Social Security Disability Basics

Social Security Disability Basics

Basic information you need to know about Social Security Disability

Applying for Social Security disability benefits with or without an advocate can be a difficult process due to the long process of filing your claim, and there is always a chance that your claim will be denied. More than 70% of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims are denied after the initial application. It can also take up to six months (sometimes longer!) before a decision regarding your initial claim is made.

Seeking the help of an advocate or attorney can potentially reduce the time required to receive your benefits by increasing the chance of approval on your initial application. An experienced representative knows how to properly prepare your claim and avoid the pitfalls and mistakes made when filing independently.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, sometimes also abbreviated as SSD) is a Social Security program that pays monthly benefits to you if you become disabled before you reach retirement age and are unable to work.

To qualify for the SSDI program, you must have worked a certain number of years in a job where you paid Social Security taxes (FICA) taxes. Specifically, you need to have earned a certain number of work credits; you can earn up to four work credits per year. (If you haven’t worked long enough when you become disabled, and have low income and assets, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead.)

Difference Between Social Security Disability and SSI Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Eligibility – A disabled or blind individual must have paid Social Security taxes to become insured for benefits.

Payment – The monthly disability benefit amount is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.

Medical Coverage – The worker will get Medicare coverage automatically after receiving disability benefits for two years.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Eligibility – A disabled or blind adult or child must meet all of the following categories:

  • Have limited income
  • Have limited resources
  • Be a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens
  • Live in the United States or Northern Mariana Islands.

Payment – The monthly payment is based on need and varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate. Some states add money to federal SSI payments.

Medical Coverage – In most states, beneficiaries are automatically eligible for Medicaid.

Social Security Basics Continued

Work Credits

Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.

The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2012, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,130 of wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $4,520, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

Medical Eligibility

Your medical condition must meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) definition of disabled. SSDI benefits are eligible only to those with a severe, long-term, total disability.

Severe means that your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities.

Long-term means that your condition has lasted is expected to last at least one year.

If you are currently working and make over ($1,010 per month in 2012 for disabled applicants), the SSA will find that you’re performing basic work-related activities and that you are not disabled enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Approval for Disability Benefits

If your application is approved, your first Social Security benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date we find that your disability began.

For example, if your disability began on June 15, 2012, your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2012, the sixth full month of disability.

Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they’re due. This means that the benefit due for December 2012 would be paid to you in January 2013, and so on.

You can keep receiving SSDI as long as your medical condition prevents you from working. The SSA will perform a continuing disability review on your file every one to three years to determine if your condition has improved.

Denial of Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits

If your application for SSD is denied, remember 70% of initial application are, you can appeal. You must request a review of the denial within 60 days of when you receive the denial letter. The first step of the appeal process in most states is the Request for Reconsideration, a review of your file by another claims examiner. If you are denied again, you can appeal to the next stage, by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge who works for the SSA.