If you stopped receiving Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits because you were earning more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit, but then your earnings drop below the SGA level again, Social Security has a faster application process for you to get your benefits reinstated. You can ask for “expedited reinstatement” of your disability benefits and avoid the long application process for new disability applications.
Choosing Between Expedited Reinstatement and a New Application
You have the option of filing an application for expedited reinstatement or filing a new disability application. In most cases, it will make sense to file for expedited reinstatement because you can get provisional benefits right away (see below), and you will not have to endure the long wait from a new application. However, there are a few situations in which a beneficiary may want to file a new application.
If your earnings were significantly higher after your initial disability application was approved than they were before the approval, then you might want to file a new application. The more recent earnings might be high enough to raise your monthly SSDI benefit amount. On the other hand, if you choose expedited reinstatement, your monthly benefit amount would be based on your previous earnings and would not take into account any recent earnings. Social Security can tell you what your monthly benefit amount would be under each scenario so that you can decide if it is worth waiting for a new application to be approved.
If you are receiving Medicare during the time that you are earning over the SGA, there is a risk that you would lose your Medicare if Social Security denied expedited reinstatement on the grounds that your medical condition had improved. Medicare benefits are less likely to end when Social Security denies an initial application.
If you are trying to decide whether you should file an application for expedited reinstatement or a new application, you may want to consult an attorney specializing in Social Security law.
Applying for Expedited Reinstatement
There is a time limit for filing for expedited reinstatement. You must file within five years of when your disability benefits were terminated because you were working too much. Or, be prepared to show Social Security that you have good cause for filing late.
Social Security will have you complete some forms when you ask for expedited reinstatement.
- Request to Reinstate Benefits, SSA-371, is your application for expedited reinstatement. This is the form Social Security will use to calculate the start date for provisional benefits (see below).
- Work Activity Report, SSA-820 is the form Social Security uses to gather information about your work history since you last received SSDI.
- Continuing Disability Report, SSA-454-BK, has questions aimed at determining whether you are still disabled.
- Authorization to Release Medical Records, SSA-827, is the form you sign to give your doctors permission to release your medical records to Social Security, so that the agency can gather updated medical records for your file.
Once the local Social Security office has compiled all of the paperwork for your application for expedited reinstatement, it will forward the application to your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency. When DDS is reviewing your application for expedited reinstatement, it will look to see if you have the same disability that qualified you for benefits previously or a related disability and if your condition has improved. If you have the same or related condition and your disability has not improved, then you will meet the disability standard to have your benefits reinstated.
DDS may send you for a consultative exam if it cannot make a decision based on your medical records. For more information, see our article about how consultative examinations work.
Getting Provisional Disability Benefits
You can get up to six months of disability benefits and Medicare coverage while you wait for Social Security to make a decision on your request for expedited reinstatement. Social Security calls these payments “provisional benefits.” The monthly payments are the amount that you previously received in SSDI, plus normal adjustments for any cost of living increases.
The payments start in the month that you apply for expedited benefits and end in six months, or when Social Security denies your application for expedited reinstatement, whichever comes first. Even if Social Security has not made a decision about your application in six months, the provisional benefits will end. Provisional payments usually don't have to be paid back if you are denied disability benefits.
Getting Approved Through Expedited Reinstatement
If Social Security approves your application for expedited reinstatement, you will start receiving regular monthly disability benefits again. If, at any time, your earnings exceed the SGA limit, your benefits (provisional or regular) will stop.
Learn more about Social Security's trial work period and extended periods of eligibility.