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How Long Can You Collect Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefit payments continue for as long as the recipient remains “disabled” according to the Social Security Administration’s definition, or until the recipient reaches full retirement age.
Answering questions like this are a central part of our daily duties at MJ Ellis Disability Law. In our 25 years of experience as successful disability lawyer here in Northern New Jersey, our team knows how important your disability claim is and how confusing some of the details might be for our clients. We want all our clients to get all their questions answered. In this blog post, you will learn how long Social Security Disability benefits continue, and some of the ways you can continue to receive your full monthly SSD benefit payments even if you try to return to work.
Why You Qualify for SSD Benefits and Why You Keep Getting SSD Benefits
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, every claimant must have worked and paid taxes on their income for long enough to accumulate the required number of “work credits.” You can get only four work credits per year people generally need 40 work credits to qualify for SSD benefits. That means you need to work at least 10 years earning taxable income.
The payroll taxes or self-employment taxes you paid for years of work help pay for the fund that will pay your Social Security retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age. When you become disabled before you reach full retirement age, your monthly Social Security Disability benefit payment is the same amount you would receive at full retirement. You can look at it as though you were getting early retirement because of your disability.
SSD Benefits Change to Social Security Retirement Benefits
When you reach your full retirement age, your Social Security Disability payment will simply be transferred over to the Social Security Retirement (SSR) program, but your benefits will remain the same. Each year, when the benefit amount is raised through a cost-of-living allowance (COLA), both SSD recipients and Social Security Retirement recipients receive the same COLA increase.
SSD Benefits Stop When You No Longer Meet Definition of “Disabled”
The Social Security Disability program is only for people who suffer long-term disability. If you are permanently disabled or your severe impairment is one which is unlikely to improve, you will probably continue to receive SSD benefit payments until the time your benefits turn into retirement benefits.
The SSD program does pay benefits to anyone who has a short-term disability, no matter how severe the illness or injury. Only those who have already been disabled for 12 months and those whose disability is expected to last at least 12 months are eligible for benefit payments.
The definition requires that you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has or is expected to last 12 months, AND which prevents you from performing substantial gainful activities (earn more than $1,350 in any month in 2022)(But see Trial Work Period below).
While many disabilities are permanent and severe, others are severe for a few years before beginning to improve. If your disability claim is based on an impairment that is subject to improvement over time with the right treatment, the Social Security Administration may determine that your condition is no longer sufficiently disabling to continue receiving benefits.
The law requires the Social Security Administration to conduct “Continuing Disability Reviews” (CDRs) at regular intervals. The SSA schedules these CDRs according to the nature of the claimant’s claimed disability. For claims based on impairments that are unlikely to improve, a CDR occurs every 5 to 7 years. If a claim is such that medical improvement is possible, a CDR will be scheduled every 3 years. And if a disability is likely to improve, a CDR can be scheduled anywhere from every 6 to 18 months.
Appeal Any Notice to Terminate Benefits
If you are already receiving SSD or SSI benefits based on a qualifying impairment or a combination of impairments and you receive a notice terminating your benefits following a CDR, contact an experienced disability lawyer immediately. MJ Ellis Disability Law has been successful fighting benefit terminations and you must appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving the termination notice. Your benefits will continue throughout the period the appeal is pending. If you do not appeal, your benefits may stop after one or two months.
Working and the Trial Work Period (TWP)
A claim for SSD benefits is approved when it is evident that the claimant cannot perform substantial gainful activities (called SGA, meaning work) that will earn more than $1,350 in a month. That’s the 2022 value of SGA.
If you do return to work or earn more than the $1,350 SGA limit, you are no longer eligible for SSD benefits, UNLESS you participate in the Trial Work Period (TWP) program. The Trial Work Period program allows SSD claimants to try working without losing their monthly SSD benefit payments. The TWP allows you to work for any nine months and earn an unlimited amount of pay while you also get the SSD payment. The 9 months can be spread out over 5 years or successive. Then, after the 9 months are used, you have an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) of 36 months. During the EPE, if your pay falls below the SGA pay cap, you will receive an SSD benefit payment for that month.