Q. I am 65 and my wife is 62 and receiving spouse's benefits. When will she qualify for Medicare benefits?
A. Most people must wait until age 65 to qualify for Medicare benefits. Some people can get Medicare at any age, including those who:
• Have been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or more.
• Have kidney failure and require dialysis.
• Have had a kidney transplant; or
• Receive disability benefits because they suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).
• You can apply online for Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.
Q. What are the requirements for receiving disabled widow's benefits?
A. You may be able to get disabled widow(er)'s benefits at age 50 if you meet Social Security's disability requirement. Your disability must have started before age 60 and within seven years of the latest of the following dates: the month the worker died; the last month you were entitled to survivors benefits on the worker's record as a parent caring for a surviving minor child; the month your previous entitlement to disabled widow(er)'s benefits ended because your disability ended. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify9.htm.
Q. I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must last at least a year or be expected to result in death. But I'm disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive benefits?
A. No. You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled. If you're disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits. If we approve your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits at www.social security.gov/pubs.
Gregory Holmes is district manager for the Social Security office in Chattanooga.