For How Long Can You Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

by May 31, 2017

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There no set date that Social Security disability benefits will end, though several factors could trigger the end of these benefits. Among them:

  • Type of Social Security disability benefits you receive
  • Medical improvement
  • Your earnings
  • Your age
  • Incarceration

We encourage you to review the factors that affect when and if your Social Security disability benefits end, and to speak with a lawyer if you believe the Social Security Administration (SSA) unfairly ends your benefits. You can reach us at 865-566-0800 to speak with a lawyer about your case.

How does the type of Social Security disability benefits affect when they end?

First, let’s review the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

  • SSDI: These benefits are for people who became disabled and have sufficient work credits, which they earn when they pay Social Security taxes on their income.
  • SSI: These need-based benefits are for people who are disabled, blind, or aged (65 and older) and who have limited income and assets. There is no work credit requirement.

Thus, the factors that might affect when and if disability benefits end depends on whether you receive SSDI or SSI. For example, as discussed below, the type of disability benefits you receive may affect whether your benefits end when you turn 65; whether your income ends your benefits; and even whether medical improvement affects your benefits.

How does medical improvement affect my disability benefits?

Periodically, your disability will be subject to review, called a “continuing disability review.” Essentially, the SSA wants to know you are still disabled and unable to work.

The frequency of these reviews varies, depending on the severity of your disability. If the SSA expects you will improve relatively quickly, you may be subject to a review every three years, or sooner in some cases. In other cases, you may not be subject to a review for five years or more. Children are subject to a review when they reach adulthood, i.e., turn 18, and then subject to reviews as any other adult.

The review consists of filling out a form that asks questions about whether you have or are working, whether your condition improved, your doctor visits, and more. There are two forms you might receive:

  • Disability Update Report, a two-page form with short, basic questions sent to people whose condition the SSA does not expect to improve.
  • Continuing Disability Review Report, a longer form that may follow the short form if the SSA has reason to believe your disability improved, or if the SSA otherwise expects your disability to improve.

You will be subject to a continuing disability review if you receive SSDI. If you receive SSI, you will be subject to disability reviews if you get SSI based on a disability. If you get SSI based on age, you may not be subject to disability reviews. Further, if you get SSI based on disability and the SSA finds your condition improved, you may be eligible for SSI based on other factors like age.

Will I lose my Social Security disability benefits if I work?

As with evaluating your medical improvement, the SSA will evaluate whether you are working or can work periodically. In fact, if the SSA finds after the continuing disability review that your disability improved, it will then evaluate whether this affects your ability to work.

However, going back to work does not automatically trigger the end of your disability benefits. If you earn less than what the SSA considers substantial gainful activity (SGA), then you may continue to receive benefits. But if your income exceeds SGA, your benefits may end.

In 2017, SGA is $1,170 for non-blind individuals and $1,950 for blind individuals receiving SSDI; the income limit is $735 for individuals receiving SSI.

Learn more about income limits as they apply to Social Security disability benefits.

How does my age affect my Social Security disability benefits?

Individuals who are 65 and older may continue to receive SSI benefits, as SSI is for people who are disabled, blind, or aged (65 and older). But individuals 65 and older may not receive SSDI.

However, when an individual receiving SSDI reaches the age of 65, or retirement age, SSDI benefits simply convert to retirement benefits. So while disability benefits “stop,” the individual still receives retirement benefits

Can I collect Social Security disability while in jail?

If you are in jail for longer than 30 days, SSDI and SSI benefits will be on a temporary hold. If your dependents are eligible for Social Security benefits, those benefits will continue, however.

Incarceration does not outright end benefits. The SSA may reinstate your benefits when you get out of jail. If you get SSI benefits and are in jail for 12 months, you will have to reapply for SSI when you get out.

The SSA is ending my disability benefits. What can I do?

If you receive notice that the SSA is ending your disability benefits, we encourage you to contact the Disability Advantage Group immediately. Our disability lawyers will review your case to determine if there are any means by which we may fight to continue your benefits. Call us at 865-566-0800 to set up a consultation about your case.