What to Expect Once You’ve Been Approved for Disability Benefits

By Disability Group

Whether you’re applying for disability benefits or have already been approved, it may help to have some idea of what to expect.  The following are some frequently asked questions about disability benefits that many claimants ask:

How long will I be entitled to benefits for?

There is a common misconception that once you’re approved for disability that your payments will continue for the rest of your life.  While this may be true for some people, Social Security Administration will periodically review your case to see if you are still disabled.

You will continue to receive benefits unless your medical condition improves significantly and you are no longer unable to work.  All cases are reviewed from time to time based on what kind of improvement to your condition is expected when a decision is made.

If medical improvement is expected, then you case could be reviewed within 6 to 18 months of when you are approved. If improvement is possible, then your case will be reviewed every 3 years.  If your condition is not expected to improve, your case will be reviewed every 5 to 7 years.

How are my benefits calculated?

The amount of money you receive for your disability benefits is based on the date you became disabled.  When you apply for disability, Social Security asks you when you became disabled. Your answer to this question is your “onset date”.

Under law, you cannot become entitled to benefits until 5 months after you become disabled.  Thus, Social Security will begin your payments 5 months after your “onset date”. 

How do I receive my payments?

If you have a bank account, then you have the option of setting up a direct deposit for your benefits.  SSA strongly encourages you to use direct deposit for your benefits. 

Of course, you can still receive checks by mail if you prefer, although Social Security will soon be converting to only electronic payments.  There are some drawbacks to using checks.  Because checks are delivered by the post office, they can be late by a couple of days.  Also, by using direct deposit you do not have to worry about losing the check.  Also, a government check must be cashed within 12 months after the date it was written otherwise it becomes void. 

The most common reason why people who receive checks by mail do not get their benefits is because they do not update their address with the Social Security Administration when they move.

Do I have to pay taxes on my disability benefits?

Only about a third of social security beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits. Those who do have to pay taxes on their benefits fall into at least one of three categories:

1)       If you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your income is more than $25,000

2)       If you file a joint return and the combined income between you and your spouse is greater than $32,000

3)       If you are married and file a separate return, you most likely have to pay taxes on your benefits.

Do my benefits adjust with inflation?

Social Security will increase your benefits if the cost of living increases.  The increase in your benefits will be proportional to the increase in the cost of living. So, if the cost of living goes up by 3%, then your benefits will increase by 3% as well.  These increases are called “cost-of-living” adjustments.

Can I try to go back to work?

Social Security encourages people to go back to work if they feel that they are cable.  Once you have been approved, you are entitled to a trial work period.  You can continue to receive your benefits for up to nine months while trying to work.