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SSA- I am 75 am I eligible for disability?

Old and young claimants may at some time in their lives find that they are unable to perform substantial gainful activity or work for at least 12 continuous months. For young claimants this can occur if they suffer a catastrophic illness or accident, for the elderly it may simply be because they can no longer meet the physical or mental demands of a forty-hour work week. If this is you, you may be wondering if you qualify for SSA disability benefits.

Recently on our disability forum we had a user ask, “Can I get disability benefits if I am 75 years of age?” And the answer is, “It depends.”

What Social Security Disability benefits are available for the elderly?

There are two different types of disability benefits programs offered by the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security Disability Insurance was specifically developed to help workers and their qualifying family members if the worker became disabled and was unable to continue to perform work for at least 12 continuous months.

The catch is SSDI applicants must have worked enough and paid enough into the SSA system. SSDI functions much like SSA retirement benefits (meaning you work and earn credits by paying employment taxes), but unlike SSA retirement, it is not an “entitlement program” and you are not guaranteed benefits. It is much more like an insurance program.

Now, another issue is age. If you become disabled prior to your full retirement age you may qualify for SSDI disability benefits. If you have reached your full retirement age you will not. Now, this is not as unfair as it sounds: no one gets both SSDI and SSA retirement. If you are getting SSDI when you reach your full retirement age it is automatically converted to SSA retirement benefits.

So what are your options at age 75 if you cannot work? Hopefully you have worked and paid into the SSA system and you qualify for SSA retirement benefits or spousal benefits (if your spouse worked and paid into the SSA system). If not, there is one other option offered by the SSA.

What if I do not qualify for SSDI disability benefits?

Unfortunately, many individuals who are aged did not work or worked but did not pay taxes. There is one more option for these workers. If you are aged (65 years or older), blind or disabled you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI program was created for claimants who have VERY limited income and resources but who are now unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

There are several issues with SSI, but the most challenging is meeting the income and resource limitations. The other issue is the SSI payment which is currently $698 per qualifying individual (cost of living adjustment will be made in 2013). Many SSI recipients complain about the low payment amount because it is very tough to live on this amount. The good news is that SSI recipients will get Medicaid in most states and they generally qualify for HUD housing assistance, food stamps and other governmental programs which may make it possible to survive.
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