According to the Social Security Administration, one-quarter of 20-year-olds will become disabled by age 67. For some, a key part of making ends meet will be getting Social Security disability benefits. However, the process for filing for and obtaining these benefits is not easy.
Here is information on understanding SSA disability and improving your chances to qualify.
According to SSA, your disability must meet the following criteria to merit benefits.
(1) You must have a “severe” medical impairment that prevents you from performing any substantial gainful work.
(2) The impairment must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year, or to result in death.
(3) Your impairment must prevent you from doing the same work you did before its onset.
(4) You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical impairment.
There is a further eligibility requirement: You must have a sufficient total of what are called “work credits,” based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years. Younger workers can apply with fewer credits. The SSA website breaks down the work requirements by age. If you have earned $4,640 in a year, you have earned four credits.
You may apply by calling 1-800-772-1213, or making an appointment with your local Social Security office.
You will need:
• Your Social Security number and proof of age;
• Doctor identification and hospital information;
• A list of all current medications;
• Medical records;
• Lab test results;
• A work summary;
• Your latest W-2 form, or tax return for self-employed individuals;
• Information about family members eligible for benefits, including Social Security numbers, proof of age, and marriage certificate, and
• An Adult Disability Report (SSA-3368), a form that contains information about your disability and your work history.
Apply when you are no longer working full time and you have a reasonable expectation you will be unable to return to full time work within 12 months. It will probably take at least six months for SSA to process your application.
If approved, benefits would start the sixth full month after your disability began. The benefit is based on your lifetime earnings covered by Social Security. Benefits might also be payable to your spouse, your divorced spouse, your children and adult children disabled before age 22.
Your family members might be eligible for benefits up to 50 percent of your disability. But the total amount would be approximately 150 percent to 180 percent of your benefit. Any benefit that your divorced spouse is eligible for would not reduce any benefit for which your family members would be eligible. You would be entitled for benefits only as long as you remain disabled. SSA will follow up to verify.
Unfortunately, more than half of initial requests for SSA disability benefits are denied. This may mean that insufficient information has been provided. You have 60 days from the date of the Social Security denial letter to request an appeal. There are three stages in the SS administrative process: initial application, reconsideration, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing.
After an ALJ hearing, an additional appeal may be made, after which cases must be taken to federal court.
You may use the services of an experienced advocate or law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases. Only a lawyer can represent you if the case is taken to federal court.
A good source for SSA disability claims, including a state registry of specialized attorneys, is available through the website www.disabilitysecrets.com.
If you made Social Security payments, you have paid for disability insurance coverage. Take advantage of it.