Once your Social Security Disability application is approved, you may wonder how long you will receive benefits. Is there a certain number of weeks after which benefits stop? Are you going to be paid benefits forever?
These questions are important, and the answers can affect your livelihood for years to come. The knowledgeable Social Security Disability lawyers in Phoenix at the Dayes Law Firm can explain how long your benefits are expected to last and what conditions may cause you to lose benefits.
Duration of Benefits
Social Security Disability benefits usually start on the sixth month of disability. Before you start receiving your benefits, you will receive a notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that explains how much your benefits will be and when you will start receiving them.
Generally, these benefits will continue as long as you remain sufficiently disabled and are unable to go to work. Benefits will stop if your condition improves and you are no longer considered disabled or you are able to go back to work. Even serious illnesses or injuries from catastrophic accidents can improve thanks to advances in treatment practices and rehabilitation techniques.
This is one of the reasons why you have the duty to report any of the following changes to the SSA, as they could impact your eligibility for benefits:
- Returning to work
- Experiencing improvements in your medical condition
- Being able to work more hours than before (sometimes people qualify for benefits even though they can do a small amount of work)
Your disability benefits will automatically end when you reach full retirement age. You will start receiving Social Security retirement benefits instead, but they will be paid at the same rate as disability benefits.
Review of Your Medical Condition
As a recipient of Social Security Disability benefits, you are subject to periodic medical reviews of your case to determine if you still meet the eligibility criteria to continue receiving disability benefits. If the review shows that your condition has medically improved and you are capable of returning to work, your benefits may stop.
The frequency of these continuing disability reviews is based on the severity of your condition and its likelihood of improving. Your initial award notice will inform you of when your first review will be.
Generally, the timeline for these reviews is as follows:
- Medical improvement expected – If your condition is expected to improve, your first review is typically six to 18 months after you begin receiving disability benefits.
- Improvement possible – For conditions in which medical improvement is possible, the review will occur approximately every three years.
- Improvement not expected – If it is unlikely that your medical condition will improve, your reviews may occur every five to seven years.
During this review, a representative from SSA will ask you to provide certain information about your medical treatment and any work that you performed since receiving disability benefits. A disability examiner and a doctor will review your situation, the information you submit and medical reports. In some situations, you may be required to undergo a special examination, paid for by the SSA, including your transportation costs.
If the reviewers determine you still have a disability, your benefits will continue as before. If they determine you no longer qualify as disabled, benefits will end in three months. If you disagree with this decision, you can appeal it.
Working While Receiving Benefits
One way to lose disability benefits is to earn too much money, regardless of your medical condition. If you earn income that exceeds the substantial gainful activity limit, you can lose your disability benefits. In 2019, the substantial gainful activity limit for blind claimants is $2,040 and $1,220 for non-blind claimants.
The SSA encourages disability recipients to return to work if they are able and will allow claimants to work for a limited period of time without losing their benefits in order to test out their ability to sustain work. The trial work period allows claimants to work for nine months, after which time the SSA will determine if they are doing substantial gainful activity.
Being Convicted of a Crime
You can also lose your Social Security Disability benefits if you are convicted of a crime. If you are confined, you will not receive any benefits that were payable during this time. However, your family members who are eligible for benefits based on your work history may continue to receive benefits.
Additionally, payments will not be made if there is an outstanding arrest warrant for any of the following felony offenses:
- Escape from custody
- Flight to avoid prosecution or confinement
Contact a Reputable Lawyer for Help
If you have a disability and think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability, do not hesitate to contact the Dayes Law Firm. We can discuss how we can assist you throughout the application process during a free consultation.