Misty Mountains

When do Social Security disability benefits stop?

Many people wonder what will happen after they are approved for Social Security disability benefits?

Will my benefits be stopped?

Will I continue to get Social Security disability benefits for the rest of my life?

Except for closed period cases, Social Security disability benefits normally can continue for an indefinite period of time. An individual may be able to receive benefit for the rest of his or her life.

Of course, this assumes that the impairments continue to be disabling (and any other non-medical requirements continue to be met).

Here is the catch: Social Security rarely assumes that conditions will continue to be disabling. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • While there are some conditions which may never get better, many conditions may improve over time.
  • An individual may obtain retraining to allow them to return to work.
  • An individual may find ways of living with an otherwise disabling condition and be able to work.

Even in cases of an extremely physically debilitating disability, an individual may confound the odds and find a way of working. One example of this is theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Although almost completely paralyzed due to neuro-muscular dystrophy, Dr. Hawking continues to work.

While Social Security does not expect every disabled individual to be Stephen Hawking, whether a currently disabledĀ individual will remain so years from today, is an open question.

Continuing Disability Reviews

So, Social Security reviews cases to check for continuing disability. Not surprisingly, these are called, “Continuing Disability Reviews” or CDRs. CDRs are medical reviews to see if an individual’s disabilities continue to be disabling.

For individuals on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security may also perform a financial review to confirm continuing financial eligibility.

As a side note: it is important to note that financial changes, and especially returning to work, may alter eligibility for Social Security benefits under either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. If an individual returns to work, it is essential to consider the eligibility issue again. Too many people ignore this only to face a hefty Social Security overpayment notice.

How often a case will be reviewed, varies from case to case. CDRs can be performed in as little as 12 months. Although, typically cases are reviewed every three to five years. For children’s cases, Social Security will review the case at age 18, and apply the adult standard of disability. In many instances, this results in the child no longer qualifying for Social Security benefits.

For more information about CDRs, how often they occur and how to prepare for them, check out these articles: