How Long Can You Collect Social Security Disability?

Social Security disability (SSD) offers a much-needed safety net for people who are disabled and unable to earn a living. However, the overly complicated rules, regulations, and procedures you need to know and maneuver through to get and continue to receive SSD benefits make it difficult to get answers to even the simplest of questions.

How long can you collect Social Security disability? may appear to be a simple question with the logical answer being that SSD lasts for as long as you are disabled, which could mean forever. Unfortunately, SSD is not quite that simple. There are two disability programs through the Social Security Administration, and each one of them has different rules for how long benefits last based on criteria you must meet to continue to qualify for benefits.

It may help to take a look at the disability programs available from Social Security. By the time you finish reading this article, you will have a much better understanding of how they work and what causes disability benefits to end.

Applying to collect Social Security Disability

You have two options when applying for SSD: Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Some people who worked at a job or had income through self-employment may become disabled and find themselves with limited financial resources making them eligible to apply for both programs. Someone else may only be eligible for one of the SSD programs.

If you have a work history of sufficient duration and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings, you may qualify for SSDI. Once your application is approved, you may collect Social Security disability benefits through the SSDI program for as long as you have a medical condition that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity for at least one year or is expected to cause your death. However, your SSD benefits convert to Social Security retirement when you reach full retirement age, which differs from person to person depending upon your year of birth.

Generally, SSD payments do not change when they convert at full retirement. However, if you filed for early retirement at age 62 before applying for SSDI, the amount you receive at full retirement may be less than what you got from disability. The reason for this is that the right to take early retirement comes at a price: You receive less each month than if you had waited for full retirement age. When your disability converts to retirement, it too will be reduced by the fact that you took early retirement.

On the other hand, SSD benefits through the SSI program do not convert to retirement benefits. One reason has to do with the source of the funding for the benefits. SSDI benefits are funded by Social Security taxes paid on earnings or self-employment income, but funding for SSI comes from taxes, other than Social Security taxes, collected by the U.S. Treasury. The other reason is that SSI does not require a work history to qualify for benefits, so a person eligible to receive SSI may not be entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits because they never contributed toward it by paying Social Security taxes.

When do Social Security disability benefits end?

As previously discussed, Social Security disability benefits do not end when you reach the age of full retirement regardless of which program you receive them through. Disability payments through SSDI convert to retirement benefits rather than come to an end. That being said, there are, however, circumstances under which your Social Security disability benefits stop being paid.

The most common reason for a halt in benefits received through Social Security disability is an improvement in your medical condition making it possible for you to return to work. If you receive benefits through SSI, a change in your financial circumstances could cause termination or temporary suspension of benefits. For example, if you own a home and occupy it as your principal residence, its value does not count toward the $2,000 in resources that you may have available to you and qualify for benefits. When you stop using it as a principal residence, its value becomes countable as a resource that could jeopardize your benefits if the total resources you have exceed the $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

Protect your ability to Social Security disability

Initially qualifying for and continuing to collect Social Security disability benefits is not a matter of luck. You need to comply with the process and regulations the Social Security Administration uses to determine eligibility, but first, you need to know what they are and how to conform to them. The disability advocates at London Eligibility have acquired an insightful knowledge and understanding of federal regulations and the review process employed by Social Security to approve initial applications and periodically review continuing eligibility for benefits. Contact them today about protecting your right to disability benefits.