Social Security Disability

Introduction To Disability And Social Security

Disability is something most people don't like to think about. But the chances of your becoming disabled are probably greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age.

It's a fact that, while most people spend time working to succeed in their jobs and careers, few think about ensuring that they have a safety net to fall back on should the unthinkable happen. This is where Social Security comes in. In general, cash benefits are paid to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. Benefits continue until a person is able to work again on a regular basis, and a number of work incentives are available to ease the transition back to work.

What is "Disability"?

It's important that you understand how the Social Security Administration defines "disability." That's because other programs have different definitions for disability. Some programs pay for partial disability or for short-term disability. The SSA does not.

Disability under SSA is based on your inability to work. You will be considered disabled if you cannot do work you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability also must last or be expected to last for at least a year or to result in death.

The program 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.

Who Can Get Social Security Disability?

You can receive Social Security disability benefits until age 65. When you reach age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits on your record. They include:

  • Your spouse who is age 62 or older, or any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is under age 16 or disabled and also receiving checks.
  • Your disabled widow or widower age 50 or older. The disability must have started before your death or within seven years after your death. (If your widow or widower caring for your children receives Social Security checks, she or he is eligible if she or he becomes disabled before those payments end or within seven years after they end.)
  • Your unmarried son or daughter, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in high school full time.
  • Your unmarried son or daughter, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. These children are considered disabled if they meet the adult definition of disability. (If a disabled child under age 18 is receiving benefits as the dependent of a retired, deceased or disabled worker, someone should contact Social Security to have his or her checks continued at age 18 on the basis of disability.)

If you become the parent of a child (including an adopted child) after you begin receiving Social Security benefits, be sure to notify us so that we can determine if the child qualifies for benefits.

For more information about disability benefits for children, ask Social Security for the booklet, Benefits for Children With Disabilities (Publication No. 05-10026).

Note:The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program also pays benefits to needy disabled children under age 18.

How Much Work Do I Need?

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. Family members who qualify for benefits on your work record do not need work credits.

The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you became disabled. Generally you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. The rules are as follows:

  • Before age 24-You may qualify if you have six credits earned in the three-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31-You may qualify if you have credit for having worked half the time between 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for three years of work (12 credits) out of the past six years (between age 21 and age 27).
  • Age 31 or older-In general, you will need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart shown below. Unless you are blind, at least 20 of the credits must have been earned in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

If you or someone you know have been improperly denied Social Security Disability Benefits, contact us immediately by using our free online consultation form. A Social Security lawyer will review the facts of your claim. There is no charge or obligation for this service.