If you are currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you may be wondering how long your benefits will last or if they will decrease in the future. Social Security disability benefits do not last forever. To receive SSD benefits, you must show that you are unable to work and that you meet certain other financial requirements. Likewise, if your ability to perform work changes or your financial situation changes, you may no longer be able to receive SSD benefits, or your benefits may decrease.  

Requirements for Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

The purpose of SSD is to provide monthly income to disabled Americans who are unable to work for at least 12 months. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must meet certain criteria. If you no longer meet these criteria, you will no longer be entitled to receive SSD benefits. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have a qualifying condition. A qualifying condition is a disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.

In addition to having a qualifying condition, you must also meet nonmedical requirements to receive SSD benefits. One of these requirements is that you have enough work credits to qualify for the program. To determine how many work credits you have, the Social Security Administration will look at your work history and the amount you have contributed to the Social Security Disability program.

Common Reasons Why Social Security Disability Benefits Decrease

Your Social Security Disability benefits may decrease over time due to several factors. Some of the most common reasons for a decrease in benefits include:

  • A change in your ability to work
  • A change in your financial circumstances
  • You begin receiving other types of disability benefits
  • You begin receiving retirement benefits

Understanding how life changes may affect your SSD benefits is important for planning your financial future. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you understand how certain changes might impact your SSD benefits.

Changes in Income

You may be able to work and still receive SSD benefits, but the work you do cannot rise to the level of what the Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful employment. The Social Security Administration sets criteria for determining what is considered substantial gainful activity. If you are working and earning more than $1,350.00 per month on average, you generally will not qualify for SSD. Even if your earnings fall below this threshold, the Social Security Administration may find that you are engaging in substantial gainful activity if the work you are doing requires a significant amount of time and skill. If you recover from your disability enough to work the job you previously did, or you are able to do some other type of work, your SSD may decrease or end. If you are able to go back to work part-time or do some work that does not rise to the level that the Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity, your SSD benefits may decrease in accordance with what you are earning.

Changes in Financial Circumstances

Changes in your financial circumstances other than going to work may also affect your SSD benefits, particularly if you receive SSI or Supplemental Security Income. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that is dependent on how much income and assets you have. Your SSD benefits may also decrease if a spouse or other family member becomes disabled and starts receiving SSD or another type of disability benefit. In addition, if family income changes because a child begins receiving SSI, the amount of SSD benefits may change.

Receiving Other Types of Benefits

Receiving other types of benefits, such as workers’ compensation or an injury settlement, can impact disability benefits. If you begin receiving a new type of benefit, the Social Security Administration will review your SSD benefits. The Social Security Administration will also review your benefit payment amounts three times per year to determine if any adjustments should be made.

Receiving Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits will also affect your SSD benefits. If you begin receiving retirement benefits from an employer, the amount you receive for SSD benefits will be re-evaluated. You will begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits once you reach age 65 – 67, depending on your date of birth. At this point, your SSD benefits will end and become Social Security. When your SSD benefits convert to Social Security, you will typically still receive the full amount of benefits.  

How Long Will Social Security Disability Benefits Last?

Your Social Security Disability benefits may last until age 65-67 when they are converted to Social Security retirement benefits. In some cases, however, your benefits may end sooner. There are three main reasons that SSD benefits end before retirement age. These include:

  • Improvement of the disability
  • Return to work
  • Incarceration

Social Security will review SSD benefits on a regular basis. Typically, benefits are reviewed every 18 months, 3 years, or 7 years. If the Social Security Administration determines at one of these reviews that your condition has improved enough to no longer be considered a qualifying disability, your benefits may end.

If you are receiving SSD benefits, and you decide to go back to work, your benefits may end. If you are able to make a substantial enough income, you will no longer be able to receive SSD benefits. In some cases, you may be allowed to go back to work for up to nine months before your SSD benefits are revoked. This will give you the opportunity to see if going back to work for the long term is realistic.

Finally, SSD benefits will end if you become incarcerated. A stop of SSD benefits for incarceration is not permanent, however. If you are later released, your SSD benefits can be reinstated at that time. If you have questions about changes to your Social Security disability benefits or need help applying, a Social Security disability lawyer can help guide you through the process.