How Long Does Social Security Disability Last For?

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to rely on Social Security disability insurance, you’re probably worried about how long it’s going to last.

When you’re disabled and unable to work, how to support yourself and get the money you need to pay bills is one of your biggest concerns.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a program run by the United States government to provide income for people who are unable to work due to a disability. SSDI is funded by a payroll tax. It can be awarded on either a permanent or temporary basis, depending on the expected length and severity of an applicant’s disability.

As of 2018, SSDI benefits were paid to nearly 10 million people, 87% of which were disabled workers. Other beneficiaries include disabled adult children and disabled widows or widowers. The total benefits paid were almost $11.6 billion. Of the large proportion of disabled workers, the average age of a beneficiary was 55, and the average monthly payment awarded was $1,233.70. The largest category of disability diagnosis was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, which accounted for 33.2% of cases.

In the age group of 18-64, beneficiaries of disability insurance accounted for 4.7% of the total US population of that age group. The states with the highest rates of disabled beneficiaries are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia, all of which have over 7% of their population on SSDI.

How do you qualify for SSDI?

SSDI is awarded to applicants who have a physical or mental condition which prevents them from working or engaging in any “substantial gainful activity”. The condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death, and the applicant must be under 65 and have earned at least 20 “social security credits” in the past ten years (which are usually earned at the rate of four per year while working). Additional credits are required if the worker is older than the age of 42. Medical evidence that documents the applicant’s inability to work is required.

The percentage of the US population receiving SSDI benefits nearly doubled between 1985 and 2005, largely due to a relaxation of the screening process following an SSDI reform act in 1984, which relaxed screening for mental illness, placed more weight on patients’ reported levels of pain and discomfort, increased the importance of the treating physician’s opinion, and allowed some non-severe issues to qualify as disabling. This had the effect of awarding SSDI to more applicants and increasing the proportion of beneficiaries with less obvious forms of disability, such as mental illness and back pain.

The amount of money awarded through SSDI is based on the applicant’s past earnings. Denial of benefits can be appealed. About 90% of applicants have a disability representative to help them through an appeal, and a representative seems to be effective in raising the chances of a person getting SSDI approval. A Social Security disability attorney may be very helpful if you find yourself in this position.

How long does SSDI last?

Luckily, if you are successful in getting awarded SSDI benefits, you should keep receiving them until either you reach retirement age, at which point they would convert to Social Security retirement benefits, or you are no longer disabled.

Social Security disability benefits are reviewed on a regular basis, the timing dependent upon your condition, either every 18 months, 3 years, or 7 years. You should respond to these reviews promptly and keep your doctor updated on your condition to ensure your continuing eligibility. SSDI benefits are also revoked if you are in jail for more than 30 days, but you will be able to get them back afterward.

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