How Long Do I Get To Keep My Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits?

Social Security has no set length of time that you can keep your disability benefits. You may receive Social Security Disability benefits for a lifetime provided your medical condition has not improved or you have not gone back to work earning above the substantial gainful activity monthly earnings limit. (current SGA monthly earnings amount).

Periodic reviews of your claim

All Social Security Disability beneficiaries have periodic continuing disability reviews. These continuing disability reviews are to ascertain if you have had any medical improvement since you filed for disability benefits or since your last continuing disability review. If you have been unable to work and have no medical records that suggest your disabling condition has improved, you will continue to receive disability benefits.

If you have worked some but your earnings have not been over the SGA monthly earning amount, there is little chance that your disability benefits will be stopped. Social Security will initiate a continuing work review for all disability beneficiaries who have worked since their last decision, or are currently working at the time of their continuing disability review, as well as those who are not scheduled for continuing medical reviews.

Going back to work can trigger a review

This, of course, means that work activity can cause you to have a continuing disability review earlier than the normal periodic review date. To complete a work review, Social Security contacts all employers since your last disability decision for a monthly breakdown of your earnings. They allow nine trial work months (they do not have to be consecutive) in which your earnings can be any amount during a five-year period.

If your earnings are over the SGA monthly amount in the tenth month, your monthly disability benefits will be suspended from that point on for any month that your earnings are over the SGA monthly earnings limit.

Performance of SGA in the tenth month also begins a thirty-six month extended period of eligibility in which your disability benefits can be reinstated for any month you are not working over the SGA monthly limit. However, if you are not earning over the SGA limit in the tenth month, your disability benefits will continue and your extended period of eligibility will begin if you perform SGA at any time in the future.

Once you are out of the extended period of eligibility or EPE, any month in which your earnings are over SGA will cause your disability benefits to be terminated.

Still, Social Security allows you to file for expedited reinstatement of disability benefits with provisional payments for six months if you file within five years of your disability benefits being terminated due to work activity--provided you have the same disabling conditions.

Most individuals keep their benefits following a review

The vast majority of disability beneficiaries are not able to return to work activity at SGA level, nor do they have medical evidence that would suggest medical improvement. Therefore, most disability beneficiaries keep their disability benefits for a lifetime. At full retirement age, your disability benefits will become full retirement benefits (there will be no change in your monthly monetary amount). This simply means you are treated like a retiree with regard to work activity.

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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These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Getting a Disability Lawyer in Arkansas

If you apply for disability in Arkansas

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?