Retirement Planning/social security


QUESTION: I am waiting for an answer for disability..what happens if I change my mind,go to work? will it affect me if I apply again in say 1-2 years??

ANSWER: I assume that you are applying for social security disability insurance (SSDI) because you have earned at least 40 quarters of coverage and have a disability that prevents you from working. SSDI will pay benefits based on your previous earnings to you and certain close family members if you have a medical condition that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or end in death. The burden is on you to prove that your disability prevents you from working.

If you return to work for the next 1 to 2 years, then your medical condition does not prevent you from working. If you then reapply for SSDI, it will be much more difficult to prove that you have a disability that prevents you from working, unless you have medical records that prove that your disability has been exacerbated by age or organic disease processes.

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QUESTION: Quick question..if you are 45 yr old,and SS says you do not qualify and this person has zero income for like 5 yrs straight how long would it take to get enough credits if he was to start working?

Well, the short answer is that it depends on how much the individual worked prior to the five-year hiatus. Beginning in 1978, the amount of earnings to earn one quarter of coverage was $250. That amount has risen steadily over time until now the amount of earnings to earn one quarter of coverage is $1,200. See the following chart for the intervening years:

To learn exactly how many quarters the individual has earned, s/he may go to this website,, create an account and view her or his Social Security statement.

If the individual wants to apply for social security disability insurance (SSDI), then, unless s/he is blind, s/he must have earned at least 22 quarters of coverage during the 10 years prior to the onset of disability.

Not all Social Security disability insurance benefits are created equal. Workers with higher incomes receive higher benefits. In March 2013, the average SSDI beneficiary received $1,129 per month. A worker with an average income of $20,000 per year received $962 per month. A worker with an average income of $60,000 per year received $1,945 per month. SSDI beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare two years after they begin to receive their benefits.

If a worker has not earned enough quarters in total or enough quarters in the past five years, s/he may still apply for Supplemental Security Income, which is $721 per month. However, there are asset limitations for SSI beneficiaries, and they are eligible for Medicaid rather than Medicare.

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I can answer questions about Social Security eligibility, benefits and income taxation. I cannot answer questions about employer pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs or other private retirement funds.


During my career, I counseled the elderly about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

B.A., Bowdoin College, History and French M.S., University of Southern Maine, Health Policy and Management J.D., New York University School of Law

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