Can Health Changes Affect Social Security Disability Benefits?

Can Health Changes Affect Social Security Disability Benefits

It can take months or even years for someone to be granted disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), but that doesn’t mean the beneficiary may be able to receive benefits for the rest of his or her life. Many times, health changes such as declining or improving health conditions, may impact his or her Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. According to the SSA, the agency uses a five-step process to determine Social Security disability benefits eligibility:

  1. Are you working?

  2. Is your medical condition “severe”?

  3. Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?

  4. Can you do the work you did before?

  5. Can you do any other type of work?



While there are, of course, special circumstances for certain instances, the agency mostly takes into account the applicant’s medical condition and if it affects his or her physical or mental abilities. This is why health changes can cause issues for beneficiaries.

Declining health

If beneficiaries find their health to be deteriorating or they are diagnosed with another limiting medical condition, they may wonder if they are entitled to additional Social Security disability benefits. However, according to Howard Kossover, social security public affairs specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota, declining health, unfortunately, does not change beneficiaries’ Social Security disability benefits amount. In a Q&A in the Grand Forks Herald, Kossover was asked by a local resident whether his wife would be entitled to additional Social Security disability benefits because she became more limited due to an increased inability to work. Kossover answered that because her Social Security disability benefits amount was based on her earnings from when she was working, it will not change because she became more disabled.

“No benefits are payable for partial or short-term impairments,” Kossover wrote. “Since your wife already met this work-related definition of disability, and because her benefit amount is based on her past work history, becoming more disabled will not change her amount.”

Yet Kossover did note that Social Security disability benefit payments do adjust to the cost of living, meaning that as the cost of living increases, so will beneficiaries’ payments.

Improving health

While declining health may not impact Social Security disability benefits, improving conditions may cause the agency to consider whether beneficiaries are still eligible for Social Security disability benefits at all. If the SSA determines a beneficiary’s health has improved to the point where he or she is no longer disabled, the agency may determine that the person no longer requires benefit payments because he or she is now able to work. The agency examines its Social Security Disability beneficiaries’ cases every three to seven years to determine eligibility.

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For anyone considering applying for Social Security disability, possible health changes should not deter them from applying. While alterations in your medical condition may occur, it also may not, and missing out on SSD benefits because you were unsure of whether you will be eligible two years from now does not help you in the present. It is important to understand that your health status may affect your Social Security disability benefit eligibility in the future, but beneficiaries should continue to ensure they receive their optimal benefits for as long as they can to stay in good health.

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