There are different kinds of Social Security benefits that are paid on account of disability. The most common and well known is the Disability Insurance Benefit, also referred to as DIB, or SSD. This is the benefit paid to disabled workers. The amount of the benefit is the same as if you were of full retirement age. This is often confused with SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, a welfare benefit administered by the federal Social Security Administration. The SSI disability payments are paid to disabled individuals whose income and assets are very small. There are no income or asset limits for the SSD benefits, but the worker must have worked in covered employment for a sufficient time.
See the Social Security Benefits Handbook by Attorney Stanley A. Tomkiel, III for a discussion of the rules governing social security benefits. To visit the online edition, click here. See in particular Chapter Five Disability for an overview of the several provisions governing disability benefits. This book and another by Attorney Tomkiel, The Social Security Answer Book, are available in bookstores and from the publisher Sphinx Publishing, a division of Sourcebooks, Inc. online at http://www.sphinxlegal.com/.
The law defines disability as the inability to do any kind of substantial gainful activity for a continuous period of at least one year, or having a condition that is expected to result in death. The cause of disability can be either mental or physical, but it must be medically determinable. This means there must be a medical basis for the condition. Statutory blindness also is considered a disability. Statutory blindness is defined as central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of glasses, or the field of vision limited so that the widest diameter subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. The one year duration requirement also applies to blindness cases.
The government will consider your age, education and work experience along with your medical condition. This means that even if your medical condition does not prevent all type of work, you may still be eligible if your particular situation is such that you cannot be expected to perform the only work you are physically able to do. The simplest example of this is the laborer in his late fifties who has a back condition which prevents him from performing his regular job. He has done only this type of work. Although he may still have the physical ability to do light work, the government will consider him disabled because of his age and limited work background.
The rules on proving disability are very complex. If you are unable to do your regular work you should file a disability application. If your claim is denied, consult an attorney and consider an appeal. Many cases which have been denied the first time have been won on appeal.
In addition to proving the disability requirement, you must meet a special "disability insured" status. You must be fully insured and have recent Quarters of Coverage. A Quarter of Coverage is earned by working in employment covered by the social security tax, also known as the FICA tax. To be fully insured you must earn one Quarter of Coverage for every year after the year of attainment of age 22 up to and including the year you become disabled. This second requirement is different depending on when you become disabled.
If you become disabled in or after the calendar quarter you reach age 31, you must have at least twenty Quarters of Coverage during the 40 calendar quarter period ending with the quarter your disability begins. This is called the 20/40 rule. To determine this period, subtract 10 from the year the disability begins and begin with the first quarter after the quarter in the resulting year which corresponds to the quarter of onset of disability. The calendar quarters are as follows: first quarter - January, February, March; second quarter - April, May, June; third quarter - July, August, September; fourth quarter - October, November, December.
If you become disabled before the calendar quarter of your 31st birthday, there is an alternative to the 20/40 rule. Instead, you must have one Quarter of Coverage for every two calendar quarters in the period beginning with the calendar quarter after the quarter of your 21st birthday and ending with the quarter of onset of disability. If the number of quarters in this period is an odd number, use the next lower even number. A minimum of six quarters of coverage is always required. Quarters of Coverage earned before age 21 may be used if this is required to meet the requirement.