SOCIAL SECURITY: MORE THAN JUST RETIREMENT

The Social Security program provides a variety of benefits.  Although retirement is the most well-known, the program also provides disability benefits for people who cannot work – regardless of the cause of the disability.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be “insured.”  In general, someone is insured if they worked for 20 of the 40 quarters – 5 of the last 10 years – before the onset of their disability.  The next question is whether you qualify for benefits.  Social Security requires that you have a documented medical impairment that is expected to keep you out of work for at least one year and that you be unable to do any work that is consistent with your disability, age, education, and past work experience. 

Other than the extent of the disability (what the medical condition prevents you from doing), age is probably the most important factor in an application for Social Security Disability benefits.  The younger a person is, the more likely they are to be retrainable for other work and the less likely they are to qualify for benefits.  However, the older a person is, the less likely it is that they are retrainable and they are more likely to qualify for benefits if the disability prevents them from doing their job.

The amount of Social Security Disability benefits depends on your earnings and what you’ve paid into the system.  If you are receiving other benefits (like workers’ compensation), then Social Security may reduce its payment to you (known as an “offset”) to comply with its rules.

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