Q Do I automatically receive Medicare benefits if I’m eligible for disability benefits?
You will receive Medicare after you receive disability benefits for 24 months. When you become eligible for disability benefits, we will automatically enroll you in Medicare. We start counting the 24 months from the month you were entitled to receive disability, not the month when you received your first check. Residents of Puerto Rico or foreign countries will not receive Part B automatically. They must elect this benefit. Special rules apply to:
- End-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure). People with permanent kidney failure get Medicare beginning the third month after the month a regular course of renal dialysis begins; or the month of kidney transplantation.
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). People with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis get Medicare beginning with the month they become entitled to disability benefits.
Medicare has four parts:
- Hospital insurance (Part A) helps pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you paid while you were working financed this coverage, so it’s premium free.
- Medical insurance (Part B) helps pay doctors’ bills and other services. There is a monthly premium you must pay for Medicare Part B and you have the option to refuse this coverage.
- Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans generally cover many of the same benefits a Medigap policy would cover, such as extra days in the hospital after you have used the number of days Medicare covers. People with Medicare Parts A and B can choose to receive all of their health care services through one of these provider organization under Part C. There might be additional premiums required for some plans; and
- Prescription drug coverage (Part D) helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment. Anyone who has Medicare hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B) or a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) is eligible for prescription drug coverage (Part D). Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary and you pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.
Q How do I apply for benefits?
If you want to apply for Retirement, Disability, Spouses or Medicare benefits, you can use the SSA online application. If you do not wish to use the online application, or if you want to apply for another type of Social Security benefit, you can:
- Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday to make an appointment to apply for benefits
- Contact your local Social Security office.
Q How do I check the status of my application?
If you have applied for Social Security benefits, you can check the status of your application online. The application status will show you:
- when your application was received
- if additional documents were requested
- the address of the office that is processing you application
- if a decision has been made
If you prefer, or if you are unable to check the status of your application online, you can:
- Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Contact your local Social Security office
Q I receive Social Security disability benefits. Will my Social Security benefits change when I turn full retirement age?
When you reach full retirement age, nothing will change, except for Social Security purposes, your benefits will be called retirement benefits instead of disability benefits. You do not need to take any action. Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you will get your benefits with no limit on your earnings.
Q What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI disability?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – This program is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons.
- The worker will get Medicare coverage automatically after receiving disability benefits for two years.
- To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes.
- Disability benefits are payable to: blind or disabled workers, their children, widow(er)s, adults disabled since childhood
- The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.
- See Understanding the Benefits for a complete explanation SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – This program is financed through general revenues from taxes, meaning benefits are not based on your prior work history.
- In most states, beneficiaries will automatically be eligible for Medicaid.
- SSI benefits are payable to: individuals age 65 or older, adults who are disabled or blind, children who are disabled or blind
- Eligibility requirements: have limited income and resources meet the living arrangement requirements; a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens.
- The monthly payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the state. See Understanding Supplemental Security Income for a complete explanation of SSI.
- See Understanding Supplemental Security Income for a complete explanation of SSI.
Q What is the earliest age I can receive Social Security disability benefits?
There is no minimum age as long as you meet the very strict Social Security definition of disability. But to qualify for disability benefits you must have worked long and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. The rules for how much work you need to qualify for disability benefits are as follows:
- Before age 24–You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
- Age 24 to 31–You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
- Age 31 or older–In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart here. Unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.