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Applying and Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability benefits are relied upon by millions of disabled individuals across the United States. If you are suffering from a disability that has prevented you from maintaining full-time work activity, there are two different Social Security Disability programs that you may qualify for. These two programs include the SSA’s SSDI and SSI benefits. Below is information on how one may qualify for these benefits and how to apply for the benefits you may be entitled to through the Social Security Administration.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits you must be disabled for a minimum of 12 months and the disability that you are suffering from must be included in the SSA’s “Blue Book” of qualifying conditions. If your condition is not included in this “Blue Book”, you may still qualify for benefits but you will need to prove that your condition equals one of the conditions listed in the book or that it completely prevents you from performing any type of work activity. This can be done by submitting sufficient medical evidence to support your case.

In the case of SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) benefits, you must have earned enough work credits in addition to proving that you meet the SSA’s disabling criteria. If you have not worked enough to earn sufficient work credits, then you may be able to qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits if your income and assets meet the SSA’s limits as SSI is a needs-based program.

Qualifying for SSDI

To qualify for SSDI benefits you must have worked at least 5 of the past 10 years (if you are age 31 or older). If you are younger, you will not need as many work credits, but you will have to have worked at least half of the years since you have turned age 24. For example, if you are 28 years old, you must have worked at least 2 years (half of the years from age 24 to 28) in order to have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Qualifying for SSI

To qualify for SSI benefits the SSA will not look at your work credits. Instead they will look at your income and assets. If it is determined that you are disabled, you must meet the following criteria as of 2012 in order to qualify for Social Security SSI benefits:

•                    Income of no more than $1,481 per month for an individual or $2,181 per couple (if income is from wages).

•                    Income of no more than $718 per month for an individual or $1,068 per month for a couple (if income is not from wages).

•                    Assets of no more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

Applying for SSDI and SSI

The application processes for SSDI and SSI are similar. First you will file your initial application. This will include the adult (or child) disability checklist and the disability report form. You will want to submit copies of your medical records along with these forms in order to support your claim for disability benefits.

The Initial Application Process

Once your initial application has been submitted, the SSA will review your claim to ensure that you meet the basic criteria (such as work credits and/or asset and income limits). If you meet the basic requirements, your file will then be sent on for further review in order to determine whether or not the SSA will deem you as disabled and eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

It is important to note that nearly 70 percent of initial disability claims received by the SSA are denied each year. If this happens to you, you will receive a notice in the mail notifying you of the fact that your benefits have been denied. You will then have 60 days from the date of this notice to file the first stage of appeal with the Social Security Administration.

The Request for Reconsideration

If you receive a notice that your Social Security Disability claim has been denied, you will want to file for a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days of receiving the notice or you will need to go through the entire application process all over again (and will likely be denied again). Because of this, it is in your best interests to file this appeal in a timely manner.

It is important to note that more than 80 percent of these requests are also denied by the Social Security Administration. In most states, however, this step of the appeal process is required before you can file a request for a disability hearing, which is the stage of appeal where you have the best chance of being awarded the disability benefits you may be entitled to.

The Social Security Disability Hearing

It can literally take years to be scheduled for a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. This is because there is such a backlog of disability appeals in the Social Security system. The good news is that with proper legal representation, your chances of being awarded benefits as a result of this hearing are higher than at any other point during the disability appeal process.

If you do receive notice that your hearing did not result in an approval of your benefits, you can take your appeal further. The next stage of appeal is called the Appeals Council Review.

The Appeals Council Review

When you request a review by the Appeals Council they will either grant or deny your case. If they grant your case they will either review your case for approval or will send it back to another administrative law judge for review. This usually only occurs if the administrative law judge made an error when denying your benefits.

If the Appeals Council denies your case, do not give up hope. You have a further appeal option available to you.

Taking Your Claim to the Federal Court

If the appeal with the Appeals Council does not result in the award of your Social Security benefits, you may file a lawsuit in Federal Court. The complaint must be filed in a U.S. District Court within 60 days of the date that is on the notice that the Appeals Council sent to you notifying you of the denial of benefits.

When you file your case, the Federal Court will review the evidence that was used to make the decisions regarding your case and will make a decision based on that evidence. A new trial will not be conducted. It is important to note that you will want an attorney working with you from the hearing stage of appeals to this stage of appeal, if not during the initial application process. The legal system can be complex and overwhelming and applicants who try to navigate this stage of appeal are rarely successful.


Article by Ram Meyyappan


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