Home

Attorney Profile

Practice Areas

Bankruptcy Questions

Consumer Protection Information

Social Security Benefits

Hours & Fees

Schedule a Bankruptcy Consultation

Contact Us

Legal Links

Resource Links

MILDRED N. PHILLIPS
Attorney at Law
Ten Post Office Square
8th floor
Boston, MA 02109
Phone: (617) 624-3800
Fax: (617) 892-4187

Social Security Benefits

Disability Benefits (SSDI)

Back to top.


Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Back to top.


Retirement Benefits

Back to top.


Survivor Benefits

Back to top.


Disability Benefits
Social Security pays cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. Benefits continue until a person is able to work again on a regular basis, and a number of work incentives are available to ease the transition back to work.

Back to top.


What Is Disability?
It is important that you understand how Social Security defines "disability." That is because other programs have different definitions for disability. Some programs pay for partial disability or for short-term disability. Social Security does not.

Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work. You will be considered disabled if you cannot do work you did before and Social Security Administration decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability also must last or be expected to last for at least a year or to result in death. This is a strict definition of disability. The program assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

Back to top.


Who Can Get Disability Benefits?
You can receive Social Security disability benefits until age 65. When you reach age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits on your record.

Back to top.


How Much Work Do I Need?
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits per year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise. Family members who qualify for benefits on your work record do not need work credits.

The number of work credits you need depends on your age and the type of benefit for which you are applying. Most people need 40 credits to qualify for retirement benefits.

Back to top.


How Long Does It Take To Make A Decision On A Claim?
It generally takes longer to process claims for disability benefits than other types of Social Security claims--from 3 months to 5 months.

Back to top.


What Happens When My Claim Is Denied?
If your claim is denied or you disagree with any part of our decision, you may appeal the decision

Back to top.


When Do My Benefits Start?
If your application is approved, your first Social Security benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For example, if we find that your disability began on January 15, your first disability benefit will be paid for the month of July. Because Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due, you would receive your July benefit in August.

Back to top.


How Much Will I Get From Social Security?
The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.

Back to top.


Are Benefits Taxed?
Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if your total income is high. At the end of the year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) showing the amount of benefits you received. Use the statement to complete your federal income tax return if any of your benefits are subject to tax.

Back to top.


Can I Get Medicare If I Am Disabled?
Social Security Administration will automatically enroll you in Medicare after you get disability benefits for two years.

Medicare has two parts: hospital insurance and medical insurance. Hospital insurance helps pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you paid while you were working financed this coverage, so it is free. The other part of Medicare, medical insurance, helps pay doctors' bills and other services. You will pay a monthly premium for this coverage if you want it. Most people have both parts of Medicare.

Back to top.


Is My Case Reviewed?
In general, your benefits will continue as long as you are disabled. However, Social Security Administration will review your case periodically to see if you are still disabled. The frequency of the reviews depends on the expectation of recovery.


What Can Cause Benefits To Stop?
There are two things that can cause your benefits to stop:

  • Your benefits will stop if you work at a level that is considered "substantial." Usually, average earnings of more than $900.00 a month are considered substantial
  • Your disability benefits also will stop if it is determined that your medical condition has improved to the point that you are no longer disabled.

Back to top.


Supplemental Security Income

What Is SSI?
SSI is short for Supplemental Security Income. It pays monthly benefits to people who are 65 or older, or blind, or have a disability and who don't own much or have a lot of income. SSI isn't just for adults, monthly benefits can go to disabled and blind children, too. People who get SSI usually get food stamps and Medicaid. Medicaid helps pay doctor and hospital bills.

Back to top.


Definition of Blindness and Disability
To be blind means you are either totally blind or have very poor eyesight. Disabled means you have a physical or mental problem that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least a year or to result in death. Sometimes, a person whose sight is not poor enough to qualify for benefits as a blind person may be able to get benefits as a disabled person if his or her condition prevents him or her from working.

Back to top.


Your Income And The Things You Own
Whether you can get SSI also depends on what you own and how much income you have. Income is the money you have coming in such as wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. Income also includes non-cash items you receive such as food, clothing or shelter.

Back to top.


Income
The amount of income you can have each month and still get SSI depends partly on where you live. Social Security doesn't count all of your income when it decides if you can get SSI. For example, it does not count:

  • the first $20 of most income received in a month;
  • the first $65 a month you earn from working and half the amount over $65;
  • food stamps;
  • shelter you get from private nonprofit organizations; and
  • most home energy assistance.
If you are a student, some of your wages or scholarships you receive may not count.

If you are disabled but work, Social Security does not count any wages you use to pay for items or services you need to work because of your disability. For example, if you need a wheelchair, the wages you use to pay for the wheelchair don't count as income.

Also, Social Security does not count any wages a blind person uses to pay expenses that are caused by working. For example, if a blind person uses wages to pay for transportation to and from work, the transportation cost isn't counted as income.

If you're disabled or blind, some of the income you use (or save) for training or to buy things you need to work or earn more money may not count.

Back to top.


The Things You Own
The things you own that Social Security considers include items such as real estate, bank accounts, cash, and stocks and bonds.

A person may be able to get SSI with items worth up to $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI with items worth up to $3,000. If you own property or another resource that you are trying to sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it.

Social Security doesn't count everything you own. For example:

  • the home you live in and the land it's on do not count;
  • life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less do not count;
  • your car usually does not count;
  • burial plots for you and members of your immediate family do not count; and
  • up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse may not count.
  • if you are blind or have a disability, some items may not count if you plan to use them to work or earn extra income.

Back to top.


Other Rules You Must Meet
Before you can get SSI, you also must meet other rules.

  • You must live in the U.S. or Northern Mariana Islands;
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or national. (Some noncitizens can qualify for SSI);
  • If you're eligible for Social Security or other benefits, you must apply for them. (You can get SSI and Social Security if you're eligible for both);
  • If you're disabled, you must accept vocational rehabilitation services if they're offered.

Back to top.


If You Live In A Public Or Private Institution

  • People who live in city or county rest homes, halfway houses, or other public institutions usually cannot get SSI. But there are some exceptions.
  • If you live in a publicly operated community residence, which serves no more than 16 people, you may get SSI.
  • If you live in a public institution mainly to attend approved educational or job training that will help you get a job, you may get SSI.
  • If you're living in a public emergency shelter for the homeless, you may be able to get SSI.
  • If you're in a public or private institution and Medicaid is paying more than half the cost of your care, you may get a small SSI benefit.

Back to top.


Retirement Benefits

How Do You Qualify For Retirement Benefits?
When you work and pay Social Security taxes (called FICA on some pay stubs), you earn Social Security credits. Most people earn the maximum of four credits per year. The number of credits you need to get retirement benefits depends on your date of birth. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work). People born before 1929 need fewer than 40 credits (39 credits if born in 1928; 38 credits if born in 1927; etc.)

If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, your credits will remain on your Social Security record. If you return to work later on, you can add more credits so that you qualify. No retirement benefits can be paid until you have the required number of credits.

If you're like most people, you will earn many more credits than you need to qualify for Social Security. These extra credits do not increase your Social Security benefit. However, the income you earn while working will increase your benefit, as you will learn in the next section.

Back to top.


How Much Will Your Retirement Benefits Be?
Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over most of your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If you have some years of no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.

Your benefit amount also is affected by your age at the time you start receiving benefits. If you start your retirement benefits at age 62 (the earliest possible retirement age) your benefit will be lower than if you waited until a later age.

Each year, about three months before your birthday, you receive a Social Security Statement that provides you a record of your earnings, estimates of your Social Security benefits for early retirement, full retirement and retirement at age 70. It also provides an estimate of the disability benefits you could receive if you become severely disabled before you are eligible for full retirement, as well as estimates of the amount of benefits paid to your spouse and other eligible family members due to your retirement, disability or death. The Social Security Statement can be a valuable tool in helping you plan for a secure financial future in your retirement.

Back to top.


Full Retirement Age
The usual retirement age for people retiring now is age 65. Social Security calls this "full retirement age," and the benefit amount that is payable is considered the full retirement benefit.

Because of longer life expectancies, the Social Security law was changed in 1983 to increase the full retirement age in gradual steps until it reaches age 67. This change starts in the year 2003, and if affects people born in 1938 and later.

Back to top.


Early Retirement
You can start your Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but the benefit amount you receive will be less than your full retirement benefit. If you take early retirement, your benefits will be permanently reduced based on the number of months you will receive checks before you reach full retirement age. As a general rule, early retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime, but in smaller amounts to take into account the longer period you will receive them.

Back to top.


Delayed Retirement
Not everyone retires at full retirement age. You may decide to continue working full time beyond that time. In that case, you can increase your Social Security benefit when you retire.

If you decide to delay your retirement, be sure to sign up for Medicare at age 65. In some circumstances, medical insurance costs more if you delay applying for it.

Back to top.


Benefits For Family Benefits
If you are receiving retirement benefits, some members of your family also can receive benefits.

Back to top.


If You Work And Get Social Security At The Same Time
You can continue to work and still receive retirement benefits. Your earnings in (or after) the month you reach your full retirement age will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits for the months before you reach your full retirement age--65 for persons born before 1938 and gradually increasing to 67 for persons born in 1960 or later.

Back to top.


Your Benefits May Be Taxable
About 20 percent of people who get Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. This provision affects only people who have substantial income in addition to their Social Security.

At the end of each year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) in the mail showing the amount of benefits you received. You can use this statement when you are completing your federal income tax return to find out if any of your benefits are subject to tax.

Back to top.


Pensions From Work Not Covered By Social Security
If you get a pension from work where you paid Social Security taxes, it will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, if you get a pension from work that was not covered by Social Security--for example, the federal civil service, some state or local government employment or work in a foreign country--your Social Security benefit may be lowered or offset.

Back to top.


Medicare
Medicare is a health insurance plan for people who are 65 or older. People who are disabled or have permanent kidney failure can get Medicare at any age. Medicare has two parts: hospital insurance and medical insurance. Most people have both parts.

Hospital insurance, sometimes called Part A, covers inpatient hospital care and certain follow-up care. You already have paid for it as part of your Social Security taxes while you were working.

Medical insurance, sometimes called Part B, pays for physicians´┐Ż services and some other services not covered by hospital insurance. Medical insurance is optional, and you must pay monthly premiums.

Back to top.


Survivor Benefits

Life Insurance From Social Security
Many people think of Social Security as a retirement program. But, retirement benefits are just one part of the Social Security program. Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors insurance. In fact, the value of the survivors insurance you have under Social Security is probably more than the value of your individual life insurance. When someone who has worked and paid into Social Security dies, survivor benefits can be paid to certain family members. These include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children, and dependent parents.

You, along with millions of other people, earn survivors insurance by working and paying Social Security taxes. Right now, 98 out of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent should die. In fact, Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program.

Back to top.


How You Earn Survivors Benefits
When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits if you worked, paid Social Security taxes and earned enough "credits." You can earn a maximum of four credits each year. The number of credits you need depends on your age when you die. The younger a person is, the fewer credits he or she needs to have family members be eligible for survivors benefits. But nobody needs more than 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for any Social Security benefits.

Under a special rule, benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who is caring for the children, even though you don't have the number of credits needed. They can get benefits if you have credit for one and one half years of work in the three years just before your death.

Back to top.


Who Can Get Survivors Benefits?

When you die, Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to your:

  • widow or widower;
  • unmarried children under 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time). Your child can get benefits at any age if he or she was disabled before age 22 and remained disabled; or
  • dependent parents at 62 or older.

Back to top.


Benefits For Surviving Divorced Spouses
If you've been divorced, your former wife or husband can get benefits under the same circumstances as your widow or widower if your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Your former spouse, however, does not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule if she or he is caring for your child who is under 16 or disabled and who is also getting benefits on your Social Security record. The child must be your former spouse's natural or legally adopted child.

Back to top.


How Much Are The Benefits?
How much your family can get from Social Security depends on your average lifetime earnings. That means the higher your earnings, the higher their benefits will be.

Back to top.


What If I Work?
If you work while getting Social Security survivors benefits and are under full retirement age (65 for people born before 1938 and gradually increasing to 67 for people born in 1960 or later), the amount of your benefits may be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits.

Your earnings will reduce only your survivors benefits, not the benefits of other family members.

Back to top.


What If I Remarry?
Generally, you can't get survivors benefits if you remarry. But, remarriage after age 60 (50 if disabled) will not prevent benefit payments on your former spouse's record. And, at age 62 or older, you may get benefits on the record of your new spouse if they are higher.

Back to top.



Copyright ┬ę 2005-2017 Mildred N. Philips - Attorney at Law
All Rights Reserved.
Call Today 1-617-624-3800

DISCLAIMER: Advertising. In accordance with rules established by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this web site must be labeled "advertising." It is designed to provide general information for clients and friends of the firm and should not be construed as legal advice, or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

We practice law only in jurisdictions we are properly authorized to do so and do not seek to represent anyone in any jurisdiction where this site does not comply with applicable laws and bar rules. DO NOT send us any information that you regard as privileged or confidential unless and until we authorize you to do so.