Once approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may keep your benefits for as long as you remain disabled. If at any point the Social Security Administration (SSA) deems you capable of returning to work or finds that your condition has improved to the point that you no longer meet the program’s qualifications, your benefits could end.
The SSA does not guarantee benefits for any minimum amount of time, nor does it limit how long you may receive them. The continuation of benefits depends solely upon you remaining both disabled and incapable of earning above the substantial gainful activity limit.
SSA Disability if Medical Condition Is Not Permanent
You do not have to be permanently disabled to receive Social Security Disability or SSI. The SSA only requires you to have had or be expected to have the qualifying condition for at least 12 months.
If you develop an acute illness that prevents you from working, but your diagnosis and doctor’s notes indicate an expectation for the condition to resolve itself within six months, you may not receive approval for Social Security or SSI benefits. To receive disability in this situation, you would have to turn to a private insurer or short-term disability plan.
A disabling condition expected to last two years, on the other hand, makes you eligible for benefits. These benefits do not automatically expire after two years even though you are expected to get better at that point. Instead, the SSA conducts periodic reviews of your disability and work status. If an inspection indicates you are no longer disabled, whether that occurs sooner or later than two years, your benefits will discontinue at that point.
SSD and SSI Periodic Reviews
All Social Security Disability and SSI recipients are subject to periodic reviews. The SSA conducts these reviews to determine if there has been any change in your medical condition or work situation since you were approved for benefits or since your last review.
A periodic review typically involves an examination by the SSA of your most recent medical records and work documents. Just because you have worked since going on disability or since your last review does not necessarily pose a problem or put your benefits at risk. It becomes an issue only if your monthly earnings exceed the substantial gainful activity limit, which coincides with the poverty line. As long as your income remains below that amount and your medical records do not indicate any material improvement in your condition, your benefits should be safe.
Frequency of Reviews
The SSA does not use a set timetable to conduct periodic reviews. Instead, it relies on a computer model to project which disability recipients most likely have seen improvements in their condition. Those recipients receive periodic reviews earlier and more often.
Depending on how the SSA’s computer model scores your likelihood of medical improvement, your “review” may arrive in the form of a simple mailer, or you may be asked to undergo a full medical evaluation. The mailer is simple: you answer a few questions, attach your latest medical records, and as long as nothing jumps out at the SSA, it ends there. If the SSA feels the need to investigate further, it will then order a full medical evaluation. You may also be part of a continuing disability review, here’s what you need to know about this process.
Specific events could trigger a review. The SSA might order a review if it receives information, either from you or a third party, suggesting that your condition might have improved. Evidence that you are earning income above the substantial gainful activity limit almost always triggers a review.
Returning to Work
At some point, many disability recipients want to try returning to work but are not entirely sure they are physically mentally capable. The SSA offers a nine-month trial work period to address this situation. During any five-year period in which you are receiving disability, you may work with no limits on your income for nine months, which do not have to be consecutive.
Once you earn above the substantial gainful activity limit for a tenth month, however, your benefits will cease. But even then you have leeway, as the suspension of your benefits triggers a 36-month extended eligibility period. If during this period you find yourself once again unable to work, you can have your benefits rapidly reinstated without starting the application process over.
Take Advantage of a Free Case Evaluation Today
The Social Security disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, want to answer your questions and help you try to win benefits. To schedule a free case evaluation, call our office today at 1-866-628-8179.