QUESTION: My husband was considered disabled by his employer but was turned down when he applied for Social Security disability. Can you explain why?

A: People may be turned down when first applying for Social Security disability. Perhaps Social Security just needs more information. I always suggest appealing the decision. You usually have 60 days from the time you receive the letter to respond.

Social Security has a very strict definition of “disability.” Applicants will be considered disabled if they cannot perform the work they did before the illness or accident that caused the disability and if Social Security determines that they cannot adjust to other type of work due to their medical condition.

In addition, the disability must be expected to last for at least a year or result in death. Social Security does not pay for partial disability or short-term disability.

A second part of eligibility depends on the applicant’s work record. An applicant must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security.

The number of work credits needed depends on the applicant’s age at the time the disability occurred. Generally, the applicant must have worked 5 years — 20 credits — of the past 10 years ending with the year in which the disability occurred. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

Applicants should apply for disability benefits as soon as they become disabled to get the application process started as the process lasts three to five months.

Benefit payments usually start in the sixth month of disability. Payment amount is based on the applicant’s average lifetime earnings under Social Security.

Other types of payments may affect these benefits. Workers’ compensation, other disability payments and other government benefits as well as any earned income received could reduce the amount of the disability.

Always tell Social Security about changes to avoid overpayments.

Disability benefits usually continue as long as the medical condition prevents the person from returning to work. If the medical condition improves, and the beneficiary is no longer considered disabled, the benefits will stop.

Disability cases are reviewed regularly to make sure beneficiaries are still disabled. While on disability you are responsible for reporting changes in your medical condition.

After receiving disability for 24 months you are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A hospital coverage, which is free to you, and Part B medical coverage, which has a monthly premium that will be deducted from your disability check.

If you remain disabled until you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits. The payment amount will remain the same.

While you are collecting Social Security disability, certain family members may also qualify for benefits. Those family members include your spouse if 62 or older, your spouse of any age if the spouse is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled, your unmarried child if younger than 18 or 19 and in elementary or secondary school full time and your unmarried adults child if he or she has a disability that started before age 22.

If you have questions you should contact the Social Security Administration.


June 5: City of Thousand Oaks Senior of the Year Awards Dinner. 5:30 p.m.; Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Dinner is $6 and will be catered by Stone Fire Grill. Tickets are available at the center. For information call 381-7362.

June 8: Senior Concerns Love Run. 10K, 5K and 1 mile run/walk. For information call 497-0189 or email loverun@seniorconcerns.

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