What is Social Security

A retirement program for employed Americans that the U.S. federal government funds through worker contributions known as Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, paid through payroll deduction. The Social Security Act of 1935 created the program to assure that working Americans would have a source of income when they retired. Amendments to the act in 1954 added disability benefits. And in the 1960s, the U.S. Congress created medicare to provide medical insurance for people who qualified for Social Security. Today Medicare functions as a separate program and government entity, although eligibility for Medicare coverage remains linked to Social Security eligibility. Social Security exists as two basic components, retirement and disability, that include various kinds of benefits.

Social Security Retirement Insurance

Social Security retirement insurance pays benefits to everyone who contributes as required by law (people who participate in certain private pension programs are exempt from paying into, and cannot

collect payments from, Social Security) and who meets the minimal length of employment and age at retirement requirements.

• Length of employment is converted to a system of credits. Each full-time year of employment counts as four credits. A person must accumulate a minimum of 40 credits over a lifetime to qualify for Social Security retirement payments.

• People born before 1938 are eligible for Social Security retirement payments when they reach age 65. The retirement age rises in established increments, presently peaking at age 67 for people born after 1960. It is possible to take early retirement at age 62 and receive reduced benefits.

Social Security retirement payments are based on rates established by Congress and are not affected by disability. Many people who receive regular Social Security retirement benefits also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

A person who has Parkinson’s disease that prevent him or her from working may be considered disabled under Social Security guidelines and eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) regardless of age. Criteria are related to the person’s age and number of credits earned at the time of disability. The medical condition also must be one that the Social Security Administration identifies as capable of causing disability according to its definition. Parkinson’s disease (Parkinsonian syndrome) is such a condition. Parkinson’s disease alone does not automatically qualify a person for SSDI, however; the person must prove that the disease prevents him or her from working.

The key dimension of disability from the perspective of SSDI is the extent to which the condition interferes with or prevents the person from working and whether the condition is expected to last 12 months or longer or lead to death. Most people with Parkinson’s disease, with appropriate treatment, are able to lead a relatively normal life, including working, for years after diagnosis. By the time Parkinson’s interferes with daily living to the extent that symptoms preclude working, most people are beyond retirement age. However, people with early-onset Parkinson’s who have severe symptoms may qualify for SSDI.

Filing for SSDI requires statements from physicians and copies of supporting medical records that substantiate that the person’s disability prevents him or her from working. It is important that these records be complete in presenting the person’s medical circumstances and that they specify the ways in which the impairments of the Parkinson’s disease contribute to the person’s ability or lack of ability to perform work tasks. functional capacity assessments and other measures of functional impairment can help to quantify this relationship.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program that provides payment to people who are disabled, cannot work, and do not have the income or resources to meet their basic needs. As for medic-aid, SSI qualification criteria are asset-based and vary among states. The Social Security Administration can provide further information specific to an individual’s situation.

Eligibility for Social Security Programs and Payments

Because qualification for Social Security programs and payments depends on individual circumstances, it is necessary to contact the Social Security Administration to obtain specific information. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (toll-free) or visit the website at www.ssa.gov. See also activities of daily living; financial planning; instrumental activities of daily living; PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE; RETIREMENT.