Questions on Social Security disability income, benefits
Herald-Palladium, The (St. Joseph, MI)
Q: Why are some people able to get Social Security income earlier than others?
A: Generally, Social Security benefits are paid to eligible workers, and their families, based on the workers' earnings.
This program – Retirement, Survivor and Disability Insurance benefits (RSDI) – is what employment taxes fund. So, if an eligible worker becomes disabled, or someone is a surviving spouse or child of an eligible worker, they can apply for Social Security benefits earlier than retirement age.
Additionally, the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), which is funded by general taxes, provides income to the needy, those deemed as not having enough income or resources, and those who are blind or disabled but do not meet criteria for RSDI benefits.
Q: How does someone qualify to get disability income from Social Security?
A: To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security, and you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.
According to the Social Security Administration's (SSA) website, the number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.
Work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income, and the amount needed to earn work credit changes year to year. Younger workers might qualify for disability with fewer credits.
In terms of medical disability, the following is considered as necessary for eligibility: 1) you cannot do work that you did before because of your medical condition; 2) you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition; and 3) your disability has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year or to result in death.
Social Security only pays benefits for total disability, not partial or short-term disability. The disability must be so severe the worker cannot work, considering age, education and experience.
Applying for Social Security Disability is a multi-step process. If you think you might qualify, the first step is to contact your local Social Security office, or apply by phone by calling 800-772-1213 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, or apply online at www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability.
Q: Is there any way to expedite an application for Social Security disability benefits?
A: The Social Security Administration notes two initiatives designed to expedite processing of new disability claims, these being Compassionate Allowances and Quick Disability Determinations.
These initiatives use technology to identify claimants with the most severe disabilities, which allows SSA to expedite decisions on those cases while maintaining accuracy, and, at times, allows approval of cases in a matter of days instead of months.
Compassionate Allowances reduce waiting time to reach a disability determination for individuals with the most serious disabilities. It involves cases that usually qualify for disability, allowing the determination as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed.
Examples include acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and pancreatic cancer. The SSA recently announced 12 new compassionate allowance conditions, bringing the total number of allowable conditions to 254.
The Quick Disability Determinations process uses a computer-based predictive model to screen initial applications to identify cases where a favorable disability determination is highly likely and medical evidence is readily available.
Reminder: Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. In most cases, this is the only time you can pick a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. Don't miss this important opportunity to make the most of your Medicare coverage.
To get a screening packet and sign up for an appointment, contact Mistelle Lanko at 408-4354 or by emailing [email protected].