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SSDI - Can I get it for life?

Recently on our disability forum we had a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicant ask if they could get SSDI for life. Assuming the applicant is approved for SSDI, which is in no way guaranteed, you will not receive SSDI for life.

How long can I get SSDI benefits?

SSDI is offered to disabled workers who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months and who are considered disabled by the SSA. SSDI is not given for “temporary” disabilities which will only last a few months so in that respect SSDI is a long-term disability program.

Workers are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) until they return to work, they are determined no longer disabled by the SSA or they reach their full retirement age.

So to answer the question, most disability recipients who have a severe health condition and who are receiving SSDI will generally get it until they reach their full retirement age and their benefit is converted to SSA retirement. Claimants do not continue to receive SSDI if they are given SSA retirement benefits.

Now, will that mean that you will automatically get SSDI “for life”? No, there are many SSDI recipients who choose to return to work. The SSA has in fact made it easier for claimants to return to work and to continue to receive SSDI benefits for a specific period of time using the Ticket to Work program. If you are considering working contact the SSA for more information about how this program works. Working too much for too many hours for too many months in a row will eventually cause your SSDI benefits to be terminated.

How does the SSA determine I am no longer disabled?

Another way you may lose your SSDI benefits is if the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines you are no longer disabled. Whether or not this will happen to you is not certain, but it will depend on your disability or health condition and whether there are advancements in medicine which allow for you to return to work. Generally, the SSA would make this determination after completing a Continuing Disability Review.

Most SSDI claimants can expect a review of their disability case at least every 3 years (some continuing disability reviews are also done every 5 or 7 years). If your condition is considered permanent, however, you may have less frequent reviews.

If after the review the SSA determines that there is no medical evidence to show that you are disabled and unable to perform substantial gainful activity than the SSA will terminate your SSI or SSDI benefits.

The good news is you have rights during the Continuing Disability Review. For instance you must be notified of the review, you can submit documentation to support your case, you must have written notification if your benefits will be terminated and you can appeal the termination of your benefits.

In conclusion, unless you die before reaching your full retirement age you will not get SSDI benefits for life but will get them until you reach your full retirement age (assuming you do not return to work or are no longer disabled). SSDI is, however, considered a long-term disability program and should provide you with monthly cash payments for a significant period of time.

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