How Social Security Disability Works?

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working a full-time job, whether it is physical or mental in nature, you may be able to claim disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding the eligibility requirements, application procedures, and appeals process can be confusing, especially for individuals sidelined by a disability.

The SSA offers two types of benefits for disabled workers, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While SSDI is funded by Social Security deductions from paychecks and serves individuals who have paid into the system, SSI is for low-income people, the blind, and children.

To be considered “disabled” for the purposes of claiming SSDI or SSI benefits, you must have a condition that prevents you from earning a certain monthly income as a full-time worker. Also, the disability must have lasted (or is expected to last) for 12 continuous months, or is expected to result in death.

The SSA maintains an official listing of medical impairments, commonly referred to as the “blue book,” of approved medical conditions. This list includes chronic coronary disease; mental disorders such as autism, anxiety, and depression; hearing or vision loss; and Parkinson’s disease. But you may still be eligible even if your condition is not listed in the blue book, since each case is considered on an individual basis.

Claims for disability benefits can be done online, in person, or over the telephone. The process goes much more smoothly if you have prepared the necessary documents and information in advance, including income tax statements, the names of prescription medications, and the dates of all medical procedures and therapy sessions.

One of the key factors to your claim is the disability onset date, which is the date on which you first became too disabled to work full-time. This is determined by records of your work history, allegations made by you in your application, medical evidence, and (in some cases) interviews with family and friends.

Don’t get too discouraged if your initial claim is denied. Most claims are at first, for any number of reasons, even if they eventually are approved at appeal.

You have four opportunities to appeal a denied claim, beginning with a very basic reconsideration of your initial claim by another SSA representative and ending with a claim in federal court:

  1. Reconsideration
  2. Hearing before an ALJ
  3. Review by the SSA Appeals Council
  4. Claim in federal court

About one-third of all initial claims and reconsiderations result in an approval, but the majority of hearings end favorably for the claimant.

Claimants wishing to appeal must file their request within 60 days of receiving their notice from the SSA. While hearings are generally informal and take only about an hour to complete, your chances of success improve dramatically if you prepare in advance.

Let an Attorney Guide You Through the SSDI Claims Process

Dealing with the Social Security Administration can be enormously stressful. Frustration and confusion can result in the loss of a significant amount of time and may jeopardize your ability to collect benefits. Don’t let the complexity of the rules or uncertainty about your rights prevent you from pursuing your claim. An experienced SSDI attorney can help you better understand your rights and determine what course of action is most appropriate given your situation.

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