By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
Question: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
Answer: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and, based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year).
Question: What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked long enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits and some of the work must be recent. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up, and is currently $1,120. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. For example, if you are under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need between 20 and 40 credits, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked five out of the past 10 years. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Question: What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?
Answer: SSI is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little income and few resources. It provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked and paid into Social Security. SSI is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/.
Question: My brother recently left me some money. Will this inheritance affect my SSI benefits?
Answer: We consider the money inherited from your brother income for the month you receive it. That could make you ineligible for SSI that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance. If you keep the money into the next month, it becomes a part of your resources. You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources to remain eligible for SSI. You should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and report the inheritance. Representatives can tell you how your eligibility might be affected.
Question: Who is eligible for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs?
Answer: Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources may qualify for extra help. The extra help can save them money. It pays part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments under the new Medicare prescription drug program. The extra help is estimated to be worth an average of $4,000 per year. Help someone qualify and apply at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.
Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org