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Social Security Disability Payments

How long will my Social Security benefits continue after my disability begins?

It’s important to understand the payment process. Get an answer to the question, “How long will my Social Security benefits continue after my disability begins?” and learn why disability benefits may eventually stop.

How Long Will My Social Security Benefits Continue?

Once approved for disability, people often wonder, “How long will my Social Security benefits continue?” The answer is three fold: First, if you recover from your disability, your benefits will terminate. Second, if you are working performing substantial gainful activity (SGA), your benefits will be suspended during the Extended Period of Eligibility in any of those months that you perform SGA. The Extended Period of Eligibility (EpE) is the thirty-six calendar months following your nine-month Trial Work Period (TWP).In 2020, $910 gross earnings or net profit from self-employment count as TWP months. In 2020, $1,260 gross wages or net profit is SGA for non-blind workers and $2,110 for blind workers. 

After the EPE ends, your claim will close if you continue to work at the SGA level. Lastly, if your benefits do not stop because you have recovered medically or because you perform SGA after you have run out all your work incentive periods, your disability benefits will end when your benefits are converted to retirement benefit at your Social Security Normal Retirement Age (SSNRA).

Moving from Disability to Retirement

Your Social Security Normal Retirement Age falls between age sixty-six and sixty-seven, depending upon the year you were born. If you are still getting disability benefits when you reach your SSNRA, as stated, your benefits will change from disability benefits to retirement benefits. Conveniently, you do not have to file a Social Security Retirement application. When you reach Normal Retirement Age, you will automatically be switched to retirement benefits.

The amount of your retirement benefit at your SSNRA will be the same as your disability benefit if you did not receive reduced early retirement benefits before receiving disability benefits. For example, if you took early retirement at age sixty-two and became disabled five months before age sixty-two, when you were approved for disability your disability benefits would begin at age sixty-two and your reduced retirement reduction would be taken off the books because all your retirement benefits were changed to disability at age sixty-two.

In contrast, if you did take early retirement before the first month for which disability benefits were paid, your benefit at SSNRA would be less than your disability benefit, but more than your previous reduced retirement. The amount of reduction will depend on how many months of reduced retirement were paid before disability entitlement. Let’s say that in the example above your disability benefits began at age sixty-three. If so, your retirement reduction factor would be twelve months of reduced retirement when you reached full retirement age.

Do I have to keep going to the doctor after I am approved for disability in order to continue getting Social Security Disability payments?

You must keep seeing a doctor after you are approved for Social Security Disability payments, even if you don’t have insurance.

Appropriate Medical Care for Continuing Disability Reviews

After you have been received Social Security Disability payments for a while, you may be asked to present proof of ongoing disability. The best way to do this is to see your doctor at appropriate intervals. That said, just exactly what “appropriate” means is not simple to define. It depends on the nature of your disabling condition and the treatment plan your doctor has laid out for you. It is important to return to the doctor at the time he or she recommends and to refill prescribed medications on time. If your condition has reached maximum improvement and is truly permanent, and your doctor has left your care open-ended, saying “Come see me if you have problems,” then it is probably sufficient to have a once-a-year check-up. At the annual check-up ask your doctor to be sure that an update on your disabling condition is noted in your chart, even if it just says that nothing has changed.

Getting Medical Care Without Insurance

Lack of health insurance or cash to cover the cost of care is one of the most frequent reasons that disabled people don’t see a doctor often enough to establish proof of continuing disability. If you are having trouble paying for recommended care, you might try to negotiate lower fees or look for alternatives such as free or low-cost clinics or public medical insurance such as Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). (Information about getting insurance under the ACA is available online at www.healthcare.gov.)

If you can’t return for recommended treatment due to lack of funds, try to get your doctor to write in your chart the financial reason why you are not following his or her recommendations with regards to frequency of care and following the treatment plan. Even if you do not need frequent care, it is important to try to save up for at least one appointment a year.

Coordination of STD and SSD Payments

Find out what happens when short-term disability (STD) payments overlap with Social Security Disability (SSD), and how long-term disability (LTD) factors in.

Dear Benefits Advisor,

I looked up my status of social security disability claim and this is what it states: “Your claim for Disability benefits has been approved. A detailed notice has been sent to you with your benefit information. For more information please use the Benefit Verification Letter to check your benefit details.   If you disagree with the decision, you may request an appeal in 60 days of the date on the Notice of Decision you receive.” Does this mean my disability has been approved? I’ve been out of work since October 2016 and am receiving short term disability through my employer until April 1, 2017.  Will this effect my disability amount if I am in deed approved?Thanks!!!


Dear Tammy,

The status you received indicates that you will be receiving either a fully favorable or partially favorable decision. Partially favorable would mean  that either the established disability date is later than you claimed or there’s been a determination that you have recovered and your claim has been closed, making only back benefits payable.

Usually, short-term disability (STD) policies have a provision that requires recalculation of STD benefits for any months that you have been paid STD and for which you will be paid Social Security disability (SSD aka SSDI). This means that you will be required to use your SSD back benefits to repay the STD overpayment if there were any overlapping months.

If the STD is higher than ongoing SSD, you will continue to receive reduced STD to supplement the Social Security until the STD maximum benefit period runs out. The same is true of long-term disability (LTD) insurance if you have LTD coverage when STD ends. You can request a copy of your STD policy to review all the provisions.

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