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Will my disability benefit go up if my disability gets worse?

No, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments do not change if your condition becomes more severe or limiting. Here’s why:

SSDI benefits are based on your earnings history, not the level of your disability. If your SSDI claim is approved, your disability benefit will be the same as a full retirement benefit — the amount you would have received based on your work record if you had been at full retirement age when you became disabled.

And in approving your claim, the Social Security Administration (SSA) already has determined you to be fully disabled by its definition: Your illness or injury prevents you from doing most work and is expected to last at least 12 months or end in death. Your condition may worsen, but you still are fully disabled.

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On the other hand, if your condition improves, you might lose benefits.

Social Security periodically reviews SSDI recipients’ medical status to see if they still qualify as disabled. If the review shows that your health has improved to the point where you can work regularly, benefits will stop.

The same holds true for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the other Social Security-run program that pays benefits to people with disabilities.

SSI payments are not based on your lifetime earnings record, but your current income and household financial circumstances do affect them. Your SSI benefit can change if your income or living situation changes, but it won’t be based on your worsening condition.

SSI beneficiaries who are younger than 65 undergo the same periodic medical reviews to determine if they are still disabled in the SSA’s reckoning. Once you turn 65, you may qualify for SSI on the basis of age rather than disability, so the medical check becomes moot.

Keep in mind

  • Because eligibility for Supplemental Security Income rests on financial need, SSI recipients of any age are subject to periodic reviews of their assets, income and living arrangements, which can lead to those benefits ending.
  • A worsening medical situation can affect how Social Security handles an application for disability benefits. The SSA can fast-track claims from applicants with particular illnesses or disorders, and the severity of your condition can affect your chances for a quick decision.

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