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Government Assistance

What is Social Security?

         Social Security is a federal law that was enacted to protect workers and their dependents from the loss of income because of retirement, death or disability. All employees fund the Social Security system through payroll deductions. This is the Social Security (FICA) tax deduction that you see on the pay stub. To qualify for Social Security benefits, an employee must earn credits based on the income they have paid into the system covered by the Social Security tax.

         The number of credits needed to receive Social Security depends on your birthday, age, and date of retirement or disability, or for survivor's benefits, the age of the worker who died. The amount of income you need to accumulate for Social Security credits changes each year. 

         Full retirement benefits begin at age 65. The standard retirement age will gradually increase until it reaches age 67 in the year 2027. You can order a free report from the government, which will list the income reported under a worker's name, and estimate the future Social Security benefits based on the age of expected retirement. To order such a report, call Social Security at 800-772-1213.

What type of basic federal programs are available to provide financial assistance to disabled persons?

There are two basic federal programs that provide financial assistance:

         Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, which are called "SSD" and Social Security Income, which is called "SSI".

         SSD benefits will be paid to a disabled worker and his or her family if the worker has earned credit for a certain number of pay credits under Social Security standards and if the workers earnings are lost or reduced due to the worker's disability. Persons are considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which prevents them from working, and that disability is expected to last for at least twelve months or, to result in
death.  

         Under SSD a worker is allowed to earn up to the "substantial, gainful activity level". The dollar value of the subsidies and disability work expenses are subtracted from the gross earnings in determining whether work is "substantial, gainful activity".

         Social Security will not automatically terminate SSD benefits if your earnings exceed the maximum allowance, but the amount of the excess earnings will reduce your monthly Social Security Disability check. The Social Security Disability Program also offers a "trial work" program to test the ability of disabled persons to return to work without losing benefits. In most cases, the trial work period is limited to nine months, and is accumulated over your lifetime.

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