I just broke my leg, can I get Social Security Disability or SSI while I'm out of work?

Maybe, but you probably have to be out of work for at least twelve months.  In order to meet the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of disabled, you must have a severe impairment that lasts for twelve months or more, or is expected to end in death. For an impairment to be severe it must affect your work-related activities more than minimally. A broken leg is likely to be a severe impairment because it will probably affect how much you can lift and carry, how long you can stand up, and how far you can walk before resting, etc. Don't forget that pesky durational requirement, the impairment must last for twelve months or more, or be expected to end in death.  I wouldn't expect a broken leg to end in death, but who knows!  But realistically speaking, you will probably have to be limited by the broken leg for twelve months or more, and not engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for at least twelve months. See my previous post about SGA here.  

Often a broken leg will heal on it's own in a matter of a few months. A person with an office-type job may even work while it's healing. If that is your circumstance, you won't meet the SSA definition of disabled and you won't get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But what if you don't have an office job, the break involved other injuries and/or there are complications in the healing process? The break could be a complex one, or you could get osteomyelitis (a bone infection) or another complication as a result of a broken bone.  These complications may make it impossible to do even an office job.  Or, you may have a job that requires physical strength and endurance.  If any of these are the case, you have a chance to get benefits based on your disability! The final disability determination will be based on your age, education and work history unless you meet or equal one of SSA's "listings".  If you have a garden variety broken leg that is expected to heal in a few months, you probably will not get SSDI or SSI. If you're not sure what your chances are, a good Social Security Disability/SSI Attorney will give you a free consultation and a free assessment of your case. Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be legal advice, it is for general information only. Everyone's case is different, and everyone's disability is different.

Author: Emmett B. Irwin - 443-447-7493 - ebi@ebilaw.com

I claimed Social Security Early Retirement benefits, is there any way I can get more money?

Yes! You can retire as early as age 62, but your benefits will be reduced by 25 percent compared with your payment if you had waited until full retirement age to collect.  For example, if your unreduced benefit is $2000 per month, and you retire early at 62, then your benefits will be reduced 25% to $1500 per month.  But there is still hope to increase your payment!  If you can prove that you were disabled before your full retirement age  then you may be able to get your unreduced benefit for as long as you were disabled, sometimes for the rest of your life.  In this example, your payment would increase from $1500 to $2000 per month.  Not bad, right?  Act quickly though, because you can only get the higher benefit retroactively for twelve months before you apply!  For example, if you became disabled on January 1, 2012, and you apply for benefits today, you are only eligible to get payments from August 2015 onward.  You will not get payments retroactive to 2012.  Don't forget that you also must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled - which is an extremely strict and hopelessly complex standard.  There are many other exceptions and rules, so it is best to consult with an attorney if you're not sure.  Disclaimer: This is a simplified and shortened version of the law/rules and is meant for information only.  

What does it mean when Social Security says that I can't engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

When someone applies for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on a disability, that person is subject to a Five Step process to determine whether they are disabled.  Step One involves Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) - the person must not be able to engage in SGA.  Although there are exceptions, such as for the blind and sheltered work (consult an attorney if you're unsure!), for most people SGA is working and earning $1130 per month in 2016. That means to get disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), most people must not be working or working and earning less than $1130 per month.  If your claim is coming up for a hearing, however, and you are working and earning less than $1130 per month, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may still hold your work against you.  For example, Susan is working part-time and earning $1000 per month. Her hearing is next month and she believes that her work will not be an issue at the hearing because she is earning less than SGA. Susan may be wrong! The ALJ may use her work activity as evidence that Susan has the physical and mental capacity to work full-time, but has chosen not to in order to get benefits. Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice, so don't go quit your job based on this post! Everyone's situation is different.