If you are 62 years or older and have worked under the Social Security system long enough to be insured, you may be entitled to social security retirement insurance benefits. If you have not reached retirement age and are insured and cannot work because of a disabling medical condition, you and your dependents may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. In order to qualify, you must be totally and permanently disabled. You must be unable to perform your past work or any other work, and your disability must have already lasted or be expected to last for a period of 12 months or more. Widows and widowers who are disabled may qualify for benefits, if they are between ages 50 to 60 and have a condition which falls under a list of medical impairments maintained by the Social Security Administration. Disabled children may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or "SSI." If their disability continues into adulthood, they may qualify for disability insurance benefits on the earnings records of their parents.

If you think you qualify, the first step is to go to your local Social Security office and apply. They will assist you in filling out the application.

If you are turned down, you have 60 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. You may wish to seek the services of an attorney at this stage, if you have not already done so. At the hearing, you may testify and call others to testify in your behalf. The administrative law judge will act as the fact finder and rule on the law as it applies to your case. After the hearing, you will receive a written decision on your claim. This decision may be appealed to the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration and then to the federal court system.

Remember, if you believe you are entitled to benefits, go to your local Social Security Office and apply. Ask the people in the Social Security office to explain Social Security eligibility requirements, or ask an attorney experienced in this area to help you. If you are rejected, request a reconsideration of your claim immediately. If you are rejected at that point, file a request for a hearing, and if you have not already done so, you may wish to seek the services of an attorney to aid you in your appeal.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.