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Should I file for Social Security Disability now?

We are in challenging economic times, to say the least. Many people who have been working with medical problems, and who have now been laid off or lost jobs, have wondered if they should file for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

The quick answer is that you are eligible for SSD if you are unable to do your past work, or any other work, full time, for a least a year. If a doctor certifies that that is indeed the case, you may qualify for SSD benefits. If you win, you will receive monthly benefits equivalent to the amount you intended to retire on at age 66-67, essentially from the date you became medically unable to work.

But it can be a long process that takes 1-2 years to complete without guarantee of success. If you can find a way to make it financially over that time, filing for SSD benefits is worth considering.

Can I claim SSD if I'm on unemployment benefits?

This is a tricky one. You are telling the state unemployment board that you are able to work. But you are telling the federal government that you cannot work. Although it is legally possible to receive both benefits over the same period of time, many Social Security Administrative Law Judges are understandably reluctant to award SSD benefits for any time you've received unemployment compensation. Nevertheless, because unemployment benefits are often short-lived and because SSD typically takes so long to be approved, it may be wise to file for SSD even while you're receiving unemployment comp.

If I'm close to turning age 62, can I claim SSD? What about age 62 Social Security Retirement?

At age 62, you are automatically qualified to claim Social Security Retirement benefits, though at a reduced rate. The good news is that if you are unable to work full time, you can file for SSD and, if you turn 62 while the SSD claim is pending, you can apply for and immediately receive your retirement benefits. If you eventually win the SSD claim, the Social Security Administration will send you a back pay check at the higher age 66-67 rate, minus the age 62 benefits you have received to that point. Taking SSR benefits at age 62 at least provides some income while your SSD claim is pending.

What about employer retirement packages and/or long term disability?

If you have been offered an employer-funded retirement package, you can accept it and still file for SSD. Long term disability is similar. If you own a long term disability policy privately or your employer offers it, it is advisable to file for it if you qualify medically. At the same time, you can also still file for SSD. In fact, most long term disability companies require you to file for SSD if you're receiving LTD benefits.

Deciding whether to file for Social Security is a difficult, possible life-changing decision. And it is a complicated, lengthy process. Because of this, it is certainly advisable to contact an experienced Social Security attorney before you make the leap to apply for SSD.

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