Social Security Disability Benefits

June 15, 2008

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend’s husband died last month, leaving her to raise their two young boys. When I was researching Social Security death benefits, I also looked into Social Security disability benefits and learned the following:

  • Disability benefits are (or at least seem to be) more complicated than death benefits. This appears to be due to the fact that there are a lot more factors affecting disability benefits, some of which will be discussed below.
  • Your annual Social Security statement indicates whether you are eligible for disability benefits and estimates the amount. You can see a sample of this part of the statement at the SSA web site.
  • Generally, Social Security disability benefits are paid to those who cannot work for a year or more due to disability. And you cannot receive benefits until you have been unable to work for at least five months.
  • Disability payments continue for as long as you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed regularly, and of course, you’re obligated to report changes in your condition or circumstances.
  • Your family members may be eligible for benefits based on your disability. Family members who may receive payments include your spouse,your divorced spouse, your children, and your disabled child.
  • As with death benefits, your spouse may not receive disability benefits until he or she is close to retirement age, in this case, 62 or older.
  • And as with death benefits, a younger spouse may receive disability benefits if he or she is caring for your child under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits. When your child turns 16, your spouse’s benefits would cease but your child would continue to receive benefits.
  • Your child’s disability benefits are similar to death benefits. Your child can receive disability benefits if he or she is under age 18, 18 to 19 years old and still in high school, or over 18 with a disability that started before age 22.

For more information, check out the SSA’s Disability Planner.

3 responses to Social Security Disability Benefits

  1. Good synopsis. I would point out, though, that (I am a former disability claims examiner for the social security administration) that the one year rule for satisfying the SSA definition of disability can be “projected”. That is, you don’t actually have to be out of work for a year to qualify. Upon review of your medical records, a projection can be made as to the likelihood of a claimant being unable to work. Also, cases are typically set for review (“diaried”) every one, three, and seven years, depending on the severity of a claimant’s condition and the likelihood (or not) that medical improvement might occur.

  2. When checking the SSA web site and filling out the questionaire to see if you may be eligible for disability payments, they ask how much do you have in the bank, stocks, 401k etc.
    How does this affect your claim? If you are not 59 1/2, have some money in a 401k but unable to get due to age, will this make you non eligible?

  3. Judith Brunson April 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    My husband is getting disability payments and medicare, but his condition is at the stage where Medicare and our insurance will not pay for 24 hour care, so I had to take leave from my job to care for him, drive him to the doctor, treatments, assist with his physical care, etc. We are living on our retirement savings, but not retirement age. Suggestions? His disease is a rare genetic one that is progressive. I don’t see anywhere that offers benefits in this situation.