Social Security Disability (SSDI)
If you suffer from a disability that is severely impacting your ability to work, then you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. These programs provide financial assistance to individuals who meet certain criteria, such as having a qualifying disability and having income and assets valued below a particular threshold.
SSDI is uniquely complicated to apply for, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) has tightened up eligibility requirements over the years. As such, it is important to understand the process including how to make a claim and what kind of benefits you are eligible for.
Social Security Qualifications & Benefits
In order to quality for SSDI, you must have earned a specific amount of work credits depending on your age. Work credits are gained at a rate of four credits per year as long as the job is covered by Social Security. By working, you have paid into the system, making you eligible to receive SSDI should you meet additional criteria, such as having a qualifying disability.
The benefits that are paid monthly by SSDI depend on your average lifetime earnings before you became disabled. The average monthly benefit as of 2019 is $1,234, but most people will be able to claim between $800 and $1,800. Yearly, you are provided with a Social Security Statement that lists your covered earnings which can help you to estimate the benefits that you will receive. If you earn disability payments from other sources, these will be factored into the amount that you receive for SSDI.
Social Security Disability Claims
In order to receive SSDI, you must first make a claim for benefits which can be done online, over the phone, or with an attorney. If your claim is successful, SSDI disability benefits will start after the mandatory five-month waiting period. The disability onset date is usually the date that you could no longer work.
The SSA provides a Disability Starter Kit that will help you prepare for making your claim. The kit contains a fact sheet that answers many common questions regarding SSDI, as well as a checklist for preparing for your interview. However, if you expect your case to be complex, or are challenged with the claims process, then retaining a disability attorney is your most ideal option.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Advocacy
Applying for SSI and SSDI can be a very complex process, particularly when you are suffering from the burden of your medical condition. This is where a disability attorney, such as an experienced social security disability attorney, is especially useful. If you want to ensure that your claim is made successfully the first time, or wish to appeal an initial denial, then your attorney will provide representation that will increase your chances of winning.
Your disability attorney will not charge you any money for their services upfront. These types of lawyers work on contingency, which means that you do not pay until you get approval for SSI and/or SSDI. Your attorney is well trained in the area of social security disability law and can represent you at each stage of the process, helping you to determine your eligibility, applying and appealing your case if necessary.
Disability Case Evaluation
There is far more to an SSDI application process than simply having a doctor say that you are disabled. The SSA has a long list of criteria that the claimant must meet. The determination process is complicated, and many claimants will experience a denial of their first application. It is therefore strongly recommended that a potential applicant has their disability case evaluated by a Social Security Disability Attorney in order to ensure that all proper documentation to support your case is provided.
Having your disability case evaluated will not cost you anything upfront. As previously mentioned, disability attorneys work on contingency, taking their fee as a percentage equal to 25% of your initial lump sum payment with a fee cap of $6,000. Your chance at initial success with your claim is significantly improved and thus, will provide you with the financial means to manage your disability sooner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What qualifies you as disabled?
A: In general, to qualify as disabled for social security purposes, your condition must restrict your ability to work. Not all conditions will make you eligible for disability, so you should always check the SSA’s Listing of Impairments to see if your condition is listed. If your condition is not listed, you may still be eligible providing you meet certain criteria and have the proper medical documentation.
Q: How much money can you have in the bank on Social Security Disability?
A: While Supplemental Security Income (SSI) requires a person to have low assets in order to be eligible, there is no such restriction for SSDI. You can have as much money in the bank as you want and still be eligible for SSDI, providing that you meet all of the other requirements, such as work credits and disability criteria.
Q: How much can I earn on SSDI?
A: In order to be eligible for SSDI, you must earn less than $1,220 per month in accordance with the 2019 substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. If you have significant visual impairment, then this figure rises to $2,040 per month. You can, however, undertake a trial work period to assess your suitability for returning to work. This nine-month period allows you to earn through SGA without losing your SSDI.
Q: What are the categories of disabilities?
A: Disabilities are listed in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments according to body system affected. The listings are grouped into adult and children sections, then further categorized. The categories of disability as determined by the listings are musculoskeletal, vision and hearing, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, hematological disorders, genitourinary system, endocrine system, skin disorders, neurological, mental disorders, multiple system disorders, neoplastic diseases, and immune system disorders.