Theoretically speaking, they can last the rest of your life.
Practically speaking, there are a number of reasons why they may not.
Despite having been approved for disability benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA) at some point during the application process, your claim may be periodically subjected to a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) by its Disability Determination Service (DDS) to determine if you are still eligible for benefits.
A judge may have ordered such a review, or there may be other events that trigger it such as the length of time since the award — usually either three or seven years depending upon your age — or if you have returned to work.
These reviews are sort of min-hearings where you present updated medical records and discuss the current status of your health, new diagnoses, etc., with a SSA case worker at the district office who then forwards the information to the DDS. They are fairly informal, and can result in a cessation of benefits.
If you have returned to work, then the DDS will look into that as well to determine if you are making too much money to still be considered disabled.
The standard the SSA uses is whether or not you have engaged in what it calls Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
If you have engaged in SGA, your monthly income will have exceeded the figures for SGA that the SSA published for that year. Ipso facto, you are no longer disabled according to it.
The 2014 numbers for SGA for blind individuals is $1800. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA is $1070.
Remember, when you apply for disability, you are essentially claiming that you can’t work full time, not that you can’t work at all. So some part-time work is acceptable as long as it doesn’t exceed the SGA figures. Be careful.
If you have been awarded disability benefits and they were subsequently terminated or if you aren’t drawing disability benefits and suffer from a severe impairment that is expected to last more than twelve months and that prevents you from doing any of your past or other work, please contact our office nearest to you to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your situation.