Social Security Disability Benefits: Am I Eligible?

Few life events can be as devastating and life shattering as discovering that you or a loved one has a severe, diagnosed disability. You may immediately ask yourself, how will I (or my spouse) work? How will I be able to afford groceries? Will I make rent this month? What will happen to my children? This wave of emotional and financial pressure has the potential to be debilitating on top of your current diagnosis. This can simply be too much to handle in such a difficult situation. Understandably, seeking Social Security disability benefits may be the last thing on your mind. However, you may be eligible for considerable financial and medical assistance that would significantly ease several of these burdens and allow you to focus solely on your recovery.

The process of receiving such benefits can be lengthy and complicated, but the first and most important step is determining whether you are eligible to receive them. The following information will help walk you through the process of clarifying your disability status.

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Recognizing Your Disability

The first step, perhaps obviously, is recognizing that you have a disability that will keep you from doing any type of work for more than 12 months, including sedentary work. You do not need to wait until you have missed work for 12 months in order to be eligible for SS benefits. Once you have been diagnosed and anticipate missing work for 12 months or more, you can apply for benefits immediately.

At Summit Disability, we have provided a listing of the most common disabilities we see. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical Injuries
  • Physical Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Diseases
  • Other possible conditions

You can find this list and information about various disabilities at our page describing types of disabilities. Additionally, it may be beneficial to consult the official Social Security Administration listing at www.ssa.gov . If your disability matches the description of common disabilities on these lists, you likely have a case to receive these important benefits.

Don’t Panic if Your Condition is Not Listed

If your condition does not appear on either list, you still may have a case! In fact, many beneficiaries never match an official listing. These lists are far from comprehensive, but merely the most common occurrences we see.

If you can prove you are incapable of doing sedentary work, you are eligible for receiving Social Security disability benefits, regardless of your condition. To help you understand the status of your current condition, we offer a free consultation to help you asses your eligibility for SS benefits.

What Social Security Disability Benefits Are Available to You?

Once you have confirmed that you have a disability and that you may have a case to apply for and receive benefits, it is important to be aware of the types of Social Security disability benefits available to you and the requirements you must meet to be eligible for them.

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When a disability prevents you from working or you have never worked, SSI can assist you in making sure you are receiving a minimal cash benefit and medicaid. However, there are conditions that you have to meet. They include:

  • The disabled individual cannot be earning more than $735 if single
  • The couple cannot be earning more  than $1,082 if the disabled person is married
  • The person disabled cannot be holding more than $2,000 in personal assets if single
  • The person/couple cannot be holding more than $3,000 in combined assets if married. (Assets include bank accounts, investments, property, etc.)
  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Every working American pays into the Social Security system throughout their lives. The payment is made via one’s paycheck in the form of the FICA tax. Eligibility for this benefit is determined based on how long you have been paying into the system. If you have paid FICA taxes for 5 out of the last 10 years, you are likely eligible. The quantity of your cash benefit will be determined by how much FICA tax you have paid.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for this category of benefits, we recommend contacting our attorneys.

5 Step Evaluation To Prove Disability

Now that you have determined that you are eligible for one or both of the two types of Social Security disability benefits, you must then prove that you are disabled under SSA’s definition. To prove you are disabled, you must show the following.

  1. Are you unable to engage in substantially gainful activity for at least 12 months?
  • Your disability must keep you from earning at least $1,170 a month, before tax, for at least 12 months. If you can earn more than this, it is considered gainful employment and you will not be eligible for disability benefits.
  1. Do you have a severe impairment?
  • In order for your condition to be considered a severe impairment, your diagnosis must be determined by objective medical testing (blood tests, MRI, etc..), not simply the opinion of a doctor.
  1. Do you meet a medical listing?
  • If you meet an SSA medical listing, you will automatically be considered disabled and likely receive benefits. You win!
  • However, not everyone meets a medical listing. In reality, few do. As clarified previously, if you do not meet an official listing, you will not be automatically disqualified. You just continue on to step 4.
  1. Can you go back to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years?
  • In order to continue your case for disability benefits, you must be able to prove that your current permitted exertion level would prevent you from returning to the lightest job you have held in the last 15 years. If you cannot prove this, you will be denied benefits.
  1. If you can’t return to a past job, is there a job in the national economy you can do?
  • Even with your disability, there may be a job in the market that allows you to work despite your restrictions. (Ex. Parking lot attendant, call center operator, Walmart Greeter, etc.)  Working with you, our job is to prove that no such job is available.
  • If you are unable to prove that this is the case, your claim will be denied and you will not receive benefits.

If you can successfully prove, under these five conditions, that your disability will in fact keep you from working for at least 12 months, you will likely be awarded benefits.

Now What?

Though we have tried to present this information in a simple, easy to understand format, do not be worried if you are still a bit confused. This is a lot of information to take in! And on top of that, most of it is probably foreign to you, which can make navigating your already difficult situation that much harder.

At Summit Disability, we understand that this is a daunting task and one that you may not find worth the time or stress. However, it is important to us that you receive these benefits, and it should be important to you as well. Working together, your chance of success in your disability case will increase dramatically.

Because the process can be lengthy and confusing, we cannot stress enough the importance of hiring an attorney to guide you through it. At Summit Disability, we have qualified, experienced attorneys who are willing to do the dirty work for you, and will invest their very best effort to give you the best chance of winning your case.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a severe disability or has been struggling with one and are interested in possible monetary and/or medical compensation, contact Summit Disability Law Group and begin your claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the longer you go without the help of the potential benefits you need and deserve.

Image courtesy of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Image is in the Public Domain.