Q. What are the disability requirements
for an adult?
A. The definition of disability in the Social Security law is a strict one. To be eligible
for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful work because
of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments), which is expected
o to last at least 12 months, or
o to end in death.
If, because of
a medical condition, a person cannot do the work that they performed in the past, then
age, education, and past work experience must be considered in determining whether the
person can do other work. If the evidence shows that the person can do other work, even if
it involves different skills or pays less than their previous work, they cannot be
considered disabled for Social Security purposes.
Q. I understand that to get Social Security
disability benefits, your disability must be expected to last
at least a year. Does this mean that you must wait a year after
being disabled before you can get benefits?
You do not have to wait a year after the onset of the disability before you can get
benefits. You should file as soon as you can after becoming disabled and benefits begin
after a 5-month waiting period. The waiting period begins with the month Social Security
decides your disability began
Q. Why is there a five-month waiting
period for Social Security disability benefits?
Social Security assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide
support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers compensation,
insurance, savings, and investments. Social Security is designed to provide a continuing
income to you and your family when you are unable to do so. Benefits continue as long as
you remain disabled.
Q. What is the earliest age that I can
receive disability benefits?
There is no minimum age. However, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you
must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to
a maximum of four work credits per year. The amount of earnings required for a credit
increases each year as general wage levels rise.
The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you
become disabled. Generally you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years ending with the
year you become disabled.
However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Specific rules for the younger
worker are available by contacting SSA.
Q. Are there any
special services or Social Security information available for people who are blind?
A. Yes, there are several services and products that are readily available. Social Security's
booklet, IF YOU ARE BLIND OR HAVE LOW VISION
- HOW WE CAN HELP, is a good source that explains the Social Security and Supplemental
Security Income programs. The booklet also refers to other special services available for
people who are blind, as well as various publications available in Braille.
Q. Can a person with a terminal illness
qualify for disability benefits?
A. To be eligible for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful
work because of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments), which
is expected either to last at least 12 months or to end in death.
What kind of
disability benefits does Social Security pay?
People who are severely disabled may be eligible for monthly benefits under one or more of
the programs administer by SSA. Both the SSDI program and the SSI program provide a
monthly income for people with severe disabilities. However, the non-medical eligibility
requirements for the two programs are different.
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to disabled workers
and their families. To be eligible for SSDI, you must be disabled and must have earned a
minimum number of credits from work covered under Social Security. (The required number of
credits varies depending on your age at the time you became disabled.)
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly income to people who are
age 65 or older, or are blind or disabled, and have limited income and financial
resources. Effective January 2002, the SSI payment for an eligible individual is $545 per
month and $817 per month for an eligible couple. If you are married, and only one person
is eligible, a portion of your spouse's income may be counted. In addition, your financial
resources (savings and assets you own) cannot exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if married). You can
be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked in employment covered under Social
Security. No SSI benefits are paid to family members, only to the disabled person.
Generally, to be eligible for SSI, an individual also must be a resident of the United
States and must be a citizen or a non-citizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
Also, some non-citizens granted a special status by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service may be eligible.
Q. I applied for disability benefits 3
months ago and still haven't received an answer. When should I expect to be notified of
A. In the year 2000 the average processing time for a Social Security Disability claim was
104 days. This is an average and the actual time it takes to process your claim may be
more or less based on:
o the State you live in;
determinations are made by a Disability Determination Service in the
State where the
disability applicant lives. These State agencies are required to comply with federally
prescribed policies and procedures, which helps assure that the programs are administered
consistently from State to State.
the nature of your disability;
o how quickly we can obtain medical
evidence from your doctor or other
medical source; and
o whether it is necessary to send you for a
assurance of consistency, samples of the State agencies' determinations undergo an
extensive quality assurance process performed by Federal reviewers. Unfortunately, this
additional review may cause delays in some cases.
If you have further questions, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. Our
representatives will be glad to help you in any way they can.
Q. I applied for disability benefits and was turned
down. I really feel that I can no longer work. What is my next step?
If you think a decision SSA made is wrong, you can have Social Security look at your case
again by filing an appeal. SSA wants to be sure that every decision on your claim is
correct. You have to request the appeal in writing within 60 days from when you received
your letter of denial. A representative at your Social Security office will help you
complete the paperwork if you decide to appeal.
Q. I currently receive Social Security
disability benefits. My disabilities have worsened and I have other health problems. Can
my monthly benefit amount be increased?
A. No. Your benefit is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings prior to your disability
and not the degree of your disability.
Q. How do workers' compensation
payments affect my disability benefits?
Ordinarily, disability payments from other sources do not affect your Social Security
disability benefits. But, if the disability payment is workers' compensation or another
public disability payment, your and your family's Social Security benefits may be reduced.
Your Social Security disability benefit will be reduced so that the
combined amount of the Social Security benefit you and your family
receive plus your workers' compensation payment and/or public
disability payment does not exceed 80 percent of your average
current earnings. (Note that the unreduced benefit amount is counted
for income tax purposes.
Q. What Payments May Affect Your
A. As we said, the kinds of payments that affect your Social Security disability benefits are
a workers' compensation payment and/or another type of public disability payment.
A workers' compensation payment is one that is made to a worker because of a job-related
injury or illness. It may be paid by federal or state workers' compensation agencies,
employers, or insurance companies on behalf of employers.
Public disability payments that may affect your Social Security benefit are those paid
under a federal, state, or local government law or plan that pays for conditions that are
not job-related. They differ from workers' compensation because the disability that the
worker has may not be job-related. Examples are civil service disability benefits,
military disability benefits, state temporary disability benefits, and state or local
government retirement benefits which are based on disability.
Q. I have been receiving Social
Security disability benefits for the past four years and my condition has not improved. Is
there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?
A. No. You will continue to receive a disability benefit as long as your condition keeps you
from working. But, your case will be reviewed periodically to see if there has been any
improvement in your condition and whether you are still eligible for benefits. If you are
still eligible when you reach 65, your disability benefit will be automatically converted
to retirement benefits.