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How Long will My Social Security Disability Benefits Last?

When someone successfully navigates the legal minutiae of the application process to secure disability benefits, an important question needs to be answered – “How long will my Social Security disability benefits last?”

A common misconception is that someone awarded Social Security disability benefits will continue to receive those benefits for the remainder of their life. This is not accurate. Most recipients of disability benefits will only receive those benefits up until they reach retirement age (i.e. 65 years old). If you receive Social Security disability benefits until age 65, at that point the benefits will convert to Social Security retirement benefits.

So, as a general rule (assuming you remain disabled and unable to work), your benefits will likely last until you reach retirement age and, at that point, your disability benefits change to retirement benefits. Despite this general rule, there are certain circumstances where an individual can have their disability benefits revoked before reaching retirement age.

Rationale for Potentially Revoking Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits can be revoked for a variety of reasons. The most common reason for the stoppage of disability benefits is because the recipient had a notable improvement in their disabling condition and can return to work. If you decide to return to work and are able to earn an income from employment, you no longer need the financial assistance of disability benefits. Though, it is important to note that if decide to return to work, your disability benefits will not be revoked immediately. You have the option to earn income on a “trial” basis for up to nine months before your disability benefits are revoked. This trial period is available to ensure you are able to make a successful, long-term transition back to the working world. As a result, if you attempt to return to work, but are unable to continue working while in the nine month trial period, your disability benefits will not end.

Another reason disability benefits will be stopped is because the recipient was convicted of criminal charges and ordered to serve a period of time in jail. If a recipient of disability benefits is in jail for more than 30 days, their benefits will stop. However, it is important to note that incarceration does not mean someone will suffer a permanent revocation of disability benefits. Typically, when someone gets out of jail, they can have disability benefits reinstated at that point.

Another important factor that can result in the revocation of disability benefits is when the recipient is earning too much money. Yes, there are actually statutory limits placed on the amount of income a recipient of disability benefits can earn.

Earned Income Limits for Recipients of Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has placed specific limits in the amount of income that can be earned for recipients of different benefits. There are different earned income limitations placed on disabled individuals versus blind individuals. There are also different income limits placed on recipients of SSDI benefits versus SSI benefits.

A non-blind individual who has been deemed eligible to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits, the income limit is $1,310 per month. If you earn more than $1,310 per month, the SSA typically determinates that you are performing “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) and can revoke your disability benefit payments.

For a blind individual receiving SSDI benefits, the SSA instituted an income limit of $2,190 per month.

If you are receiving benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the SSA placed a limit on the amount you can earn per month to roughly $1,673. If you earn anything in excess of that amount could trigger a red flag with SSA and result in revocation of your benefits. Specifically, SSI benefits could start to be phased out if you earn $794 per month or more over the $1,673 limit.

You may be asking yourself, “How does SSA know what income I earn or what I am able to do physically after they approve my disability benefits application?” Well, this is because SSA routinely conducts reviews and assessments of disability benefit recipients. These assessments are referred to as “Continuing Disability Reviews” and are required for anyone who receives disability benefits. The time between the disability reviews depends primarily on whether or not the recipient’s condition is expected to improve. Though, as a general rules, disability benefits are reviewed on the following schedule:

  • Every 18 months;
  • Every 3 years; or
  • Every 7 years

The review schedule you fall under will depend on your condition and your chances of gainful improvement.

Continuing Disability Reviews – Important Info You Need to Know

The SSA will provide a formal notice advising you that your file is up for a Continuing Disability Review. When you receive this notice, make sure to reply to them in a timely manner. Why? Because if you fail to respond to a review, the SSA could proceed with revoking your disability benefits. Because of this, it is important that all review requests are met and you provide any requested documentation. In certain instances, you may need to meet with an independent physician (which will be coordinated through the Social Security Administration) for a medical examination.

The SSA conducts these periodic reviews of your file to assess whether you remain eligible for disability benefits. The disability reviews generally occur every few years, though the time period in between reviews is typically determined by the severity of your disabling condition and the potential your impairment will actually improve and you can return to gainful employment. It is also important to note that you are required to report any significant changes in your disabling condition to the SSA, even if those changes would result in the revocation of your disability benefits.

As mentioned earlier, if your disability is expected to improve, there is a good chance you will have a disability review every six to 18 months. If you are not determined to have a permanent disability, but the timeframe of the improvement cannot be estimated, you will have likely be subject to a disability review once every three years. If, on the other hand, your disability is considered to be permanent (meaning there is no reasonable expectation for improvement), you will likely be subject to disability review once every seven years, but no more frequently than every five years.

How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Benefits in Effect

To ensure you do not jeopardize your benefits, it is important to stay on top of your condition and any corresponding treatment. Staying on top of your condition generally means scheduling routine doctor’s visits and explaining to your doctor how your diagnosed condition is preventing you from performing normal day-to-day activities so that there are medical records confirming your continued disability. This documentation will be needed for your disability review.

Though, as mentioned, if you remain disabled until reaching the age of 65, then you will be able to keep your disability benefits until you reach retirement age. At that time, your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits.

Have Questions? Take Action to Get Professional Guidance

If you have questions about your eligibility to receive Social Security disability benefits, now is the time for action so you can get answers right away to determine the best path forward. When you fill out an evaluation form on this page, our team will connect you to an experienced and knowledgeable disability benefits attorney to provide advice on your legal options.

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