After you work and pay Social Security taxes, you become eligible to receive Social Security benefits upon retirement. You may also be able to receive Social Security benefits if you develop a disability. Disability benefits are paid to people who meet the Social Security's definition of disability, which includes the diagnosis of a permanent disability.
Social Security Disability Benefits
If you are diagnosed with a permanent disability, you may be able to get Social Security Disability benefits. This is a program that pays benefits to individuals who are diagnosed with a permanent or terminal disability or blindness. To qualify to receive SSD benefits, you also must have paid Social Security tax. Even if your disability meets the requirements for these benefits, if you have not paid these taxes, you are not an eligible recipient. A permanent disability for Social Security purposes makes you incapable of performing your previous work or any new work unless you earn less than $1,000 per month.
If you start receiving payments, these last for as long as your condition lasts or until you are able to find a job suitable to your disability that pays more than $1,000 per month. If your disability is so severe that you are not able to work at all, you may be eligible to receive benefits until retirement age. At that point, your disability benefits become retirement benefits until you die. If your disability is permanent but you think you are able to perform some type of work, you can enroll in the Ticket to Work program, which is a program that helps you to receive free job training and provides resources to find jobs that you can perform under your condition. After a trial period in which you can work, if your earnings are substantial, your benefits will eventually stop.
Medicare is also a Social Security benefit available to people diagnosed with permanent disabilities. However, your eligibility for Medicare is totally dependent upon your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are eligible for SSD benefits, you must receive these benefits for 24 months before enrollment in Medicare. After this period, your Medicare benefits automatically start on your 25th month of disability. Medicare Part A or hospital insurance is free. If you want other Medicare coverage, such as medical insurance and prescription drugs, you must pay monthly premiums.
Supplemental Security Income
If you are diagnosed with a permanent disability, but you have not paid Social Security tax and you have very low income – less than $1,000 per month – you are eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income benefits. This program also pays monthly benefits to disabled people. If you are eligible for SSD benefits, you may also still be eligible to receive SSI benefits. As of 2011, the maximum federal amount that you can receive through the SSI program is $674 if you are single and $1,011 if you are married.