In 2011, more than 8.5 million disabled workers received Social Security disability benefits authorized under Title II of the Social Security Administration Act. If you have a qualifying disability and meet other eligibility requirements, you and your family members can receive monthly, tax-free benefits based on your work record.
To qualify for Title II Social Security disability benefits, you have to accumulate the required number of work credits and to have paid Social Security taxes while you worked. For disability benefits, you generally need at least 40 credits. As of 2012, a work credit is earned for every $1,130 you made during the year; up to four can be earned annually. However, you can qualify with fewer credits if you become disabled at an early age. You must also have a disability that satisfies the Social Security Administration’s adult definition of disability. This means your medical condition is either long-term or terminal, and that it prevents you from doing your current job or adapting to another type of work.
The Social Security Administration calculates your Title II disability benefits by averaging your annual earnings in the years you worked before your disability. You used to be sent annual Social Security statements detailing how the amount in disability payments that you and your family would receive as of that time. However, as of late 2012, annual statements were being mailed only to workers 60 and older. The agency planned to start delivering one-time statements to workers in the year they turned 25. All workers 18 and older can view their statements online by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website and creating an account. If you cannot verify the information needed to create an account, you can request a statement be mailed to you.
Your spouse and dependent children can get disability benefits on your record if they meet eligibility requirements. Each eligible family member can receive one-half of your entitled benefit. However, the agency limits the amount of benefits a family can get on one worker’s record. The total family benefit cannot exceed 150 to 180 percent of the worker’s benefit amount. If the total family benefit would exceed this limit, each person’s payment is reduced proportionately.
If you have an ex-spouse, she is entitled to the same Title II Social Security benefits as a current spouse if she meets eligibility guidelines. The amount your ex-spouse gets doesn’t affect the benefit you and your current family receive. Your dependent child doesn’t have to be your natural child. An adopted child, stepchild or grandchild can qualify for benefits on your record.
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