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Disability Benefits

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. You are disabled under Social Security rules if you cannot do work that you did before and it is decided that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability must also last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

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 age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.