Do I receive Social Security Disability for the rest of my life?

Do I receive Social Security Disability for the rest of my life?

You may receive Social Security Disability benefits until it converts automatically to full retirement benefits at your full retirement age. Basically, Social Security is just changing the fund that you receive your monthly benefit from. Having said that, there are situations that may cause your Social Security Disability benefits to terminate prior to full retirement age. The main causes of Social Security Disability termination are work activity and medical improvement.

Medical improvement - When you are approved for disability benefits, your disability case receives a future review date. These reviews are called continuing disability reviews (CDR) and everyone has to have them. So if you receive a notification that your disability claim is being reviewed, there is no need to be overly concerned. You have not been singled out.

You will be asked to complete forms that provide information about your disabling condition, medical treatment, medications, and any potential work activity. Once Social Security gets the information, they send it to the state disability agency for a disability determination. If your medical information does not indicate medical improvement (your condition has improved so that you no longer meet disability guidelines), your disability benefits will be continued. Note: they typically are continued as most people's condition will continue to meet the definition of disability so that they will still qualify for disability benefits.

Work - If you are disabled and you return to work, your earnings could cause your disability benefits to be suspended or even terminated. You are entitled to a nine month trial work period (TWP); After that, you have an extended period of eligibility (EPE) that lasts for an additional 36 months. The EPE allows you to start receiving disability benefits that have been suspended because of work if your disabling condition causes you to again be unable to work. If you work one month after your EPE, your disability benefits will be terminated. Work activity can trigger a continuing disability review, and if you are found to have medically improved your benefits will be terminated.

Social Security Disability is about functionality and the ability to maintain employment. This is what will determine if you will be approved for disability. Your Social Security Disability benefits will not last a lifetime if you are shown to have medically improved to a level that suggests you are no longer disabled. If you remain unable to work and there is no indication of medical improvement, you will remain on Social Security Disability until full retirement age when you convert to retirement benefits.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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