Table of Contents

Who is entitled to Social Security disability benefits?

An individual who is determined by the Social Security Administration to be "disabled" receives a Certificate of Award. This Certificate explains how much the disability benefit will be and when payments start. It also tells you when you can expect your condition to be reviewed to see if there has been any improvement.

If family members are eligible, they will receive a separate notice and a booklet about things they need to know.

Generally, a worker is entitled to disability if he or she is:

  • insured for disability
  • under age 65
  • been disabled or expected to be disabled for at least 12 months
  • has filed an application for benefits and
  • completed a five month waiting period.

Disability is generally defined as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity due to a medical or mental impairment. Meeting this definition under Social Security is difficult. Insured means that you have accumulated sufficient credits in the Social Security system. Visit the Social Security Administration's Website to apply for an estimate.

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When do Social Security disability benefits begin?

If you are getting disability benefits on your own work record, or if you are a widow or widower getting benefits on a spouse's record, your payments cannot begin before the sixth full month of disability.

If the sixth month has passed, your first payment may include some back benefits. Your check should arrive on the third day of every month. If the third falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you will receive your check on the last banking day before then. The check you receive is the benefit for the previous month.

Example Example: The check you receive dated July 3 is for June. Your benefit can either be mailed to you or be deposited directly into your bank account.

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Are Social Security disability benefits taxable?

Some people who get Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. The rules are the same regardless as to whether Social Security benefits are received due to retirement or disability. You will be affected only if you have substantial income in addition to your Social Security benefits. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.

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How long do Social Security disability payments continue?

Your disability benefits generally continue for as long as your impairment has not medically improved and you cannot work. They will not necessarily continue indefinitely, however.

Because of advances in medical science and rehabilitation techniques, an increasing number of people with disabilities recover from serious accidents and illnesses. Also, many individuals, through determination and effort, overcome serious conditions and return to work in spite of them.

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What happens to Social Security disability benefits when I reach retirement age?

If you are still getting disability benefits when you turn 65, your benefits will be automatically changed to retirement benefits, generally in the same amount. You will then receive a new booklet explaining your rights and responsibilities as a retired person.

If you are a disabled widow or widower, your benefits will be changed to regular widow or widower benefits (at the same rate) at 60, and you will receive a new instruction booklet that explains the rights and responsibilities for people who get survivors benefits.

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What happens if Social Security turn down my claim for disability benefits?

If you disagree with SSAís decision, you can appeal it. You have 60 days to file a written appeal with any Social Security office. Generally, there are four levels to the appeals process. They are:

  • Reconsideration. Your claim is reviewed by someone who did not take part in the first decision.

  • Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge. You can appear before a judge to present your case.

  • Review by Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council decides your case should be reviewed, it will either decide your case or return it to the administrative law judge for further review.

  • Federal District Court. If the Appeals Council decides not to review your case or if you disagree with its decision, you may file a lawsuit in a federal district court.

If you disagree with the decision at one level, you have 60 days to appeal to the next level until you are satisfied with the decision or have completed the last level of appeal.

You have two special appeal rights when a decision is made that you are no longer disabled.

They are as follows:

  • Disability Hearing. As part of the reconsideration process, this hearing allows you to meet face-to-face with the person who is reconsidering your case to explain why you feel you are still disabled. You can submit new evidence or information and can bring someone who knows about your disability. This special hearing does not replace your right to also have a formal hearing before an administrative law judge (the second appeal step) if your reconsideration is denied.

  • Continuation of Benefits. While you are appealing your case, you can have your disability benefits and Medicare coverage (if you have it) continue until an administrative law judge makes his or her decision. However, you must request the continuation of your benefits during the first 10 days of the 60 days mentioned earlier. If your appeal is not successful, you may have to repay the benefits.

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Will I receive Social Security when I retire?

Believe it or not, you will get Social Security when you retire. It's likely to replace a smaller percentage of your income than in the past, however, and you may end up having to work longer to get full benefits. To get the most from Social Security, make sure that you pay the required tax and that your account shows all your earnings. Then work as long as you can.

You can collect early retirement benefits at age 62, but you currently can't get full benefits until 65. Then you can collect additional benefits for every year you delay your retirement until age 70. After you begin to collect Social Security benefits, you will continue to receive them for life.

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How can I find out what Social Security will pay me when I retire?

Request a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement from the Social Security Administration. The PEBES contains your entire salary history, including the Social Security and Medicare taxes you have paid. It tells you what benefits you can expect, depending on when you retire. You can collect benefits as early as age 62, but benefits will be higher if you wait until your full retirement age, which ranges from 65, for those born before 1938, to 67, for people born after 1959. You get an even bigger check if you wait until 70 to retire. The statement also covers disability and survivor benefits for your family.

Check Social Security Online or call 1-800-772-1213 for information on applying for the statement. You should ask for a PEBES every three years to make sure that the government has accurate information. By law, the Social Security Administration is under no obligation to correct mistakes after a little more than three years.

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Can I count on Social Security being around when I retire?

With retirement on the horizon for hordes of baby boomers, you can bet there will be the political clout to keep Social Security going. However, the Social Security trust fund will be unable to pay benefit increases currently scheduled (which increase annually as the taxable wage base rises) without some kind of reform. A number of proposals have been offered to resolve the problem.

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