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When Seniors Become Disabled
Q: I am 62 and started getting Social Security retirement benefits this year. At the time I applied for Social Security, I was having some physical problems at my job, but I was still working part time. However, recently I've been forced to stop working because of my impairments. My doctor signed a paper saying that I am 100 percent disabled so I could get a handicapped sticker for my car.
I'm pretty sure I'd qualify for Social Security disability. Can I file for those benefits? Some people have told me I can, but others have told me it's too late.
A: Yes, you can file for Social Security disability benefits. If your claim is approved, you will be switched from retirement payments to disability payments. That would mean a little extra money in your monthly benefit checks. A Social Security disability benefit pays the same rate as your full retirement benefit at age 66. But from that amount, they will have to deduct about one-half of 1 percent for each month you've already received reduced retirement payments.
Here's a quick example. Let's say your full retirement benefit is $1,000 per month. You took reduced retirement at age 62, meaning you're getting about $750 per month. You file for disability benefits and your claim is approved after you've been receiving retirement checks for 10 months. Your disability rate would be $1,000 minus about 5 percent (10 retirement checks times one-half of 1 percent equals 5 percent) or about $50 leaving you with $950 per month.
There is one other point I need to make. You should know that getting a disability sticker for your car in no way means you will automatically be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The qualification requirements for the federal government's disability program are much stricter than the rules for getting disability parking stickers.
Q: I am 68 years old and have been getting Social Security benefits for five years. I was recently in a car accident and am now completely disabled. Can I file for Social Security disability benefits? If not, what about SSI?
A. No, you can't file for Social Security disability benefits. The difference between your situation and that described in the first question is that you are already over age 66. Once you're over your full retirement age, you are already receiving the highest amount you are due from Social Security.
Here is another way to look at that. I suppose you technically could file for disability benefits. And if your claim was approved, you would be eligible for your full retirement benefit.
You asked if you might qualify for SSI. Supplemental Security Income is a federal welfare program that the Social Security Administration runs for the government. It pays a small monthly stipend to low-income people over 65. If a low-income person is disabled, the SSA can pay one who is under 65. Because you're over 65, you would not get SSI disability benefits. But if your income and assets are low enough, you might get SSI payments just because you're over 65 and poor. SSI eligibility rules vary from state to state, so you will have to contact your local Social Security office to find out if you qualify.
Q: I will be 62 in January and plan to file for my Social Security soon. I have a 14-year-old stepson who has been disabled since birth. Will he be able to get disability benefits on my Social Security account?
A: Your stepson will qualify for dependent's benefits on your record because he is a minor child, not because he is disabled. In other words, the fact that he has a disability isn't an issue — at least, not for the time being. But when he turns 18, his disability will become a factor in his continuing eligibility for benefits. Normally, the law says that benefits to a dependent child are cut off at the 18th birthday. But if a child is disabled, those benefits can continue indefinitely, even into his adult years.
Q: I think one way we can trim Social Security expenditures is to eliminate the disability program. After all, that's just a welfare boondoggle that doles out taxpayer-funded payments to deadbeats and bums. People getting regular Social Security like me are fed up with all these people cheating the system!
A: I'm always amazed by the number of people that consider the Social Security disability program as a "welfare boondoggle." The folks who collect disability benefits have worked and paid Social Security taxes just like those getting retirement benefits. In fact, I like to think of the Social Security disability program as simply an early retirement, or disability retirement benefit.
And I'm curious: What makes a person getting disability a "cheater" and a person getting retirement, like you, a "regular" guy? Anyone who really understands the disability program knows that a person has to be severely disabled to qualify for monthly disability benefits. To label them "deadbeats and bums" means you really don't know what you're talking about.
If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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