Q: "What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?"
A: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked long enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits, and some of the work must be recent. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up, and is currently $1,120. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. For example, if you are under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need between 20 and 40 credits, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked five out of the past 10 years. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Q: "I visited the Chattanooga office yesterday and noticed a sign saying the office hours are changing. Would you please tell us what is going on?"
A: Effective Monday, Aug. 15, the Chattanooga Social Security office will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. - a reduction of 30 minutes each weekday.
While agency employees will continue to work their regular hours, this shorter public window will allow them to complete face-to-face service with the visiting public without incurring the cost of overtime. Congress provided Social Security with nearly $1 billion less than the president requested for the budget this fiscal year, which makes it impossible for the agency to provide the amount of overtime needed to handle service to the public as we have in the past.
Most Social Security services do not require a visit to an office. For example, anyone wishing to apply for benefits, sign up for direct deposit, replace a Medicare card, obtain a proof of income letter or inform us of a change of address or telephone number may do so at www.socialsecurity.gov or by dialing our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at email@example.com.