It can take a colossal effort to navigate the Social Security system and obtain disability benefits. Even when you qualify because you worked long enough in covered jobs and have a disability as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the paperwork and appeals may feel like impossible hurdles. Because of the effort it takes to obtain benefits in the first place, keeping them is a number one priority. But how long can you receive disability benefits?
In general, Social Security disability benefits continue as long as people have a disability that prevents them from working again. When you reach full retirement age, disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits. However, the SSA reviews your case on occasion to determine whether you still have a qualifying disability. How often the SSA reviews your case depends on whether your medical condition is expected to improve:
- Expected improvements are usually reviewed six to 18 months after benefits start.
- Possible improvements are normally reviewed after three years.
- Cases involving disabilities that are not expected to improve are usually reviewed after seven years.
If your health improves to the point that the SSA decides you are no longer disabled, you may no longer be eligible for disability benefits.
In addition to medical improvements, if you return to a substantial level of work, you may also lose your disability benefits. As of 2014, the SSA considered average earnings of $1,070 or more per month, or $1,800 or more per month in cases of blindness, substantial earnings. Although substantial work may disqualify you from receiving disability benefits, the SSA provides certain work incentives, which may include the following:
- Trial work period and expedited benefit reinstatement
- Extended eligibility period and continued cash benefits
- Medicare or Medicaid
- Help with education, training and rehabilitation
- Disability-related work expenses
Just like obtaining benefits in the first place, keeping them can sometimes prove difficult. If the SSA attempts to decrease or discontinue disability benefits you believe you are still entitled to receive, speak to a seasoned SSD attorney who can help you protect your rights.