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Examples Help Clarify Confusing Rules I've recently had several email exchanges with confused readers. The topics varied, but I found that the readers tended to be confused until I gave them an example. Here are a couple of examples of ... well ... my examples! Hank wrote to tell me …Read more. They Said ... I Said People often tell me that they get different information or advice or answers from Social Security Administration representatives than they get from me. So they are confused and not sure whom to believe. While, obviously, there is the chance they …Read more. Where to Get Medicare Advice Regular readers of my column know that I rarely tread into the murky Medicare waters because I am not an expert on that program. Many people mistakenly assume that Social Security and Medicare are essentially two parts of the same government program.…Read more. Questions About Widow's Benefits Q: I am very concerned that I may have messed up my future widow's benefits from Social Security. I started taking my Social Security when I was 62. I am now 68. My husband is 78 and in poor health. He is not expected to live much longer. Will I get …Read more.
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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.

But from that rate, they would have to deduct one-half of 1 percent for all the Social Security checks you've received — and that would take you right back down to the reduced payment rate you're currently getting.

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 To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



10 Comments | Post Comment
Hi! I'm working & disabled (not receiving benefits), I'm deliberating early retirement (62).
If I apply for disabily would I receive medical benefits, where I would
not on retirement? Should I apply for early SS retirement then disability?
Thank you, Julie
Comment: #1
Posted by: Julie
Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:10 PM
i am 65 and 4 months. i am on social security disability. i have been told that i could earn an unlimited amount of income from working for the next 8 months and then when i reach age 66(full retirement age) my social security benefit would switch over to regular social security. so that technically at this point i can earn any amount and not be penalized in any way.
Comment: #2
Posted by: mike danze
Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:17 PM
In 2002 my (single) mother retired early at the age of 62 and has been receiving social security and PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) monthly. She is now 73...and this past January was hospitalized and was declared to have a condition (s) that rendered her to be permanantly disabled and severly declined her way of life. Because she retired before reaching full retirement age...and thus received only a portion of her social security...i am wondering if she would qualify for receiving the 'difference' of her retirement in lieu of actual disability...? Both her attending hospital physcian and (since her discharge in January) her homebound physician (physician that comes to patients who are unabtle to come to them) have been encouraging her to apply for disabilithy so they can complete and sign off on it. Would my mother quality for additional benefits of any kind if she applies?....Would they retro her pay back to January when she was admitted? (she was admitted January 20th discharged January 30th.) IF this were so...besides monetary benefits...what other benefits would she be entitled to? She currantly has medi-care and will be soon supplementing that with medi-cal...also per her physicians directive. Thank You so much for your directive and information. dj
Comment: #3
Posted by: d johnson
Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:37 AM
I am working full time but I hurt my back and I am having a tuff time with pain while working.My doctor said I could not keep doing the job I have been doing Can I get diability from social security and how long does it take
Comment: #4
Posted by: helen mccarty
Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:05 AM
i am 70 idont know if i get social security i became disabled last year and i dont know if i qualify or how to apply
Comment: #5
Posted by: margaret mooney
Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:04 AM
This question is for my husband. He has disability with VA started over 10 years ago with 10% it is being revised as we speak, the agent said should go up to 40 or 50% total. He was a Vietnam Veteran exposed to Agent Orange. He is self employed and with the disabilities from his diabetes and secondary complications to this illness he struggles to keep going with his livelihood. He inquired to get on SS Disability but was told that he had to do this before he turned 65. Would being on VA disability all these years have any bearing on letting him file for SS Disability at the age of 68?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Eldon
Mon Jun 2, 2014 12:51 PM
I think the answer is no, but....

I started receiving ssa retirement income at age 62. I am now 67 and have developed variant angina within the last 4 months. If I am considered disabled, would I be able to receive a higher amount than the reduced benefit ssa I've received since age 62? If I am unable to work, my social security retirement reduced amount is $776, would I qualify for ssi if not ssdi?

thanks, very much
Comment: #7
Posted by: susiebeifuss
Tue Jun 24, 2014 7:01 PM
I have just retired I am 64 my wife has been on ssi and was just told she will no longer be able to get ssi can she retire at 59
Comment: #8
Posted by: nicky b guy
Sun Sep 7, 2014 2:43 PM
what I am trying to find out is if my wife can retire at 59 . she is disabled and has been on ssi for a few years now. I have just retired . I am 64 we recived a latter from ssi stating that because I have retired she will no longer get ssi or ssdi we do not know were to go with this. the ssi people tell us we our over the income level for her to get the ssi . I can not understand how I will be getting over 1k less in income a mounth now that I am retired. thanking you in advance nicky b guy
Comment: #9
Posted by: nicky b guy
Mon Sep 8, 2014 10:18 AM
I am 62 years old currently receiving Supplemental Security Disability payments. SSA recently required I file for early retirement. Is that mandatory? Also, after filling out the first part of the online retirement application and electronically signing and submitting I was instructed to proceed to the next section (part) which appears to be a re-certification of sorts for my ongoing Supplemental Security Disability benefit. Is the second part of the application mandatory and, if so, what is the purpose.
Comment: #10
Posted by: waynewise
Sat Nov 8, 2014 4:12 AM
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