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Question of the Month: How Long Will My Social Security Disability Benefits Last?

July 8, 2016

Once you are approved for Social Security disability your benefit payments will last until one of three things happen:

  • You reach retirement age;
  • Your medical condition improves and you are able to return to work;
  • You start working and earn too much money.

Retirement Age

For both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), once you reach your retirement age your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.  Some receiving SSI prior to retirement age will receive a different amount once they reach early retirement age. It will depend on your benefit amount.

Your Medical Condition Improves

If your medical situation improves to the extent that you are no longer disabled, your Social Security disability payments will end. Social Security periodically assesses SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with what is known as a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) to determine whether a recipient still qualifies for disability benefits. Typically a CDR will be scheduled every three to seven years. But due to the backlogs at the Social Security Administration (SSA), a CDR may be delayed beyond the scheduled review time. In most cases, benefits are continued after a CDR.

Earning Too Much Money

SSA says that if you are engaged in work (even part-time work) that results in what SSA calls “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) you may not be eligible for disability benefits.  The rules about that are complicated and are often misunderstood.  While they have, for example, rules that encourage people who are already receiving benefits to explore their ability to return to work, those rules are often misunderstood.  SSA mandates that if you are working, it is entitled to know all about it.