At What Age Does Social Security Disability Stop? 

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At What Age Does Social Security Disability Stop? 

You’ve probably heard that Social Security disability benefits (known as SSDI, or just SSD) don’t last forever. That’s true, and there’s a good reason for it. Social Security Disability is intended to provide income for a worker who becomes disabled and can no longer earn a living. But, we’re not expected to work forever, and that replacement income doesn’t 

Here’s what you need to know about when and why SSD benefits terminate, and what you can expect when you’re no longer eligible. 

Social Security Disability Benefits Terminate When You Reach Full Retirement Age

SSD benefits terminate in one of two ways: because you are no longer eligible–usually because you are no longer considered disabled–or because you have reached full retirement age. 

If your Social Security Disability benefits terminate because you’ve reached full retirement age, you’ll hardly notice. Though you’ll get a notice of the change from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you’ll keep right on receiving exactly the same benefits every month. That’s because you’ll be switched automatically from disability benefits to retirement benefits. 

Your Social Security Disability benefits were based on the amount you would have received if you’d worked until full retirement age, so the amount of your benefits will be the same. If you’ve already been on Social Security Disability for at least two years and were receiving Medicare coverage, that will continue. If you haven’t yet qualified for Medicare, that will change. There’s no waiting period for Medicare when you’re receiving retirement benefits. 

What is Full Retirement Age?

Full retirement age for Social Security purposes depends on when you were born. That’s because over time, the age when someone qualifies for full Social Security retirement benefits has been pushed back. If you were born before 1955, your full retirement age is 66. That means that today–in 2024–everyone whose full retirement age was 66 has already reached that age. 

For those born between 1955 and 1960, the full retirement age increased incrementally by year of birth* as follows: 

  • For those born in 1955, full retirement age is age 66 and 2 months
  • For those born in 1956, full retirement age is age 66 and 4 months
  • For those born in 1957, full retirement age is age 66 and 6 months
  • For those born in 1958, full retirement age is age 66 and 8 months
  • For those born in 1959, full retirement age is age 66 and 10 months

*For a Social Security recipient born on January 1 of any year, full retirement age is the age associated with the previous calendar year. 

Currently, full retirement age for those born in 1960 or later is 67. However, that could change. In recent years, there have been several proposals to raise the retirement age

Those who are not receiving Social Security Disability benefits have the option of delaying collecting Social Security retirement benefits until age 70. Whether the recipient is still working or simply has sufficient savings or other income to delay receiving benefits after retiring from work, they can opt to wait out those few extra years in exchange for a higher monthly retirement benefit. However, people who are receiving Social Security Disability benefits don’t have that option. The transition from SSD benefits to retirement benefits is automatic when they reach full retirement age. 

Termination of SSD Benefits Before Full Retirement Age

The transition from Social Security Disability to retirement benefits is a painless and generally seamless switch. But sometimes, disability benefits are terminated for other reasons. If your Social Security Disability benefits are terminated and you haven’t reached full retirement age, that typically means you’ll stop receiving benefits entirely. Depending on the reason you’ve lost your benefits, you may have a transitional period where you have access to some benefits. Here are some of the reasons your Social Security Disability benefits might stop before you reach full retirement age. 

You are No Longer Considered Disabled

Many people believe that a Social Security Disability determination is permanent. It can often take months or years to secure approval for your disability benefits, and you’d like to be able to count on them long-term. But, the standard for receiving SSD isn’t that you’re permanently disabled–only that the disability is expected to prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 months. 

Some medical conditions that qualify a person for SSD. For example, someone fighting cancer might receive SSD benefits while they are sick and during debilitating treatment such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. But, if treatment is successful, the recipient may not remain disabled. While this is one particularly clear example, other conditions may also improve over time or with improved treatment options. Most SSD recipients will periodically be reviewed for continuing eligibility, and will be asked to submit an update report with information about their health, whether they’ve worked or been self-employed, and whether they’ve been cleared by a physician to return to work.

You Have Returned to Work

The SSA offers SSD recipients an opportunity to test out returning to work with a trial work period. If you receive a certain amount of income from work in nine months out of any 60-month period, your return to work trial will be considered successful and the SSA will begin transitioning you off of SSD. In 2024, the monthly earnings cut-off is $1,110.    

You’ve Been Temporarily or Permanently Disqualified

In some circumstances, a person who has been approved for SSD benefits and is still medically eligible can be disqualified, either temporarily or permanently.

Some circumstances in which this may occur include: 

  • You have moved to a country where the SSA can’t send benefits. The SSA can’t make payments to people living in Cuba or North Korea. However, if you are a U.S. citizen, you can collect back benefits for the time you were residing in one of these countries when you move to a country where the SSA can send payment. There are several other countries where the SSA generally does not make payments, but some exceptions are permitted with restrictions. 
  • You are incarcerated for a crime. The SSA does not pay disability benefits if you have been convicted of a crime and continuously incarcerated for more than 30 days. If you remain otherwise eligible, benefits resume in the month following your release. You are also not eligible for benefits during any time you are confined to an institution at public expense under certain circumstances, such as a result of a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but insane in a criminal proceeding. 
  • You have failed to cooperate or provide up-to-date information. The SSA will suspend your benefits if you’ve moved without updating your information and they cannot locate you. Your benefits may also be suspended if you fail to respond to a request for information, such as a medical update. 

You may be surprised by some of the ways you can lose SSD benefits after being approved. If your SSD benefits have been terminated or suspended and you think that decision was incorrect, you don’t have to sort it out alone. At Disability Help Group, our advocates have an in-depth understanding of qualifications for SSD and the processes for applying for benefits, supporting your application, or appealing a denial. No matter where you are in the process, we can help. To learn more, call (800) 800-3332 right now, or fill out our contact form.

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