I worked for the State of California for 27 years. I was medically retired from the state in 2005, after spending 9 months in the hospital for a severe case of pancreatitis. I have been collecting my retirement benefits since May of 2005 to present. I went back to school and because a surgical tech and work about 1 or 2 times a month. Recently, I went through a total shoulder replacement in November of 2016. I took a fall recently and have to go back in and have it repaired. Currently, I am unable to use my arm, and from what the doctor has said that the recovery and rehab will take a year or more. Can I qualify for Social Security disability benefits (I am currently 59 years old) and if so, will it affect my retirement benefits that I am already receiving from the state?
The answer depends on the severity of your impairments, and whether or not you are insured for disability benefits. In order to be insured for disability, you must have 20 quarters of coverage within the 40 quarter period ending with when you became disabled. In other words, you must have worked and paid into Social Security for at least the equivalent of 5 of the last 10 years.
Social Security makes their own determinations as to whether or not your condition qualifies as disabling by their standards. Actually, the determinations are made by state agencies that contract with Social Security. If you apply, they'll get records from your doctors and possibly set up a consultative examination. For more information, refer to Social Security's website: https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/.
Even if you do qualify for Social Security disability benefits, if your earnings from the state of California were exempt from Social Security taxes, your state disability pension may fully offset any disability benefits that you could get from Social Security (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0452135030).