This post provides answers to questions that often arise in conversations with my clients. If you're new to Disability or have been on it for some time, these answers might help you to better understand your coverage.
How can I find out the status of my application for Social Security disability benefits? How do I get a Medicare card?
Five days after you submit your claim, check the status of your application online, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office. Checking your claim online shows information about the date it was received, if a decision has been made yet and the address of the office that’s processing your application. Once you have received disability benefits for two years, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare, which includes hospital and medical insurance. You’ll receive a red, white and blue Medicare card with your name and Social Security number on it. If you need to replace your card or change your information, you can apply for a new one online by setting up a “my Social Security account” or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778).
How many credits do I need to qualify for Social Security disability benefits and what happens when I reach retirement age?
You qualify for Social Security benefits by earning Social Security credits when you work and pay Social Security taxes. In addition to meeting the definition of disability, you must have worked long enough, and recently enough, to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Social Security credits are earned based on your income and the number of credits you need to qualify depends on your age when you became disabled. You’ll most likely need 40 credits, 20 of which must have been earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.
Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. When you reach retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits and the amount will remain the same. If you’re disabled or older than 65, but haven’t worked long enough for SSDI, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For more information, visit Disability.gov’s Guide to Benefits. Remember, Disability.gov is not SSA and can’t take applications for benefits or tell you the status of your claim. Call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) if you have questions.
I receive Social Security disability benefits and want to go back to work. Will SSA stop my benefits if I do?
Work incentives make it possible for you to work and still receive your monthly disability benefits. A trial work period allows you to test your ability to work while still receiving your full Social Security benefits for at least nine months. If you continue to work after this time period, your benefits will eventually stop. Visit “How Will Working Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?” for more information on the trial work period and extended eligibility for benefits. The easy-to-understand publication, “Working while Disabled – How We Can Help,” describes SSA’s work incentives and rules relating to work and disability benefits. “The Red Book – a Guide to Work Incentives” is an additional resource on employment supports. The Ticket to Work Program helps people receiving Social Security disability benefits find employment, career counseling or job training while keeping Medicare or Medicaid. This free, voluntary program is available to people ages 18 through 64 who have a disability.
Where can I find help training for and finding a job?
Jobseekers wishing to return to the workforce have a vast amount of information and resources available to assist them in their search. Disability.gov’s Guide to Employment is a great place to find information about job training programs, help with the job application process, employment programs for veterans and more. Organizations and programs around the country provide job training programs, including American Job Centers and State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies.
Find more job training contacts in your state. Once you’re ready to begin your job search, use Disability.gov’s list of resources on where you can get help finding a job. You may want to search online for a new career, as many job listings are now posted on online job boards. If you’re interested in employment with the federal government, visit USAJOBS or the Office of Personnel Management’s Web page for people with disabilities.
What financial assistance programs are there for people with disabilities living on a fixed income?
When living on a fixed income, financial assistance from public and private sector programs makes a difference. Find help with home repairs and modifications and assistance with avoiding foreclosure. You may wish to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in your state to help pay for groceries Keep the lights and heat on with help paying for your gas or electric bills through the LIHEAP Program. The federal Lifeline Program provides discounted phone service to millions of eligible consumers. Find your state on this map to find wireless and home phone companies that can help. Your local Community Action Agency may also be able to connect you to programs and organization that provide financial support.
Remember that government grants usually go to organizations, not individuals – it’s better to visit sites like those listed on USA.gov for personal financial help. Additional information on financial assistance programs is available in Disability.gov’s Guide to Financial Help for Low-Income Individuals and Families.
Where can I get help paying my rent?
You can find information about programs that help renters find affordable housing on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website. Conduct a low-rent apartment search in your state to find available housing and get contact information for rental offices. These types of apartments receive government funds in exchange for lower rates charged to low-income tenants. To qualify for rental assistance, you can’t earn more than the income limit. Your local Public Housing Agency can provide you with information about housing choice vouchers. Get advice on renting from a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.
In addition to services provided by HUD, your state may also offer local rental assistance programs. Learn more about available housing assistance in Disability.gov’s Guide to Housing and by visiting Disability.gov’s Low Rent Housing & Public Housing Vouchers section.
I live in a rural area that doesn’t have a lot of public transportation options. Where can I find accessible transportation?
Finding accessible transportation, public transportation, paratransit or other transportation options can be a real challenge for people with disabilities, especially those living in rural areas. Call your state’s 2-1-1 Information Line for information on local accessible transportation. This free and confidential service connects you to essential services in your community including transportation. Your local Independent Living Center may also be able to help you look into available transportation in your area. Veterans with service-connected disabilities who need transportation to medical facilities can find assistance through the Disabled American Veterans nationwide volunteer transportation network. Use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to find contact information for your local DAV transportation program. Check out Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation for more information.
I take care of my elderly mother who’s disabled. Are there programs in my state that can help?
Family caregivers play an important role supporting the health and well-being of their loved ones. If you’re in need of some support in your role as a caregiver, a good place to start is Elderlocator.gov. Choose the type of assistance you’re looking for, like information about long-term care, health insurance, Alzheimer’s care or transportation, from the list of resources and then enter your ZIP code or city and state. The Family Caregiver Alliance’s Family Care Navigator also has information about government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease-specific organizations and other programs listed by state. Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center can connect you to information about long-term care and community-based services in your state. The Disability.gov Guide for Family Caregivers has more resources for family caregivers in your area.
Are there organizations or grants that can help me get a service dog?
Service dogs assist people with many different types of disabilities, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual and other mental disabilities. Organizations such as Paws with a Cause, Service Dogs for America, Canine Companions for Independence and the American Service Dog Association help train and place service animals with people with disabilities. Grants for people who need service animals are also available. The Assistance Dog United Campaign and Guardian Angels Medical Services Dogs, Inc. are among the various organizations that provide financial help to people with disabilities who can’t afford a service animal. Service Dogs for America also partners with various foundations to provide extra funding. Overall, many factors must be considered when choosing which service animal organization is best for you, so review this list of questions to consider when deciding which program best fits your needs.
Are there any scholarships or financial aid programs specifically for students with disabilities?
College is a significant transition in any student’s life and comes with new expenses. As a result, most students seek financial aid opportunities to help pay for college. For students with disabilities, many organizations provide scholarships to ensure that college remains affordable. As many scholarships are provided for people with specific types of disabilities, this list of disability scholarship options may help you decide which scholarship is best suited for you. In addition to applying for scholarships, student with disabilities may be eligible for federal financial aid.
You may also find financial aid opportunities through your home state. Adult and non-traditional students can also apply for certain types of financial aid. The process of applying for and receiving student financial aid can seem overwhelming, but finding a good starting point and understanding your options are key to ensuring that you receive financial support that meets your educational goals.
How to Transition from Work to Social Security Disability