By Hillary Hatch, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
Question: I am expecting a child and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?
Answer: No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability, including benefits while on maternity leave.
Question: I have been getting Social Security disability benefits for many years. I’m about to hit my full retirement age. What will happen to my disability benefits?
Answer: When you reach “full retirement age,” we will switch you from disability to retirement benefits. But you won’t even notice the change because your benefit amount will stay the same. It’s just that when you reach retirement age, we consider you to be a “retiree” and not a disability beneficiary. To learn more, visit www.ssa.gov.
Question: I get Social Security because of a disability. How often will my case be reviewed to determine if I’m still eligible?
Answer: How often we review your medical condition depends on how severe it is and the likelihood it will improve. Your award notice tells you when you can expect your first review using the following terminology:
- Medical improvement expected — If your condition is expected to improve within a specific time, your first review will be six to 18 months after you started getting disability benefits.
- Medical improvement possible — If improvement in your medical condition is possible, your case will be reviewed about every three years.
- Medical improvement not expected — If your medical condition is unlikely to improve, your case will be reviewed about once every five to seven years.
For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
Question: Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: The law states Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after you have been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months. Social Security disability benefits begin with the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are not able to receive benefits for any month during the waiting period. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
Question: My doctor said he thinks I’m disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits, such as whether you worked enough years to qualify. Then we will send your application to the disability determination services office in your state, often called the “DDS” or “state agency.” Your state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case. They use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.
The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. We prefer to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
Question: Will my Social Security disability benefit increase if my condition gets worse or I develop additional health problems?
Answer: No. We do not base your Social Security benefit amount on the severity of your disability. The amount you are paid is based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. If you go back to work after getting disability benefits, you may be able to get a higher benefit based on those earnings. In addition, we have incentives that allow you to work temporarily without losing your disability benefits. For more information about disability benefits, read our publications Disability Benefits and Working While Disabled — How We Can Help. Both are available online at www.ssa.gov/pubs
Hillary Hatch is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org