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Is There a Time Limit on Social Security Disability Benefits?

People applying for disability benefits through Social Security Disability are often surprised to find out that the majority of claimants must undergo a lengthy and complex disability appeal in order to get the benefits they need – a process that can take more than two years to complete. Given the tremendous time and effort that goes into the fight to obtain disability benefits in the first place, many people wonder is whether there is a time limit on benefits once the SSA has approved a Social Security Disability claim.

The answer to this question is not always cut and dry. The duration of a claimant’s Social Security Disability benefits will depend on an individual's particular circumstances and the nature of their disabling condition.

There is technically no “time limit” on Social Security Disability benefits, and there is no written law that says you can only receive disability payments for a limited duration before they stop. However, durational denials do exist. As long as you remain totally disabled according to the strict definition used by the SSA, you will receive disability benefits until you reach retirement age. Once you reach retirement age, your disability benefits are converted to Social Security retirement benefits.

The SSA will not, however, assume upon approval for Social Security Disability benefits that you are going to be disabled forever. You will have to undergo continuing disability reviews to maintain your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits.

Continuing disability reviews are conducted on a regular basis, but how often you are reviewed will depend on the severity of your disabling condition. If you are expected to recover from your disability, a review will be conducted within three years of your disability approval, and your benefits will stop if it is determined that you are no longer disabled. You can appeal this decision and receive benefits during the appeal, but you will have to pay those benefits back if it is determined that you are indeed able to return to work.

If you are not expected to recover from your disability, your reviews will be conducted once every five to seven years. Usually a review will not result in a termination of benefits. If the SSA wants to say that you are able to work, they have to prove that your condition has significantly improved. Again, you can appeal this decision and get disability benefits during the appeal process. Most of the people who suffer from permanent disabilities that are not expected to improve are given continuing benefits and are rescheduled for another review in five or seven more years.

Many people worry that a continuing disability review will result in a termination of their Social Security Disability benefits. As long as you are still disabled this shouldn’t happen, as the SSA won’t revoke the benefits of disability recipients whose disabling conditions have made no improvement.

If you feel that your disability benefits have been unfairly terminated due to an unfavorable disability review, it might be wise to contact a qualified Social Security Disability attorney to help you better understand the options available to you and how best to proceed with an appeal.