Legal Words of Wisdom: Social Security Disability

Rodney Warner, Esq
Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc.
Last Modified: July 1, 2008

Share article


This section is brought to you by the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc. Rodney Warner is a staff attorney at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc., a non-profit law firm that provides free legal services to the physically disabled in Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania counties. Rodney is a cancer survivor and his position is funded by a grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The clinic’s website is www.legalclinicforthedisabled.org These articles are for informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice. Please speak with an attorney for legal advice.

This month’s topic is Social Security Disability benefits (SSD). A person can qualify for SSD if he or she (1) is disabled and (2) worked and paid social security taxes (F.I.C.A.) for a specified number of years. The number of required years depends on the person’s age. In addition, the work must have occurred recently. SSD is not a welfare program, and you do not need to be poor to collect it. The applicant earns the benefits by paying taxes into the system.
 
A “disability” for purposes of SSD is an impairment that makes the person unable to earn more than a minimum amount of money. The disability must be expected to last one year, or have already lasted a year, or be expected to cause the person’s death. If someone with cancer is diagnosed and cured in less than a year, that person would probably not qualify for benefits. But under some circumstances, the person might qualify (such as if there were severe, long term side effects from the disease or the treatment).
 
A recent caller to our office asked about qualifying for SSD. Though she had worked several years, she had been paid under the table, and had not paid social security taxes. Having failed to pay those taxes, she did not qualify for SSD regardless of her disability. The caller might qualify for Supplementary Security Income benefits (SSI), which is a welfare program for people with disabilities who have not worked and paid the taxes the requisite amount of years. But SSI benefits are generally less than SSD, and applicants must have very limited income and resources.

For more information on SSD, visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10029.html. For more information on SSI, visit http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/.

Rodney Warner is a staff attorney at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc., a non-profit law firm that provides free legal services to the physically disabled in Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania counties. Rodney is a cancer survivor and his position is funded by a grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The clinic’s website is www.legalclinicforthedisabled.org This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Please speak with an attorney for legal advice.