If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, you may be wondering how long you can keep them.
In essence, disability benefits provide income support to individuals unable to work due to a medical condition. But what if your condition improves or worsens over time? How often will Social Security review your case and what factors will they consider?
In this article, we will answer these questions and more, so you can have a clear understanding of how long you can stay on Social Security disability benefits.
What are Social Security disability benefits?
Monthly payments for Social Security disability benefits are available to individuals who have a medical condition preventing them from working for a minimum of 12 months or leading to an anticipated fatality. There are two types of disability benefits:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSDI benefits are based on your work history and the amount of Social Security taxes you paid.
To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years and earned enough work credits.
The number of work credits you need depends on your age when you became disabled. Typically, you require 40 credits, with 20 credits earned within the last 10 years, concluding in the year your disability commenced.
How much does Supplemental Security Income pay per month?
SSI benefits are based on your income and resources.
To qualify for SSI, you must have limited income and assets, and meet other eligibility criteria.
The maximum SSI benefit amount for 2023 is $794 per month for an individual and $1,191 per month for a couple.
However, your actual benefit amount may be lower depending on your income, living arrangements, and state supplements.
Social Security periodically reviews both SSDI and SSI benefits to assess your continued eligibility for payments based on your disability status.
What is considered to be a permanent disability?
A permanent disability is a lasting impairment that affects your ability to work or perform normal activities.
It can be physical or mental, and it can result from an injury or illness.
If you possess a permanent disability, you could qualify for benefits, regardless of your ability to return to work.
Organizations may vary in their interpretation of permanent disability, but typically, it encompasses a condition that hinders your involvement in any significant gainful activity, such as employment. This condition is anticipated to endure for a minimum of one year or ultimately lead to fatality.
How often will Social Security review your disability case?
Social Security conducts a continuing disability review (CDR) of your case approximately every three to seven years depending on the nature and severity of your medical condition and whether it is expected to improve.
A CDR is a process by which Social Security evaluates your medical evidence and work activity to see if you still meet the definition of disability.
The frequency and timing of CDRs depend on how Social Security categorizes your impairment:
- Medical Improvement Expected (MIE): If your condition is expected to improve with treatment or time, you will have a CDR six to 18 months after the start of your benefits.
- Medical Improvement Possible (MIP): If your condition may improve but the outcome is uncertain, you will have a CDR every three years.
- Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE): If your condition is unlikely to improve or is terminal, you will have a CDR every seven years.
The initial award notice you receive when your claim for benefits is approved will tell you when to expect your first CDR.
You will also receive a notice in the mail before each CDR, asking you to provide updated information about your medical condition, treatment, tests, doctors, hospitalizations, and work history.
You may also be asked to undergo a medical exam or test paid by Social Security.
What happens if Social Security decides that you are no longer disabled?
If Social Security determines that your condition has improved enough for you to work, your benefits will stop.
However, before terminating your benefits, Social Security will consider several factors, such as:
- The type and severity of your impairment
- The duration and frequency of your treatment
- The results of any medical tests or exams
- The effects of any medication or therapy
- The impact of your impairment on your daily activities and ability to work
- The availability of suitable work in your area
If Social Security determines that you are no longer disabled, they will send you a notice that explains the reason for their decision and informs you of your right to appeal.
You have 60 days from the date of the notice to request an appeal.
If you appeal within 10 days, you can ask to continue receiving your benefits until a decision is made on your appeal.
However, if you lose the appeal, you may have to pay back any benefits you received during the appeal process.
What are some ways to protect your disability benefits?
There are some steps you can take to ensure that you continue receiving your disability benefits as long as you are eligible.
- Following your doctor’s orders and keeping up with your treatment regimen
- Reporting any changes in your medical condition, income, resources, living arrangements, or marital status to Social Security
- Keeping copies of all your medical records and receipts
- Cooperating with Social Security during the CDR process and providing all the requested information
- Seeking legal help if you disagree with a decision by Social Security
Additionally, there are some special rules and work incentives that allow you to work while receiving disability benefits without losing them. These include:
- Trial Work Period (TWP)
- Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
- Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)
- Subsidy and Special Conditions
- Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)
For more information on these and other work incentives, you can visit Social Security’s website or contact your local Social Security office.
Social Security periodically reviews your eligibility for disability benefits to assess if you remain disabled and entitled to payments.
The frequency and timing of these reviews depend on the nature and severity of your medical condition and the anticipated potential for improvement.
If Social Security determines that your disability has ceased, they will discontinue your benefits. However, you retain the right to challenge this decision through the appeals process.
There are also some special rules and work incentives that allow you to work while receiving disability benefits without losing them.
By following your doctor’s orders, reporting any changes in your situation, keeping copies of your medical records, cooperating with Social Security during the review process, and seeking legal help if needed, you can protect your disability benefits and ensure that you receive them as long as you are eligible.