits. Farrell Disability Law has years of experience getting the benefits clients deserve, and is available to help you with your disability claim. If you live in Jacksonville, Orange Park, Middleburg or the surrounding areas, contact us for a free consultation.