It’s nice to know that Social Security disability payments are available if you’re permanently disabled and can’t work anymore. But, getting disability payments is notoriously hard to do. So, what do you need to know about Social Security Disability Income claims?
How Do I Qualify?
There are several hoops to jump through on the way to qualifying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits. First, you have to meet the definition of disability applied by the Social Security Administration. Generally, you have to be unable to work for a year or more because of that disability. You also have to have worked long enough – and recently enough – on a job that gives you Social Security work credits. To qualify for disability, you need 40 work credits, at least 20 of which were earned in the last ten years ending with the year you become disabled. If you’re a younger worker, however, you may qualify with fewer credits.
How Does Social Security Define Disability?
Unlike many other kinds of disability insurance, Social Security only pays benefits if you are totally disabled., There are no payments for partial disability or term-term disability. You are disabled under Social Security rules – and therefore entitled to payments – if you meet all of these conditions:
- You cannot do the work that you did before because of your medical condition
- You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death
This test applies a rigorous definition because Social Security assumes that your family will have access to other resources to support them during short-term disabilities. These other resources include workers’ comp, insurance, savings, and investments.
How Does Social Security Decide If You Qualify?
The Social Security Administration will apply a five-part test to your case to determine whether you qualify or not. The five questions are:
Are You Working Now?
If you are working right now and making an average of more than $1,310 per month, you generally cannot be rules disabled. If, however, you are not working, your application will go to the Disability Determination Office, and they will decide if you are disabled for disability payment purposes.
Is Your Condition Severe?
To qualify for SS disability payments, you must have a condition that must be severe. That means it must significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, like lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remember for at least 12 months. If this isn’t the case, then you aren’t disabled. If it is, then the Disability Determination Office will go on to the next step.
Is Your Condition on Social Security’s List?
Social Security has a long and complicated list of the conditions that qualify and how bad they must be to quality. It is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s probably not really for the layperson at all. Once you start looking over this list, you’ll also start thinking about how much help an experienced Social Security Disability attorney could be to you. There are 14 categories of disabilities, with detailed breakdowns of each category. They cover various physical and mental conditions and explain how severe each much be in order for your disability to qualify.
Can You Do the Work You Used to Do?
Sometimes this is simple. If you were a professional football player and now you need a cane to walk, it’s pretty clear you can’t do the work you used to do. Other conditions may be more subtle on this issue, however. Once again, an experienced attorney could help.
Can You Do Any Other Work?
If you can’t do the work you used to do, Social Security will look to see if there’s any work you can do, even with the medical problems you do have. They will look at your:
Past work experience
Any transferable skills you may have
If you can’t do other work, you will be entitled to disability income. If Social Security decides you can do other work, then you do not have a qualifying disability. Social Security will deny your claim.
Some claims that either almost always qualify (e.g., leukemia) or are highly likely to qualify will be submitted to expedited processing. Under the Compassionate Allowances program, illnesses like acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and pancreatic cancer will be qualified for benefits as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. Quick disability determinations are based on a sophisticated computerized screening predictive process to identify cases with a high probability of allowance. By identifying these types of claims early, Social Security can prioritize and expedite them.
Some situations may impact your ability to qualify for Social Security Disability payments, including the following.
Blind or Low-Vision Applicants
You are legally blind for Security Security purposes if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens. Many people who meet the legal definition of blindness still have some sight and may be able to read large print and get around without a cane or a guide dog.
Even If you do not meet this definition of blindness, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your vision problems alone or combined with other health problems prevent you from working.
There are several special rules for blind people. These rules recognize that blindness has a severe impact on a person’s ability to work in any way. One of the more significant special rules is that the monthly income limit for blind disabled workers is $2,190 instead of $1,310 (2021 figures).
Disabled Widows or Widowers
Widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses between the ages of 50 and 60 may be able to qualify for benefits. They need to have a condition that meets the disability definition, and it needs to have started before or within seven years of the worker’s death. Applications must be made in person.
A child under 18 may be disabled but can qualify for benefits without consideration by the Social Security Administration. The benefits will usually stop at 18 unless the child is a full-time student in elementary or high school or continues to be disabled. If they are still disabled, they may still qualify based on the parent’s record.
Any adult who was disabled for the age of 22 may be eligible for benefits based on the parental record if the parent is deceased or is currently receiving benefits. This “adult child” must be unmarried, 18 or older, have a disability that started before age 22, and meet the adult definition of disability. The adult child does not need ever to have worked.
All in all, getting Social Security Disability benefits is a long, complex, and often frustrating process. According to the Social Security Administration, the average acceptance rate of initial applications is 22%. Approximately 63% are denied outright.
Working with an experienced El Monte Social Security disability lawyer can increase your chances of success. Your lawyer will know the rules and the system and be familiar with what you need to have to make a successful claim. Consider contacting counsel today before you make your first application.