Social Security Disability Definitions
Social Security Disability and SSI Overview
The Requirements for Disability
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial
Disability Denials and Filing Appeals
Social Security Mental Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits offered through Social Security
Benefits through SSI disability
Disability Benefits for Children
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify
Social Security Disability and Working
Winning your Disability Benefits
Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice
Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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Is there a time limit for how long you can collect Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
There is no time limit for collecting social security disability or SSI disability benefits. This is largely due to the way that the social security administration views disability benefits.
When you are approved to receive monthly benefits, it is only after an extensive review of both your medical records and work history has been conducted. And whether your approval was granted by a disability judge at a hearing office, or by a disability examiner who handled your case at the disability application level (or reconsideration appeal level), the process for determining your benefits was the same. That process really boils down to the conclusion that--
A) You cannot work and earn a substantial gainful living, either by doing your past work, or by attempting to do some type of other work
B) That your condition is both totally disabling and potentially permanently disabling.
What do we mean by "potentially permanently disabling"? Simply that social security views all approved claims as situations in which a person may always be disabled and unable to work. Nonetheless, social security also holds open the possibility that a claimant's condition may undergo medical improvement to the point that they can re-enter the workforce and earn a living.
Medical improvement can only be verified through medical records and this is why all approved disability claims are scheduled to be reviewed at certain intervals.
Some cases will be reviewed each year, and some will be reviewed no sooner than every seven years. For the most part, though, the majority of cases will undergo a CDR, or continuing disability review, every three years (note: many cases that are "diaried" for three year reviews are often not actually reviewed until the fourth or fifth year, due to heavy workloads in social security field offices).
However, regardless of when a claimant's continuing disability review occurs, the fact remains that the vast majority of claims are continued (i.e. "re-approved") upon review, which simply means that very individuals ever have their disability benefits stopped due to the conclusion that they were no longer disabled.
As we said, whether or not social security can take someone off benefits at the time of their review hinges upon "medical improvement". Medical improvement is very difficult to prove on a disability case. And it is especially difficult for the social security adminisration to prove if the claimant received their disability approval from an administrative law judge at a disability hearing.
Disability judges tend to be more balanced in their decision-making, whereas disability examiners must report to unit supervisors who attempt to keep down the number of approvals (due to a culture of denial that exists in most DDS agencies).
Yet disability examiners, who make the decisions on continuing disability reviews (CDRs), must abide by what was set in place by a judge if the claimant's previous approval was made by a judge.
In short, there is no time limit for how long a person can collect disability benefits. And if a person is approved to receive disability benefits, the chances are good that they will continue to receive them for the remainder of their lifetime, unless they attempt to go back to work.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions
Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews