The Social Security Administration (SSA) does more than just provide retirement benefits. When someone is disabled and cannot work, the Social Security Administration has two different programs that can provide monthly income. The programs are referred to as social security disability insurance (SSDI) and supplemental security income (SSI).
Unfortunately, applying for either program can be challenging since there is a very high denial rate. As such, it is important to understand the eligibility criteria and to determine if you are eligible for benefits. You may also wish to get help from an experienced Boston disability attorney in determining eligibility and in completing your application for benefits.Determining Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance
There are five basic questions that you must ask yourself to determine if you are eligible for social security disability insurance. These five questions will help you to determine if you meet the SSA's criteria for obtaining benefits. The questions are:
- Is your disability long-term?
- Do you meet the basic criteria for SSDI or SSI eligibility?
- Are you currently earning income?
- Does your medical condition or impairment fall within the SSA's definition of disabled?
- Can you work at any job you've had in the past or at any job you are qualified for?
SSI and SSDI both cover only long-term disabilities not short-term medical problems. Your impairment must have lasted for a year. If it has not lasted for that long, you will need to submit medical proof that it will last a year. The only exceptions to the 12-month requirement are when your disability is expected to be fatal or when you have certain problems such as end stage kidney disease.Do You Meet the Basic Eligibility Criteria?
The basic eligibility criteria differs for SSI and SSDI. For SSI, the primary concern is whether your income is too high to qualify for benefits. SSI is means based so if you make too much you are not able to qualify. The amount you can make depends upon your family size and whether the person who is disabled is an adult or a child. The SSA website has a table of different maximum income amounts for different family sizes. Your resources (assets) must also be below $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for a couple if you are to qualify for SSI benefits.
SSDI, on the other hand, doesn't focus on family income or resources. SSDI is essentially an insurance program in which the "premiums" to purchase coverage are paid when you pay social security taxes. You can earn SSDI coverage by earning "work credits," which as of 2013 are defined as earning $1,160 in covered earnings. Your age when you become disabled determines how many work credits you must have accumulated. There is a chart on the SSA website detailing the number of credits. Those between 31 and 42, for example, need to have earned at least 20 work credits and must have earned them in the ten years before the time of disability.Are You Currently Earning Income?
If you are, then the SSA considers you to be engaged in "substantial gainful activity" (SGA). Those who are engaged in SGA cannot qualify for benefits. If you are only earning a small amount of money, however, you are not considered to be engaged in SGA. As of 2013, you must be earning $1,040 or $1,740 per month if you are blind, in order to be disqualified from receiving benefits.Does Your Medical Condition Qualify as "Disabled?"
The SSA doesn't consider every impairment or illness to be sufficiently severe to qualify for benefits. In fact, your impairment must have a significant adverse impact on your life.
To help you to determine if your condition is severe enough, the SSA has a list of common medical problems that can usually result in a person qualifying for disability benefits. Each medical problem or impairment on the SSA's list also has a specific set of symptoms that must be exhibited in order for you to qualify for benefits. So, if you have a listed condition, you will also need to make sure that you have proof of the required symptoms at the required frequency. The SSA's list is called the "Blue Book" or List of Impairments and it can be found on the SSA's website.Can You Work?
Finally, the last key criteria for determining eligibility is whether you can work. The SSA is going to focus on whether you can do the job you were doing before you became disabled or whether you can do any job you held in the past. The SSA looks also at transferable skills. If you learned how to do something at your job that you can put to use in another career, then the SSA will expect you to use your transferable skills to find employment you can do with your disability.Getting Legal Advice
These five criteria may seem straightforward, but the SSA is very strict in reviewing applications and the majority of disability benefits claims are initially denied. To have the best chance of putting together a strong application and actually being awarded benefits, you should consider having an experienced Masachusetts disability attorney help you in applying for disability.
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