Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
By Aaron Larson
- What Disabilities Qualify for Social Security Benefits?
- Who Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefts?
- How Do I File for Social Security Benefits?
- When Should I File For Benefits
- Should I Use An Attorney?
- I Have Been Working, And Have Considerable Savings - Should I Still Apply?
- I Am Receiving Workers' Compensation Benefits - Should I Wait To Apply?
- If I Obtain SSI or DIB Benefits, Can I Get Medical Benefits?
- My Application Was Denied - What Do I Do?
- What Happens If My Application Is Accepted?
Under the rules of the Social Security Administration, a "disability" means:
An inability to perform substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, which has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 consecutive months, or end in death, taking into account the individual's age, education, and work history.
To qualify under this definition, you typically must be unable to engage in "work for pay", and you must have a doctor's opinion that you are presently disabled, with some manner of evidence (preferably a medical treatment history) to document the duration of the disability.
There are two disability programs offered by the Social Security Administration:
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) - These benefits are extended to disabled workers whose work history has allowed them to obtain sufficient "credits" to be eligible for benefits. In most cases, this will mean having worked at least five of the past ten years, with earnings above a base threshold and payment of FICA taxes. Certain of their dependants may also qualify for DIB benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - This program is intended for the elderly, blind, or disabled. To qualify for benefits, you must prove that you are disabled under the definition provided above, and must also demonstrate financial need. There are strict limits on the income and resources to be eligible for benefits - if you earn too much money, or have too many assets, you will not qualify. Information on the current limits can be found on the Social Security Administration website.
It is possible for a disabled worker to qualify for both SSI and DIB benefits. This is known as "concurrent eligibility".
There are three ways to apply for benefits:
You may obtain an application for benefits from your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office;
You may apply online through the Social Security Administration website; or
You can also call the SSA, and schedule an appointment to make an application by telephone.
You should file as soon as possible after you believe you have a qualifying disability. Most applicants are denied the first time they apply, and they have to go through the appeals process. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for you to receive the benefits - and many people who have disabilities will suffer from financial hardship during a delay.
You do not need to use an attorney to file for Social Security Benefits. However, you should be aware that statistically speaking your chances of receiving benefits are significantly improved if you apply with the help of a lawyer. You may wish to consider filing the initial application yourself, and using an attorney to file for reconsideration or to appeal if you are denied benefits.
If you are applying for DIB benefits, your savings will not be counted against you. Your savings will likely be a factor if you are eligible only for SSI benefits.
Your receipt of workers' compensation benefits will not affect your eligibility for Social Security benefits. Thus, you should not wait to apply. However, you should consider consulting with an attorney prior to applying as your receipt of workers' compensation benefits may reduce or eliminate the Social Security disability payment you would otherwise receive.
Yes. If you qualify for DIB benefits, you will qualify for Medicare after two years. If you qualify for SSI benefits, you should be eligible to receive Medicaid.
If your application was denied, you should apply for reconsideration of the denial. A reconsideration involves an informal hearing within the Social Security Office where your application was processed.
Please keep in mind that about 75% of first time disability applications are denied. You may wish to consult with a lawyer in relation to your application for reconsideration, as approximately 90% of such applications are denied. A lawyer may be able to help you, and in most cases the cost of legal help is not unreasonable. A lawyer will likely be most helpful if contacted immediately upon your receipt of the initial benefits denial.
If your application for reconsideration is denied, you should file an appeal.
If your application for Social Security disability benefits is accepted, you may receive a retroactive payment for benefits, and will receive an additional monthly payment for the duration of your qualifying disability. If you qualify for DIB benefits, the retroactive payment will start from the fifth month after you became disabled, with a maximum retroactive benefit of twelve months before the date of your application for benefits. If you qualify only for SSI benefits, your retroactive payment will be for the period between the date of your application for benefits through the time your application was approved.
Your monthly DIB benefit will be in the amount you would have received had you retired at full retirement age. However, if you are receiving unemployment compensation or workers' compensation, your disability benefits may be reduced or even eliminated while you receive those benefits.
Copyright © 2004 Aaron Larson. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.