How long can you stay on social security disability?

Social security disability benefits don’t last forever – they will either be terminated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or they will change to social security retirement benefits at age 66 or 67(depending on your current age).. 

Below, we will discuss the length of social security disability benefits, including:

  • How long social security disability benefits last,
  • What can cause disability benefits to end early,
  • How disability reviews work, and
  • What you can do to keep your social security disability payments coming.

How Long do Social Security Disability Payments Last?

Social security disability benefits should keep coming as long as you are disabled until you reach retirement age. 

When you reach retirement age, your social security disability benefits will automatically change to social security retirement benefits. In the meantime, the SSA will periodically review your medical condition to confirm that you are still eligible for social security disability benefits, and your benefits may terminate early if the SSA decides you are no longer eligible. 

What could cause your disability benefits to end early?

What Causes Social Security Disability to End Early?

Several situations can cause your disability payments to stop coming, including an improvement in your medical condition, incarceration, or returning to work with a “substantial” income. 

First, what is a disability review?

Improvement of Your Condition: Disability Reviews

The SSA will conduct periodic reviews of your medical condition, called a “continuing disability review” (CDR). 

How often the SSA conducts a disability review depends on whether they expect your medical condition to improve. For example, if medical improvement is:

  • Expected: you will get a continuing disability review within 6 to 18 months after you begin receiving benefits.
  • Possible: SSA will conduct a disability review every 3 years.
  • Not expected: you will still get a continuing disability review, but the first will not be any sooner than 7 years after you begin receiving benefits.

When you receive your first award notice, it will tell you when to expect your first disability review. 

If your condition improves before your first continuing disability review, you can continue to receive benefits until they are terminated after your regularly scheduled review, and you won’t be required to repay the benefits. 

The SSA will terminate your benefits after your continuing disability review if they determine that your medical condition has improved to the point that you are no longer disabled – your disability no longer prevents you from participating in “any substantial gainful activity,” and 1) your doctors no longer believe your condition will be fatal, or 2) your condition is no longer expected to last longer than 12 months.


If you are sentenced to more than 30 days in jail, your social security disability benefits will stop. When you are released from jail, however, your disability payments can be reinstated.

Return to Work

If you return to work earning a “substantial” income, your disability benefits will be terminated. This doesn’t mean that you cannot return to work, however. 

You can work and earn a paycheck without affecting your disability benefits if your income is not “substantial.” Although it changes each year, in 2021 the SSA considered earnings of $1,310 or more each month, or $2,190 or more each month if you are blind, to be “substantial.” 

You can also “test the waters” by going back to work for up to 9 months before losing your benefits. If you go back to work and realize that you are still unable to work within the 9 month trial period, your benefits will not be revoked.

How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Benefits

What can you do (assuming you are still disabled) to ensure that you keep your social security benefits until age 66 or 67 when they convert to retirement benefits? 

Don’t just assume you will continue to get disability payments forever – plan ahead and be ready for your continuing disability reviews. Document everything, so you and your doctors can provide complete information to the SSA at your disability review. 

Schedule regular doctor’s visits and talk to your doctors about your medical condition – including how your disability affects you and prevents you from performing daily activities.  SSA will review your medical records at the disability review, and, if you have not been seeing your doctor, they will determine that your disability is not being documented. 

Reply immediately to your continuing disability review notices and follow up if you do not hear back from the SSA. If you don’t participate in the disability reviews, the SSA may terminate your benefits. 

Reply immediately to all requests for information. When medical records or physician’s statements are requested, provide them immediately. In some cases, you may be required to see a doctor chosen by the SSA for an independent medical examination – respond immediately, schedule the appointment promptly, and show up. 

If your disability continues, you are not substantially employed, you are not incarcerated, and you prepare for and cooperate with the SSA’s continuing disability reviews, your social disability benefits should continue until you are aged 65 when they will convert to retirement benefits.

Questions About Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you have any questions about whether your medical condition qualifies for social security disability and what type of documentation you will need, call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at 803-369-3968 or contact us through our website for a free consultation.

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