Becoming disabled can turn your life upside down. It can cause emotional stress and financial problems. Fortunately, the federal government can help if you become disabled. Knowing what to do if you cannot work due to a disability can help lessen the financial and emotional burden of this difficult situation.
Disability benefits are federal benefits that are paid to people who have disabilities. Social Security pays disability benefits to anyone who can’t work because of a medical condition. The medical condition must last for at least a year or be expected to result in death.
There are two federal programs that provide financial assistance to people with disabilities — Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – This program pays disability benefits to people who have worked a certain number of years.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – This program pays benefits based on financial need. This program is for disabled people who have not worked long enough to qualify for SSDI.
Who Can Get Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are paid to people who cannot work due to a medical condition or disability. The disability must be expected to last at least one year or lead to death. In some cases, family members of disabled workers can also receive Social Security Disability benefits.
What Is The Earnings Requirement For Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI)?
To get Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, you must meet two different work requirements.
- A duration of work test that shows that you worked long enough to get benefits
- A recent work test that is based on your age at the time that you became disabled
Both of these earnings tests must be met to qualify for SSDI.
Recent Work Test
- If you became disabled in the three months before you turn age 24, then you’ll need one and a half years of work during the three-year period right before your disability started.
- If you became disabled after you turn 24, but before you turn 31, then you’ll need to have worked half of the time after you turned age 21 up until the period right before you became disabled.
- Age 31 and older – If your disability began after you turn 31, then you’ll need to have worked 5 years out of the last 10 right before your disability began.
Duration Of Work Test
To meet the Duration of Work test, you must work a certain number of years within a certain time frame. Here is a link more information about the duration of work test.
How To Apply For Disability Benefits
There are two ways that you can apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.
- Apply online – You can apply online at the Social Security website.
- Call Social Security – You can call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file a disability claim. You can call between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday. You can either schedule an appointment at your local office or file your claim over the telephone.
How Long Does It Take To File A Disability Claim?
The Social Security Disability interview process takes about one hour. When you schedule an appointment, Social Security will send you a Disability Starter Kit. This kit will help you get ready for your interview. The Disability Starter Kit is also available online.
Your Right to Representation
When you file a Disability Claim with the Social Security Administration, you have the right to have a qualified person to represent you. This could be an attorney or non-attorney. More information can be found here.
When Should You Apply For Disability?
It takes three to five months for a disability application to be reviewed. You should apply for Social Security Disability as soon as you become disabled.
What Information Do You Need To Apply For Disability?
To apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you’ll need to complete an application. You can complete the application online. Making sure that you have all the information needed for your disability claim will help the application process go quicker.
Here are some things that you’ll need to apply for Social Security Disability:
- Your birth certificate.
- Your social security number.
- The names, addresses and phone numbers of all of your doctors.
- The names, addresses and phone numbers of any clinics that you visited for medical care.
- The names addresses and phone numbers of any therapists, case managers or other specialists that you have seen for your condition.
- The dates of any medical visits related to your disability.
- A copy of your most recent W-2 form or your Federal Tax Returns for the past year.
What If I Don’t Have This Information?
If you don’t have all of the basic information needed for your application, you should still apply for benefits. We can assist you with getting this information together quickly.
In addition to the above information, you will also need to fill out other forms for your disability claim. The forms will be sent to you by the Social Security Administration after you apply for Disability Benefits.
How Does The Social Security Administration Decide If I Am Disabled?
After you complete your online, in-person or telephone application, the Social Security Administration will review the information. They will decide whether or not you meet the requirements to receive Social Security Disability benefits.
They will determine if you meet the Recent Work Test and Duration of Work Test. If you meet the basic requirements, the Social Security Administration will process your application and send it to your local Disability Determination Services office. Your state office will complete the initial disability determination decision. Disability specialist when asked your doctors for information about your disability. They will look at Medical evidence from your doctors, clinics, hospitals and other providers where you have been treated for your disability. They will consider all of the facts in your case, including:
- Your medical condition
- The results of various medical tests
- How your medical condition or disability limits your daily activities
- When your medical condition started
The Social Security Administration will also ask your doctors or medical specialists for information about your ability to work. They might ask about your ability to walk, sit, lift and carry things and remember instructions.
How does Social Security Make the Decision?
Social Security uses a process that consists of five steps in order to determine if someone is disabled.
- Do you currently work? If you are currently working and making more than a specific amount of money each month, then Social Security generally won’t consider you to be disabled. For more information about how much you can make and still be considered disabled, check out this link.
- Is your disability or medical condition severe? Does your medical condition prevent you from doing basic work-related activities? For Social Security to consider you to be disabled, your disability must limit your ability to do work-related activities, such as standing, walking, lifting and sitting.
- Is your medical condition or disability on the Social Security Administration’s list of medical conditions that is severe enough to prevent a person from working? Social security has a list of medical conditions that it considers severe enough to warrant Disability Income. Your medical condition must be listed for you to receive disability benefits.
- Does your medical impairment prevent you from doing the same work that you did in the past? Your medical impairment must prevent you from doing the same work that you did before to be considered a disability.
- Can you do any type of work? If you can’t do the work that you did in the past, then Social Security will determine if you can do another type of work. If you can’t do any type of work, Social Security will usually consider you to be disabled.
How Will I Be Notified About Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration will inform you of their decision after the local state office makes a determination on your case. You will receive a letter in the mail from the Social Security Administration. The letter will show the amount of Social Security Disability Income that you will get each month.. It will also show when you will start receiving your payments. If your Social Security disability claim is denied, the letter will explain why it was denied. It will also tell you how you can appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.
In some cases, a Social Security representative will come to your home to notify you about your benefits. The Representative should provide you with official Social Security identification before discussing your benefits. It is always a good idea to call your local Social Security office if you are not sure whether or not someone is from Social Security.
For more information about Social Security Disability benefits, including what information you need to report to the Social Security Administration when receiving benefits, read this publication.