To qualify for Social Security disability benefits such as SSDI and SSI, the Social Security Administration must determine that you are completely disabled. This means your disability is expected to last a year or longer -- or is expected to end in your death -- and is severe enough that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue to work in any field for which you are qualified or could reasonably be trained. Social Security disability benefits generally continue until the SSA determines that your condition has improved enough that you can reasonably be expected to resume working, you actually do resume meaningful employment, or you reach full retirement age.
If Your Condition Improves
You are expected to inform the SSA if your medical condition improves enough for you to resume working, or if you actually go back to work. If you resume full time work, your benefits likely will end. However, the SSA has a program called Ticket to Work under which you can attempt to go to work for a trial period without immediately losing your benefits.
Additionally, the SSA will undertake continuing disability reviews on your claim. They typically conduct these every three years, though they may occur more or less frequently, depending on the nature of your disability and the likelihood that you will sufficiently recover to resume working. If a continuing disability review determines that you are capable of working, your Social Security disability benefits will end.
Children's Social Security Disability Benefits
Children may be awarded Social Security disability benefits, due to their own disabilities or because they are the dependent of someone who qualifies for Social Security disability. Children's benefits for their own disabilities typically end when they turn 18, unless they are full time students in a secondary or elementary school, in which case they can continue until the child is 19 year and 2 months old. As the child approaches the age of 18, the SSA will contact the child or her guardian with information about applying for adult disability benefits.
Caretakers of children with specific disabilities also may qualify for benefits. These benefits typically end when the child turns 16, though they may be continued for those who take care of mentally disabled children.
Full Retirement Age
If you are collecting Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your benefits will convert to retirement benefits. The amount of your Social Security payment will remain the same. Under normal circumstances, these benefits will continue for the rest of your life.
At the time of this writing, full retirement age is 65 if you were born in 1937 or earlier; it is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later. The SSA maintains a full retirement age chart for those born in between 1937 and 1960 on their website.