If you do not have a significant earnings history, can you be eligible for disability payments?

Mr. Moore, My 58 year old son is currently being prepped for colon removal (ulcerative colitis) and the recovery process followed by a 2nd surgery will take several months.

Because of his condition he has been able to do only occasional odd jobs as a carpet cleaner for the last 5 years. Consequently he does not have a significant earning history (I would guess less than $5,000/year). He has been living alone in a one room apartment in Denton, Texas, and his monthly expenses have been minimal; however he will not even be able to pay for these expenses until he has recovered from this surgery which will be performed at a charity hospital in Denton.

I've read much of the relevant information on your site, and have been unable to determine whether he will be eligible for disability payments. If possible, I would appreciate your thoughts on whether or not he should apply for disability, and if so, what is the best way to proceed? Thank You.

I would say there is a good possibility that your son could potentially qualify for disability under Social Security Disability and/or SSI disability. Social Security Disability is based upon insured status that is established by wages or self employment earnings reported to the IRS.

If your son has paid taxes on his earnings over the past five years, then he may be eligible for Social Security Disability. Even if he did not pay taxes during the past five years, he may qualify for disability benefits through SSI, a need based disability program.

Considering your son's medical condition, his age, and is work activity as a carpet cleaner over the past few years his chances of being approved for disability benefits are fairly good.

Your son should contact his local Social Security office to set up an appointment in person or by phone to apply for disability benefits. A claims representative, or CR, will complete the entire claim for him. They will evaluate what program he is eligible for and they will send it to a disability agency for a decision. No need to delay.

Note: SSA gives you the option of starting the claim online. Doing so online will not give you the chance to speak with a CR (which allows you the chance to ask questions directly, which can be valuable).

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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