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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: The Complicated Subject of Disability

If you have a parent who is disabled, then you probably already know how Social Security can provide valuable help. If your parents are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits, it's worth going to the Social Security Web site and looking at the disability planner. It explains the benefits available and how your parents qualify.

I explained earlier that a person needs a certain number of credits before qualifying for certain Social Security benefits, including the system's disability insurance. In order for your parents to be covered, they must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

Social Security pays monthly disability benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more.

Benefits usually continue until a person is able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called "work incentives," that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help a person make the transition back to work.

If your parent is receiving Social Security disability benefits when he or she reaches age 65, those disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits -- but the amount remains the same.

Whatever your parents' age, if one is disabled, he or she must have earned his or her required number of work credits within a certain period ending with the time he or she became disabled. His or her Social Security statement will show whether he or she met the work requirement at the time it was prepared. If this parent stops working under Social Security after the date of the statement, he or she may not continue to meet the disability work requirement in the future.

Generally, a person needs 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year he or she becomes disabled, to qualify for this coverage.

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