In most cases, people plan to work until they retire, at which point they will enjoy a comfortable lifestyle supported by their pension and savings. Getting crippled is the last thing any of us plans for.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Social Security Administration reports that becoming disabled during your working years is far more common than you might think. As a matter of fact, a person’s chances of getting incapacitated prior to reaching retirement age are 30% if they are 20 years old right now.
Knowing your entitlements to government assistance is crucial if you are unable to work due to a sickness or injury, or if you have been told that you may be facing a crippling diagnosis.
Social Security’s Disability Insurance Program
The Social Security Disability (SSD) program is among the most crucial safety nets for impaired workers. The program is quite similar to the traditional Social Security pension scheme, with the exception that beneficiaries are eligible to receive payments earlier and, in most cases, at a higher rate.
In the event that you become disabled and are expected to remain so for 12 months or longer, you may qualify for disability benefits. An application is the first step in a process that may also involve a phone or in-person interview with potential candidates. You’ll benefit from this preliminary review because it helps ensure that your application is thorough.
Social Security Disability benefits are available to children, although the application process and eligibility standards are different than those of the adult Disability Program.
Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income
The Supplemental Income Program (SSI), which is typically offered to individuals who are blind, crippled, or 65 years of age and have very limited income, is not the same as the Social Security Disability program.
Disability also comes with income restrictions, but they are not as severe. In addition, applicants for disability benefits must have worked long enough to have paid into Social Security (see Criteria for Eligibility), although this requirement is not applicable to applicants for SSI.
For instance, a young adult without SSD eligibility who has a handicap that prevents them from doing a full-time job may be granted SSI.
Requirements for Eligibility
Regardless of whether or not you have a steady income, you are eligible to apply for Disability benefits.
This reviewer takes into account:
- What Age You Are. If you want to participate, you need to be 18 or older (at least 18 years old).
- Does It Matter If You Have a Job? Individuals who are working and making more than $1,040 per month in 2013 are often not considered disabled for SSD purposes.
- How Bad Your Health is Right Now. Reviewers assess whether or not your disease is severe enough to interfere with work-related activities if you are not working or earning more than $1,040 per month. In other words, can you still perform the physical tasks required of you at work, such as walking, bending, reaching, lifting, etc.? If this is your situation, Social Security Disability Insurance is unlikely to provide you with disability benefits.
- As to Whether or Not Your Condition Meets the Criteria. In most cases, those who apply for SSD will receive payments only if they meet the criteria for one of the more serious conditions. Reviewers can use this checklist to quickly identify situations that meet the criteria. Some of the most severe diseases and illnesses are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and pancreatic cancer. Ischemic heart disease, lupus, and diabetes are also examples of other disorders that could have serious consequences. Reviewers can use the qualifications for each ailment to get a better sense of whether or not your particular set of problems meets the criteria for being considered debilitating.
- What You’ve Done in the Past in Terms of Work. In the event that your illness is not on the approved list of debilitating conditions, the reviewer will examine the nature of the job you did before getting ill and make a determination based on how well your present abilities match up with those of your past positions. In most cases, he or she will look at your job history from the past 15 years, taking into account the skills and qualifications necessary for the positions you’ve had. If you were a full-time legal secretary for ten years before being sick, the reviewer may want to know if you can still sit at a desk for lengthy periods of time and perform tasks that need hand dexterity, such as typing, answering telephones, taking notes, and other important secretarial chores.
- If You’re Capable of Additional Tasks. When evaluating your abilities, the reviewer will take into account the jobs you can still do as well as the ones you can’t. If you used to be a mail carrier but are unable to walk far or stand for long periods of time, you might be able to perform desk work instead. In order to maintain your benefits, you must be able to accomplish the necessary labor.
- Income You’ve Earned in the Recent Past. To be qualified for Disability, you must have actively worked during the past few years. Depending on your age at the time of diagnosis, the amount you need will vary. With SSD, the year is broken up into four distinct periods. If you are younger than 24 years old, for instance, you must have worked for at least 18 months out of the last 36 months before the quarter in which you were ill. If you were over 31 years old when you were diagnosed with your illness, however, you must have worked at least 5 of the 10 years prior to your diagnosis in order to qualify for disability benefits.
- What You’ve Made in Total Thus Far Throughout Your Career. For SSD eligibility, the “duration of work test” looks at how long you’ve been working and paying into the system prior to the date of the disability. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked for at least five years in your lifetime, regardless of when you became disabled (for example, at age 42). You would need to have put in at least nine and a half years of employment by the time you were 60. You can find a table detailing the required number of years of work experience in connection to the date of incapacity on page six of the Social Security Disability brochure.
- Whether or Not There Are Any Exceptional Conditions that Might Make You Eligible. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits may be available to those who meet the criteria set forth by the government, such as those who are legally blind, who have lost a spouse to death, or who have been disabled as a result of military service.
What You Should Do
Avoid being discouraged by the seemingly endless list of supporting documents that will be needed to complete the application. It’s a lot to take in, but if you start early you’ll have more time to work with later.
What you’ll need is:
- Personal identity information (the name by which you file your taxes, your address, and other contact information)
- Social Security number
- Birth certificate or baptismal certificate
Data from the medical field, such as:
- Information on all of the medical professionals who are familiar with your case, including names, addresses, and phone numbers. (Remember that your medical history is given considerable weight by the reviewer; provide them with up-to-date contact information for your doctors and access to test results.)
- Include the names of the doctors who prescribed them, the names of the medications, the dosages, and the regularity with which you take them.
- Clinical data and medical history
- Documentation of any prior insurance or workers’ compensation claims
Details about previous employment, such as:
- Your most recent W2 forms or your most recent tax return
- Military discharge papers (DD214)
- Work history for the last 15 years before you became disabled
Additional identifying details, such as:
- Names and ages of any minor children, as well as the names and anniversaries of any weddings or divorces.
To receive your monthly payment, you must also include the name and number of the bank account into which the money should be deposited. In recent years, Social Security has shifted to exclusively making electronic payments of all benefits due to recipients.
Making a Social Security Disability Benefits Application
You can apply for Social Security benefits either online, over the phone (at 800-772-1213), or in person at any of the offices across the country.
The above button will take you to Step 1 of a 4-step process that includes:
- In order to finish the following chapters, you will need the items on the following checklists.
- The Application for Adult Disability Benefits will ask you some basic questions regarding your situation.
- The Adult Disability Report, in which detailed inquiries about your health are addressed.
- Filling out an Authorization to Disclose Information form grants Social Security access to your medical records and allows them to speak with your doctors, insurers, carers, and legal representatives about your health situation.
Social Security says it could take up to 30 minutes, but you should budget for at least 40 or 45 minutes in case there are delays. If you have to go get some more info or take a break, you can start the application, save it, and come back to it whenever you choose. The application number you are given at the outset of the online application procedure is essential for this.
To add insult to injury, your spouse may be required to fill out paperwork if he or she is providing any financial assistance to you. Do not forget to mention to your reviewer any outside help you could be getting, such as from family or friends.
Those of you who are worried about completing the application on your own should relax. Clinics funded in whole or in part by the government may have on-staff psychologists, social workers, or other mental health professionals who can assist you through this.
Inquire if they offer this service at your clinic or doctor’s office. Don’t forget to include your signature on the application, either digitally or by printing it off, signing it, and sending it in the mail.
Expect the application to be processed to take a few months. While you wait, it’s a good idea to consider your financial fallback options. Do you have family members who could contribute to your financial needs in the event that you become unable to work?
Have you saved up any money in case the application process takes longer than you anticipate? Sometimes, the procedure for requesting Disability benefits takes a long time.
Should Your Application Be Rejected
If you are initially rejected, try again. If you are unsuccessful, the decision letter you receive will explain why. The application you submitted could be incomplete, for instance. In this instance, please submit the data as soon as feasible.
If you receive a letter stating that a review has concluded that you are not impaired, you may still file an appeal using the provided online form. As part of the appeals process, you will be asked to provide any new evidence, such as a doctor’s note or other medical records, that may shed light on your eligibility for a hearing. It takes around an hour to finish the online appeal, which consists of two parts.
Visit your local Social Security office if you are denied for a reason other than your physical condition.
It’s important to note that federal tax withholding is typically waived for people receiving disability benefits. However, federal taxes may be owed if your taxable income is over $25,000 if you file as a single taxpayer or $32,000 if you and your spouse file a joint return.
While disability benefits are typically not taxed, you should double-check the laws in your state to be sure. See the Social Security Frequently Asked Questions website for details on how to pay Social Security taxes on your Disability benefits and other topics.
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