Am I eligible for disability?

Tonya asked...

I'm 29 years old. My job let me go after I started having leg pain. I worked in a chemical plant. Now I have osteosarcoma. I have medical insurance through COBRA, but that will end in 18 months. Am I eligible for disability? I have no use of one of my legs.

Expert Answer

Social Security disability benefits are available to you if you meet two qualifying standards, explained below. If you have few savings or other assets, you may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on your disability, and for Medicaid which pays for most medical care. And once you receive disability benefits for 24 months, you become eligible for full Medicare coverage.

To qualify for Social Security disability, before you became disabled you need to have worked enough, based on your age, in jobs where your employer paid Social Security taxes. For someone who became disabled at 29-years old, a special rule applies. You need to have earned 16 Social Security work credits, which you would have done with only four years of work between the ages of 21 and 29. To find out if you have this many work credits, check your yearly Social Security benefits statement. Or go online to the Social Security web site page that allows you to request a new benefit statement.

If you have enough work credits to qualify, then the next standard to meet is whether you have a physical or mental disability that is expected to last at least a year and that prevents you from doing substantial gainful work. For many people, proving that they can't do any substantial gainful work is difficult. But some people have a disability that is specifically listed by the Social Security Administration as automatically qualifying for benefits. One of these "Listing of Impairments" that qualifies a person for disability benefits is a disease or injury that has made you completely unable to use one leg. 

You can fill out an application for Social Security disability benefits online, or you can do so at your local Social Security office. To find the office nearest you, you can go online to a special Social Security web site page or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.