What determines how long I can keep my Disability Benefits under SSD or SSI?

Social Security Disability benefits do not time out or have a set termination date. You can keep your Social Security Disability benefits until you turn full retirement age. At full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to full retirement benefits. This will change nothing for you as far as receiving a monthly benefit. It does however relieve you of periodic disability reviews and there is no limit to the amount of work you can do.

However, there are no guarantees as to how long you can keep your disability benefits either before you get to retirement age and they convert over. There are conditions or situations that could terminate your disability benefits. I can think of two common reasons for termination of disability benefits. They are medical improvement and work activity.

All Social Security Disability claims are periodically reviewed for medical improvement. Social Security Disability claims are set for review every three years at the time they are approved. Some disability claims receive diary review dates of less or more than three years if the disability decision maker feels that the person is more likely to improve sooner or there is very little or no chance for medical improvement.

If the decision maker sets a seven year diary for review it is considered a permanent disability.

During these continuing disability reviews, your medical records are examined to determine if your doctors or records indicate your disabling condition has improved. If the records show your condition or conditions have improved, your disability benefits may be medically terminated.

Social Security does allow you to appeal the disability medical termination, however your benefits will remain terminated if you do not win your appeal. This does not mean that you would not be allowed to file for disability again and if you are approved you may be able to resume disability benefits.

As I mentioned above, the other situation that might cause you to be unable to keep your disability benefits is work activity. If you have returned to work you should contact your local Social Security office for information. Work activity can cause your disability benefits to be suspended or terminated. Social Security performs work continuing disability reviews as well as medical reviews.

If Social Security becomes aware of earnings being reported to your record, your disability claim will be reviewed for work activity. Your work may not cause any change in your eligibility for disability or it could result in a termination or suspension of your disability benefits. Suspensions or terminations could not only cause you not to be able to keep your disability benefits but to be overpaid as well.

Social Security considers it your responsibility to know how work can affect your disability entitlement; consequently you may have to repay any overpayment of benefits caused by your failure to report your work activity timely.

It is just good policy to speak with Social Security when you are considering a return to work so that you can make an informed decision about returning to work. You are able to work some while on disability but it can be confusing so find out the information you need.

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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