When someone isn’t able to work anymore because of a disability, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may be a way to receive financial assistance. This is different from SSI, as SSDI is intended for those who have paid into the Social Security system, while SSI is for those who haven’t worked enough to be eligible and who have a limited income. Those who do need to apply for SSDI will often find that the process is incredibly complicated, and there is a large chance they’ll be initially denied, even if they are eligible. In most cases, it’s going to be beneficial to have legal representation from a disability lawyer throughout the application process, especially if an appeal is necessary.
Reasons for Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance is intended for those who are suffering from an injury or illness that will cause them to be considered totally disabled for at least a year. There are some conditions that will result in automatic approval, but conditions or injuries not on that list do not mean a person is unqualified. Instead, they will just need to show that the condition or injury is severe enough to meet the basic eligibility requirements.
Someone who is injured, no matter the cause, or ill and can’t work at all due to the severity are able to apply for SSDI as long as they meet all of the eligibility criteria. This can include those who are severely or permanently injured in a car accident, someone who has a severe health issue that doesn’t allow them to work, or those in similar circumstances. The intent is to provide them with the financial assistance needed to cover basic needs since they are unable to work due to their condition. Depending on the disability, receiving SSDI can be temporary until the person is able to work again or permanent if they will not ever be well enough to work.
There are several eligibility requirements for SSDI. An applicant must meet all of these requirements to be qualified to receive SSDI, but meeting the eligibility requirements does not guarantee approval.
Criteria for Disability
Social Security has specific criteria that must be met for someone to be considered disabled. The person must be considered totally disabled, which means they can’t work or earn an income because of the disability. SSDI is not intended for those who are partially disabled or who are only disabled for a short period of time.
Length of Condition
Short-term disabilities are not covered by SSDI, though they may be covered through other programs. For SSDI, the person must be considered totally disabled for at least a year or for the condition to last until their death if that is less than a year.
Inability to Earn Money Working
While disabled, the person can’t be able to make more than $1,000 per month. If someone is able to work despite the disability, they are not considered completely disabled and will not be eligible for SSDI.
Accumulation of Work Credits
Work credits accumulate over a period of time as someone works, with workers being able to earn up to four credits per year based on income. To qualify for SSDI, the person must have worked for at least five to ten years prior to the disability, earning around 20 to 40 credits based on the age the person was when they became disabled. There may be exceptions to this for those with a limited work history.
The Application Process for Social Security Disability
Those who believe they are eligible for SSDI can apply online, over the phone, or in person at a local Social Security office. Before applying, there are many documents that will be needed. These will serve as evidence of the person’s identity and the illness or injury that has made them totally disabled. Paperwork to have on hand will include the following.
- Any Medical Records Relating to Disability
- Workers Compensation Information If Applicable
- Personally-Identifying Documents Like Birth Certificates
- Bank Account Information
- Emergency Contact Information
- A Medical Release Form (SSA-827)
- A Medical and Job Worksheet Already Completed
Once the person has all of the documents needed, they can complete the application and submit all documents to Social Security. They should find out whether they are approved or denied in around three to four months.
The Appeals Process
Denial is common during the SSDI application process, but denial doesn’t mean someone is unable to receive benefits. There is an appeals process that allows the person to have their application reviewed again. There are four potential appeals to be aware of if the application is denied.
The reconsideration appeal involves having someone else review the initial application to see if something was missed or overlooked.
Hearing With ODAR
The Office of Adjudication and Review can take a look at the application if reconsideration is denied. This is in person.
Review Through Appeals Council
The Appeals Council can review the application, but it may not be willing to do a review if they believe prior decisions were correct.
If all other appeals are denied, it is possible to have the case reviewed in federal court. This is the last step, so a denial will mean the person is unable to receive benefits.
The application and appeals process can be done by the person on their own, but this isn’t recommended. Many of those who are eligible and do receive SSDI payments are initially denied and have to go through at least part of the appeal process to receive the benefits. Instead, someone who is ready to apply for SSDI may want to start by working with experienced social security lawyers in SC, Wilkerson, Jones & Wilkerson.
Working with a lawyer provides numerous benefits. Lawyers are familiar with the application and appeals processes, so they know what is needed to be approved and how to help their client be approved as early as possible. For the initial application, the lawyer can review the supporting documents to make sure everything is ready and filled out completely without mistakes. They can then help with filling out the application.
If the application is denied, lawyers can then help through the appeals process. They know what steps to take to have a better chance of being approved, how to add supplementary documentation if needed, and what to say during the appeal. They can also help their client avoid missing deadlines, keep track of everything that’s needed to appeal, and more. All of this increases the chance for approval, helping the client receive the financial assistance they need while they’re disabled.
If you are totally disabled and unable to work, SSDI might be a way to receive financial assistance. However, it is not always easy to apply for and receive SSDI payments. That’s where legal assistance can be invaluable. The right help can make it easier to get through the application process and be approved or to have a successful appeal if the initial application is denied. If you’re ready to apply for SSDI and would like help, contact the Law Offices of Wilkerson, Jones, and Wilkerson and schedule a FREE consultation to discuss your case.