What About Social Security Disability Benefits?

What About Social Security Disability Benefits?

Most salaried workers in the United States participate in the federal government's Social Security program. Social Security is best known for its retirement benefits. But the Social Security Administration also administers disability benefits. In 1992, 2.4 billion dollars in Social Security disability payments were sent to 4.8 million Americans.

Your salary and the number of years you have been covered under Social Security determine how much you can receive. In 1992, the average monthly payment for a disabled worker was $642; the average monthly payment for a family consisting of a disabled worker, spouse, and one or more children was $1093.

Here are some important points to remember:
  • Eligibility is based on being unable to perform any gainful employment, not just the job you were performing at the time the disability began.
  • You are eligible for benefits after you have been disabled for 5 months and if the disability is expected to last 12 months. Claim processing may take up to 3 months, so file as soon as possible.
  • Social Security payments may be reduced by disability entitlements under other government programs. Why? Because total combined payments under Social Security, workers' compensation, civil service, and military programs generally cannot exceed 80 percent of average predisability earnings. A government pension also may reduce Social Security disability payments.
  • After 24 months of benefits, recipients qualify for Medicare. If you want the medical insurance portion of Medicare, in addition to hospital coverage, you must enroll and pay a monthly premium.
  • Social Security disability payments are subject to federal income tax if your adjusted gross income plus any nontaxable interest income and half of you Social Security benefits exceed a total of $25,000 (if you file tax returns individually) or $32,000 (if you file jointly). For taxable years 1994 on, up to 85 percent of Social Security disability payments are subject to federal income tax if the total--as calculated above--exceeds $34,000 (individually) or $44,000 (jointly).
  • Social Security disability payments can be an important part of you income should you suffer a disabling illness or injury. Contact your local Social Security office for an estimate of the disability benefits to which you would be entitled.