Social Security Disability Information

Social Security Disability Information

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How is disability defined?

Disability is defined as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity resulting from a medically determinable impairment which has lasted or is expected to last for twelve months or more. There must be medical evidence of a condition that prevents you from doing most types of work. When the Social Security Administration evaluates a disability claim, it also considers your age, education, and previous work experience.

Some handicaps and diseases are so serious that Social Security automatically treats them as disabilities. Examples are severe epilepsy and loss of vision and hearing. These are included in an impairments list at the Social Security Administration. If workers do not have a listed impairment, they can still prove that they have a disability. They must show that their condition or disease is the medical equivalent of a listed impairment. The condition or disease must be equal in severity and duration to a listed one. First, of course, the applicant must be disabled to the extent that he or she cannot do any job, not only the job previously performed. Secondly, the applicant must have security coverage. The person must have paid into Social Security, either through employment or self-employment, long enough and recently enough to have coverage for disability purposes. If the applicant does not have Social Security coverage and is disabled he or she may still qualify for help under the “SSI” or Supplemental Security Income program. The “SSI” program is also administered by the Social Security Administration. Financial help is available for disabled persons who have had very little income and very little property. Your local Social Security office has additional benefit information and literature. State and County welfare offices may also have information.

How do I apply for benefits?

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. Generally, applications should be made by mail or information and applications for disability can be found at the Social Security Administration website. Call the social security office to see what arrangements can be made. If a disabled person cannot handle his or her own affairs, the application can be completed by a spouse, parent, relative, friend, or legal guardian. If a physical or mental disability is expected to last at least twelve months or to result in death, apply for benefits without delay to allow for processing and verification. Benefits are generally not available until after five full months of disability. You will need to give the Social Security Administration the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that have treated you for the disability and the approximate dates of treatment. An easy way to provide this information is to supply copies of your medical bills.

You will have to tell Social Security what your illness or injury is, when the illness started or the injury was sustained, how it keeps you from working, and the date you stopped working. Be prepared to tell the Social Security office the restrictions your doctor has placed on you and the names and dosages of medication you are currently taking. Your local Social Security office can provide additional information.

What if my disability claim is denied?

Persons who apply for Social Security disability benefits are often discouraged because the applications are denied in the initial stages. Denials at the first two levels for consideration are not unusual.

Initial administrative-level determinations are made by claims examiners based only upon written records. Favorable decisions at these initial levels are common only for the most obvious cases. The Social Security Administration has its own review system and judges. An applicant for disability benefits is entitled to a hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge. If an application is denied and the individual still believes he or she is truly disabled, the case should be appealed. Hearings before a judge can often be requested by mail or on the internet by following the directions in the denial notice.

If you are still not satisfied after the Administrative Law Judge makes a decision, you can request a review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will hear your case only if it wants to. If it refuses to hear your case or hears your case and rules against you, you can then file suit in Federal Court. Generally, for every stage, you have only sixty days to appeal each action to the next stage, and appeals to Social Security usually must be made on a required form, available at your local social security office.

Appealing denials of a social security claim often requires the assistance of an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The Social Security Administration has a program that makes monthly payments to people in financial need who are disabled, blind or sixty-five years or older called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It is financed through general funds of the U.S. Treasury rather than from Social Security taxes. Medical requirements to receive SSI disability checks are the same as for Social Security. However, there are certain differences between the programs. For example, no work credits are needed for SSI, but there are limits on assets and income. People who attempt to work while still disabled are not subject to the test for substantial, gainful work. Also, they are allowed certain additional work-related deductions in determining entitlement to payments. Some disabled and blind beneficiaries may also receive Social Security disability benefits. In these cases, the amount of SSI checks will be lower. Although SSI is administered through the Social Security Administration, it is considerably different from retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. For example, your eligibility for SSI isn’t based on whether you’ve earned a certain number of quarters of coverage. You can be eligible for SSI benefits even if you’ve never worked.

Disabled Child’s Benefits

A child’s benefits stop the month before the child reaches age eighteen, unless the child remains unmarried and either disabled or is a full-time elementary or secondary school student. A child can receive benefits until age nineteen if he or she continues to be a full-time elementary or secondary school student. When a student’s nineteenth birthday occurs during a school term, benefits can be continued up to two months to allow completion of the term. A disabled child can continue to receive benefits after age eighteen if he or she has a physical or mental condition which prevents substantial gainful work and which is expected the last at least a year.

As with a spouse, their benefits will be about one-half that of the workers’ benefits. This also covers stepchildren, adopted children, and under certain cases of dependency, grandchildren.

I cannot work anymore. Can I apply for benefits?

If you have worked for five out of the last ten years and can no longer work at any job, you have the right to file for disability benefits. If you are found to be disabled, you will get a monthly check. The amount you receive each month is determined by how much you earned while you worked. Your minor children and spouse may also get monthly checks. You may also qualify for Medicare coverage.

You do not have to be disabled for the rest of your working years to receive benefits. If you are unable to work twelve months or more, then recover and return to work, you may be eligible to receive benefits for the months you were unable to work.

Information about benefits or applying for benefits is available from the Social Security Administration or by calling 1-800-772-1213.


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