Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits

If a severe physical or mental disability is preventing you from working, you may be qualified to claim disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) through either of their benefit programs.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), officially known as “Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program” (OASDI), is a part of the Social Security program of the United States which is available only to disabled people who have been working for a certain number of years.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a cooperative program between the SSA and your state government and is available to disabled or elderly people with very low assets and incomes. Unlike SSDI, this is not part of the Social Security program.

Disabilities covered by Benefit Programs

To be eligible for benefits, all three of these criteria must be met:

  • You must have a physical or mental disability.
  • The disability must prevent you from doing any substantial gainful work.
  • The disability must have lasted, or is expected to last, at least a year, or is expected to cause death.

social security disabilityFor a disability to be covered by SSA, it must be both medically determinable, meaning it can be discovered and described by doctors. When filing your disability claim, records and statements from doctors or from hospitals or clinics where you have been treated should be included. These documents describe the medical condition which prevents you from working, and how your limitations affect you.

Currently, an impairment preventing substantial gainful work is defined as jobs that pay at least $1300 a month. Making this disability determination takes into account the age, education, training, and work experience of the claimant. Whether it is practical to learn new job skills for another work position, perform any kind of work for pay, and if there are such jobs available in your residence are evaluated by the SSA.

Of course, the terms used in the guidelines for disability qualifications are subject to different interpretations. An experienced social security disability attorney can help determine whether your disability can be covered by an assistance program.

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

    • SSDI: If you are disabled, have worked some part of five of the last ten years before becoming disabled, and have built up enough work credits with social security, you are eligible for SSDI. The amount of required credit depends on the number of years you’ve worked and the year you became disabled.
    • SSI: Since this program is run in cooperation with the state, additional requirements may be imposed. However, you have federal eligibility for SSI if you:
  • are blind, disabled, or at least 65 years old
  • are either a U.S. citizen, or meet the requirements based on your permanent residency, military service, or political asylee or refugee status;
  • have a monthly income not exceeding the amount set by the state you live in; and
  • have properties amounting to no more than $2000, or $3000 for couples.

Should you have questions about qualifying for either of the two SSA programs, consult with a local disability lawyer to get legal advice regarding your claim. 

Social Security Disability Payments

  • SSDI: Once your application is approved, the amount of cash payments you receive will be based on your personal earnings record, with the average being $1200 a month. Higher earners who paid higher FICA taxes will get a larger benefit.
  • SSI: Once approved, you will receive monthly cash payments of approximately $800 for individuals, and $1200 for couples. Adjustment to the amount of the benefit received is made every January based on the current cost of living. Additional payments may be given through the State Supplementary Payment.

Medicaid and Medicare Eligibility

  • SSDI: You become eligible for Medicare after two years of disability benefits collection. However, you may be qualified for Medicaid if your income is low.
  • SSI: For most states, you are automatically eligible for Medicaid and food stamps once your SSI claim is approved.

If you have any questions or concerns about disability application, disability eligibility, disability claims, or appeals process, contact Farmer & Wright, PLLC to get in touch with social security disability lawyers and get a free consultation or case evaluation for SSDI and SSI claimants.

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