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What to know about Social Security Disability rules

Millions of people receive Social Security disability benefits. These benefits are given to those who are unable to work because of a medical condition that may result in death or last for at least a year. Family members of a disabled worker may also collect benefits. For California residents who receive them, it may be worth looking into whether or not they can switch from disability benefits to survivor benefits or their own maximum benefit.

However, doing so may have negative consequences that an individual may not think about before making a switch. As a general rule, those who are on disability benefits for two years or more may become eligible for Medicare no matter how old they are. Furthermore, when people receiving disability benefits reach retirement age, their benefit converts to a regular benefit but the amount remains the same.

Until December 2014, people could receive disability benefits until they reached their retirement age. Before that point, it would be possible to stop receiving disability benefits and instead rely on survivor or auxiliary benefits until age 70. In the meantime, an individual's normal retirement benefit would grow by 8 percent per year. Today, withdrawing an application for disability benefits would mean withdrawing an application for all benefits, and it could also mean repaying disability benefits received.

Those who are unable to work may find it easier to make ends meet by applying for disability benefits. If an application is approved, it may make it easier for those who can't work because of a medical condition to pay bills or cover medical expenses. An attorney may be able to answer questions about applying for benefits or help those who have had their initial applications denied.

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