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Social Security Disability

Many people suffer from disabilities that cause they to be unable to do any kind of work, and many become disabled before they reach retirement age. If the disability is expected to last for at least one year, then that person will be considered disabled for Social Security purposes.

Disabled persons can receive payments through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The medical requirements to prove disability, as well as the process for making disability determinations, are the same for each program. The differences between them are as follows:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to injured and disabled workers and certain members of their family if the worker is “insured,” meaning that they worked a required amount of time and paid Social Security taxes. SSDI benefits are meant for adults who become disabled and unable to work for at least one year. A person who is eligible to receive SSDI will automatically be enrolled in Medicare after receiving 24 months of benefits.
  • Supplemental Security Income designed to assist individuals with little or no income and who are aged, blind, or disabled. SSI provides money to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. SSI created for disabled people with little or no income, regardless of whether they have paid anything into the system. A person who is eligible to receive SSI automatically qualified for Medicare (without a waiting period).

Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, also known as the “Blue Book,” contains a long list of conditions that automatically meet the definition of “disability.” This list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Chronic coronary disease
  • Mental disorders such as autism, anxiety, and depression
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Parkinson’s disease

When you apply for either program, you should prepare the necessary documents and information, including income tax statements, the names of prescription medications, and the dates of all medical procedures and therapy sessions.

A claim for disability benefits can be completed in person, over the phone, or online. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the following five-step process for evaluating a disability claim:

  • The working status of the applicant
  • The severity of medical conditions
  • Meeting or equaling a medical condition
  • The ability to do one’s previous work
  • The ability to adapt to different work

Your claim will be either approved or denied. If initially approved, there is a small chance it could go through a “Quality Control” review where the decision could be overturned.

If denied, the next stage is a “reconsideration” with the state agency that handles disability on behalf of the SSA.

If you’re still denied, next step is to apply for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).

If the ALJ denies your application, you can then appeal to the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. If denied again, you can file an appeal in United States District Court.

Applying for Social Security disability benefits without an attorney can be difficult due to how long a claim can take. If you have a complex claim or would like legal assistance or representation during the hearing or appeals process, an experienced social security disability lawyer could help. A qualified attorney can provide representation and help you with your claim for continuing and past due benefits.

About the author

Thomas Elliott

Education: Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York. Pace University, White Plains, New York.
Professional Associations and Memberships: American Bar Association, New York State Bar, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Brooklyn Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

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