What is the difference between SSDI (or SSD) and SSI?
Social Security Disability (SSDI or SSD) is a disability benefit available to individuals who have accumulated sufficient “work credits” to qualify for Social Security, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a benefit provided to lower income individuals who have not worked or have not worked enough to qualify for SSDI. The medical eligibility requirement for both programs is the same.
How do I know if I am eligible for SSDI?
In order to obtain SSDI, you must prove that you have a disability that qualifies under the Social Security Administration guidelines and you must have worked long enough and recently enough (earning work credits) to qualify for disability benefits.
According to the Social Security Administration, work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2016, you would have earned one credit for each $1,260 of wages or self-employment income. Therefore, if you earned $5,040 in 2016 you would have earned your four credits for the year. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. This means you would have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
When should I apply for disability benefits?
In order to meet the medical qualifications for either SSDI or SSI, you must have a condition which has kept you out of work for one year, or is expected to keep you out of work for one year. If you earned sufficient credits from past work, you can apply for SSDI. If you have not earned sufficient credits, you still can apply for SSI.
How much can I receive in benefits?
The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. You can visit the Social Security Administration website (http://www.SSA.gov) to obtain your Social Security statement online. SSI benefits, however, are a specific benefit which is not tied to your earnings.
How do I apply for benefits?
You can apply directly at a local Social Security office; you can apply online at http://www.ssa.com or you can have an attorney apply on your behalf. You are not required to have an attorney represent you in completing an application, but an attorney may help strengthen your application.
Does everyone get turned down the first time?
No. The Social Security Administration reviews your application and medical records and determines whether there is enough evidence to support a claim of disability. They may send you for an evaluation with one of their doctors. While some individuals are approved on the initial application, many are denied and must file appeals. If your application is denied, you will have 60 days to file an appeal. At this point, you should consider obtaining legal counsel to help with the appeal process.
What do I have to prove in order to obtain benefits and what factors are considered?
You must establish that a person at your age, with your educational background and work history would be unable to perform not only the job(s) you held in the past, but any job in the marketplace; that may depend on what transferrable skills you have. Your age, level of education and training are the major factors the Social Security Administration considers in addition to the nature and severity of your disability.
If I am denied benefits on my initial application, what are my options?
If you receive a letter denying you benefits, you will have 60 days to file an appeal of that decision and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. It could take up to two years before you obtain a hearing.
Can I file a new application if I am denied benefits or lose on appeal?
You can file a completely new application which starts the process over; that means that you will not receive benefits for the time spent waiting for a decision in your first application. You should consult an attorney to understand the effect of filing a new application or appealing the initial application denial.
If I am awarded SSDI, are my benefits affected by workers’ compensation or disability income?
Yes, the amount of workers’ compensation you receive (whether as direct payments or as a result of a settlement) and “public disability benefits” may reduce your Social Security benefits. Public disability benefits may be those paid by a federal, state, or local government and are for disabling medical conditions that are not job-related.
If you receive workers’ compensation or public disability benefits and you receive Social Security disability benefits, the total amount of these benefits can’t exceed 80 percent (80%) of your average current earnings before you became disabled.
Can I go back to work after receiving benefits?
Social Security provides various incentives to individuals who want to try to go back to work. It allows for a trial period of nine months so that you can test your ability to work, during which time you would continue to receive full benefits regardless of earnings. You must report the earnings to Social Security and you must still be disabled. After the trial period ends, you can still work and collect benefits for an additional 36 months as long as your earnings are not “substantial.” Details concerning work incentives and the definition of “substantial” can be found on the Social Security website.
For advice on Social Security disability and/or workers’ compensation benefits, call the attorneys at Willig, Williams & Davidson at (800) 631-1233.