Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits give basic monetary resources to people who cannot work due to the effects of a debilitating medical condition. It’s important to note that suffering from this condition isn’t the only criterion to qualify for benefits. Qualifying for SSD is a process that involves lots of details, deadlines, evidence, persistence, and patience.
To learn more about the basics of who qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits, contact Pisegna & Zimmerman. We’ll schedule a time for you to meet with someone from our legal firm. Once you’ve provided the details of your situation and the associated goals, we’ll let you know what legal options are available to you.
Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security Disability benefits, also known as “disability,” are benefits intended to provide financial support to individuals who have paid into the Social Security system through payroll taxes. Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits involves meeting specific criteria set by the SSA.
Social Security Disability Benefit Eligibility
Receiving SSD benefits can be a long process. This can be especially true when your eligibility is up for interpretation. According to SSD benefits professionals, here are the key factors that determine eligibility:
Performance of Past Duties
The SSA assesses your ability to execute your past work despite your medical condition. If you can do your job or similar work, you may be ineligible for benefits. If your ability is diminished beyond being able to perform said duties, you’ll likely be eligible.
Ability to Transition Careers
When unable to perform your past job duties, the SSA evaluates your ability to engage in any other type of work. Your age, education, skills, and physical or mental aptitude are all considered. If you’re unable to transition careers, you may be eligible for benefits.
Earnings Record and Credits
You must have paid into the Social Security system via payroll taxes. The SSA assigns work credits that govern eligibility, and the credit sum required hinges on how old you were when you became disabled. Usually, 40 credits are needed, with 20 credits having accumulated in the ten years before becoming disabled.
You must have a medically determinable physical or mental condition that notably restricts your capacity for employment to qualify for SSD. The condition should be present for at least 12 consecutive months or be diagnosed as terminal. The SSA assesses the severity of your condition and how it affects your ability to perform work-related duties.
Options for Non-Citizens
Sometimes, Social Security Disability benefits are available to eligible non-citizens. The criteria for non-citizens concerns their standing with immigration and meeting the same medical and work-related prerequisites as nationals.
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, SGA — or Substantial Gainful Activity — must be beyond your reach. The SGA cap is $1,350 monthly for people who aren’t blind and $2,260 for blind people. Anyone earning more than these limits is considered capable of substantial gainful activity and is therefore ineligible for benefits.
Specific Medical Conditions
The SSA keeps a list of medical conditions known as the “Blue Book.” It details illnesses and disabilities that qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. If your condition is on the list and meets the criteria outlined, you are likely eligible for benefits. However, if your condition is unlisted, you can still qualify if it is medically equivalent in severity to a listed one.
Waiting for Benefits
A five-month waiting period exists from the onset of your disability before you can begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits. During this time, you must be continuously disabled and unable to work.
The Process of Applying
The Social Security Disability benefits application is known for being complex and lengthy. It involves gathering lots of data, like medical documentation, work history records, and personal information. Here’s a brief overview of the steps involved:
Initial Application and Evaluation
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be done online, by phone, or in person. Provide detailed and accurate information about your medical condition, work history, and other relevant factors. You’ll submit all relevant records and supporting documentation. Your application can take up to five months to process.
Dealing with Appeals
If your application has been denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. Multiple levels can be involved in the appeals process. This includes reconsideration, a hearing before an administrative law judge, and further appeals if necessary.
Social Security Disability Benefits Approval Process
Typically, when your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) gets approved, you must wait five months before receiving your first SSDI benefit payment. This means you’ll receive your first disability benefit payment in the sixth full month after the date your disability began.
So let’s say your disability began on June 15 and you applied on July 1. Your first benefit would be paid in the month of December, your sixth full month of disability. However, there are special considerations to this. For example, there is no waiting period if your disability results from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and you are approved for SSDI benefits after July 23, 2020.
Another example could be let’s say that your disability began on November 3, 2022 and you applied on January 11, 2023. That means SSD would backpay your first benefit package for the month of December 2022, the first full month of disability. Typically, the SSA pays SSDI benefits in the month following the month for which they are due. This means that the benefit due for December 2022 will be paid to you in January 2023.
The SSDI Benefit You Receive
Your amount of monthly SSDI benefit is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. If you’re unsure what that number is, you can get your Social Security Statement online using your personal Social Security account. You can use the SSDI Benefit Calculators to determine how much you could get if you became disabled right now.
Other Payments Affect Disability Benefits
If you receive certain government benefits, such as workers’ compensation, public disability benefits, or pensions, the Social Security benefits payable to you and your family may be reduced. Speak with a skilled SSDI advocate to ensure you get what you’re entitled to.