Whether currently receiving Social Security disability benefits or just starting the process to apply for them, keep in mind they do not last forever. Improvements in the medical conditions that cause you to be disabled could affect how long you collect Social Security disability. Other sources of income, including earnings from a job, and which of the two disability programs approved the application that you submitted may affect whether you continue to receive benefits.
Some of the circumstances affecting the continuation of disability benefits may not be under your control. For example, some social security disability payments convert to retirement benefits when you reach retirement age. However, there are other situations, such as going to work and not utilizing trial work periods that protect your ability to collect Social Security disability benefits while working, that you do have control over.
Social Security has two disability programs
Two programs administered by Social Security provide monthly cash payments to individuals who are blind or otherwise disabled. One of them is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and the other is Supplemental Security Income, commonly referred to as SSI.
You must have worked at a job from which Social Security payroll taxes were withheld or paid Social Security taxes on income earned through self-employment to qualify to receive SSD benefits through SSDI. You must have been employed or been engaged in self-employment long enough to have earned enough work credits to be insured under the program.
The other program, SSI, does not require a work history to qualify for benefits, but it does have very severe income and resource limitations. You cannot have financial resources available to you exceeding a total value of $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 for couples.
Payments end when you are no longer disabled
You cannot continue to receive Social Security disability benefits under either of the two programs administered by the Social Security Administration unless you continue to be disabled. A person applying for either SSI or SSDI is disabled if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments expected to cause death or last for at least one year.
A different definition applies to children under the SSI program. Children are disabled when a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments causes marked and severe functional limitations expected to result in death or to last for at least one year.
Social Security periodically evaluates physical and mental impairments to determine if there has been an improvement from when the individual was approved to receive disability benefits. Payments end when a person no longer meets the federal definition as being “disabled.”
Conversion of disability payments to retirement benefits
If you collect Social Security disability through the SSDI program, expect them to convert automatically to retirement benefits when you reach retirement age. Bear in mind that the age at which you qualify for full retirement is not 65 and it may not be the same for everyone. It depends on the year in which you were born. For example, someone born in 1958 reaches full retirement at age 66 years and 10 months, but anyone born after 1960 must wait until they reach 67 years of age.
When you reach retirement age, your SSDI payments automatically convert to retirement benefits. As a general rule, there will be no change in the amount you receive each month. Social Security disability benefits through SSI do not convert to retirement benefits.
Financial circumstances that may affect disability benefits
When you collect Social Security disability benefits through SSI, you must continue to meet the financial conditions of the program. That means you cannot have countable resources with a total value above $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple. Some things you own, such as a car used only for personal transportation or home used as your principal residence, are excluded and not counted against allowable resources.
However, if you sell an excluded resource, its value counts against the allowable limits for resources and could make you ineligible to receive benefits. A simple solution is to use the money you receive from the sale to purchase another car for your personal use or another place to live as your principal residence.
Working while receiving Social Security disability may put your benefits at risk should you earn more than allowed for SSD. For example, if you receive SSD benefits and earn over $1,310 a month, or $2,190 a month if you are statutorily blind, Social Security may determine that you are capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity. Your disability lawyer may suggest a trial work period that allows you to have unlimited earnings while also receiving your SSD benefits.
A disability lawyer helping you protect your benefits
Consulting with a disability lawyer at NY Disability gives you trusted advice from someone with an unsurpassed understanding of the federal laws and regulations that set the rules and procedures for collecting Social Security disability benefits. Contact them when questions arise about your benefits.