Here are some Questions & Answers about Social Security Disability benefits from the Disability Page of the U.S. Social Security Administration's website:
How Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
To qualify for benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.
Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called "work incentives," that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.
If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.
In addition to meeting our definition of disability, you must have worked long enough—and recently enough—under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.
Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.
The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2011, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,120 of wages or self-employment income. When you've earned $4,480, you've earned your four credits for the year.
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. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
IMPORTANT: Remember that whatever your age is, you must have earned the required number of work credits within a certain period ending with the time you become disabled. Your Social Security Statement shows whether you meet the work requirement at the time it was prepared. If you stop working under Social Security after the date of the Statement, you may not continue to meet the disability work requirement in the future.
The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
"Disability" under Social Security is based on your inability to work. We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
• You cannot do work that you did before;
To decide whether you are disabled, we use a step-by-step process involving five questions. They are:
1. Are you working?
If you are working in 2011 and your earnings average more than $1,000 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
If you are not working, we go to Step 2.
2. Is your condition "severe"?
Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, we will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, we go to Step 3.
3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
For each of the major body systems, we maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, we have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, we will find that you are disabled. If it is not, we then go to Step 4.
Note: We have two initiatives designed to expedite our processing of new disability claims:
Compassionate Allowances: Certain cases that usually qualify for disability can be allowed as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. Examples include acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and pancreatic cancer.
Quick Disability Determinations: We use sophisticated computer screening to identify cases with a high probability of allowance
For more information about changes to our disability claims process, visit our Disability Service Improvement website.
4. Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then we must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, we proceed to Step 5.
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, we see if you are able to adjust to other work. We consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
Most people who receive disability benefits are workers who qualify on their own records and meet the work and disability requirements we have just described. However, we want to point out some situations you may not know about:
• Special rules for people who are blind or have low vision
The Law Offices of Andrew J. Muirhead is a leading Arizona law firm dedicated to the representation of clients involving all aspects of Social Security Disability Law. We handle cases throughout the greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, Kingman, Yuma, and all of Arizona.
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