After the housing crash in 2008, the United States went through its worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Suddenly, millions of Americans found themselves unemployed for an extended period. To help alleviate their suffering, Congress enacted emergency measures that increased the maximum number of weeks that a person could collect unemployment benefits—a time limit that many Americans had no idea existed until they were bumping up against it.
That experience raises an important question for Americans who rely on another critical government program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD): Does the Social Security Administration (SSA) limit the amount of time in which a person can receive SSD benefits?
Fortunately, the answer is that there is no fixed maximum duration for SSD benefits, as there is for unemployment benefits. However, to continue receiving SSD benefits, you must maintain eligibility for them. In addition, SSD benefits will give way to retirement benefits when you reach retirement age.
This post considers both of those limitations. If you have questions about SSD benefits after reading it, or would simply like more information about how you can qualify and apply for them, contact a Social Security Disability attorney with Nolan Caddell Reynolds today.
Maintaining Eligibility for SSD Benefits
To understand when your benefits may be terminated for loss of eligibility, you need to understand the basic SSD eligibility requirements and how the SSA ensures you remain eligible over time.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for SSD benefits, you must initially meet the following requirements:
- You must be disabled, which means you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. For 2017, “substantial gainful activity” means work that pays more than $1,170 per month (or $1,950 for blind workers).
- Your disability must be caused by a severe medical condition. The SSA maintains a list of conditions that it has determined to be severe. If your condition isn’t on the list, you may still qualify if its severity is equivalent to those that are.
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year, or result in death. Short-term disabilities do not count.
- You must have worked a sufficient amount of time before becoming disabled. The minimum amount of time varies depending on how old you are when you become disabled.
When you first apply for Social Security disability benefits, your state’s Disability Determination Services will address whether you qualify for SSD benefits using the above criteria.
Continuing Disability Review
However, just because you successfully applied for SSD benefits doesn’t mean you will receive them indefinitely. After you begin receiving your benefits, the SSA may require you to prove that you remain disabled—that is, that your medical condition has not improved, and you remain unable to work.
It does this by regularly scheduling Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). How frequently your ongoing eligibility will be reviewed depends largely on whether you are expected to recover from your disability. In particular:
- If your condition is expected to improve, the first CDR will be six to 18 months after you become disabled.
- If improvement is possible, but not necessarily expected, your benefits will be reviewed roughly once every three years.
- If you are not expected to improve, you will undergo a CDR only once every seven years.
When the SSA requires a CDR for your case, they will send you a notice. You will then have to provide updated information about your condition. To make the process as easy as possible, take the following steps:
- Keep track of contact details for your doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers who treat you.
- Keep copies of your medical records or understand how to obtain them.
- Keep records of any work you perform, especially pay stubs or other documents that show how much you were paid.
- Always update SSA with your new address if you move. Otherwise, they may send a CDR notice to your old address without you knowing it!
Your state’s Disability Determination Services will then decide whether you remain disabled. If they determine that your condition has improved and you are able to return to work, your SSD benefits will end.
As with the initial eligibility determination, if you disagree with the outcome of a CDR, you can appeal it through several levels.
Reaching Retirement Age
The only definite time limit on SSD benefits is triggered when you reach retirement age. At that point, your disability benefits will be converted to Social Security retirement benefits. The amount you receive will remain the same, but you will no longer be required to undergo CDRs to maintain your benefits.
How Nolan Caddell Reynolds Can Help
Nolan Caddell Reynolds is a national law firm with multiple locations throughout Arkansas. Our Social Security Disability attorneys are committed to helping clients in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere in the U.S. with their SSD problems. We can help you:
- Understand the SSD program.
- Apply for SSD benefits.
- Respond effectively to a CDR notice.
- Appeal denials of SSD benefits, whether following the initial application or a CDR.
For more information or a free case evaluation, contact Nolan Caddell Reynolds today.