Monthly Archives: January 2011

Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The United States Federal government administers two Social Security Disability benefits programs. Social Security Disability claimants must meet specific criteria to qualify for each program.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Claimants who have worked and paid sufficient Social Security taxes may be “insured” and covered by Social Security Disability Insurance. Claimants will earn “work credits” for work and must generally have 40 work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Younger claimants may need fewer credits. Claimants must also:

  • Be a worker, the surviving divorced spouse, a worker’s widow or widower or the worker’s child with disabilities. Childhood disability beneficiaries must be unmarried, age 18 or over and must have been determined disabled prior to 22.
  • Complete a Social Security Disability application.
  • Be determined either mentally or physically disabled by the Social Security Administration.
  • Not be working or performing any type of work at a substantial level.

Supplemental Security Income

Social Security Disability claimants who have not worked and do not have sufficient work credits to be considered insured can not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, they may, however, be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. SSI was created to help claimants who have limited income and resources. To meet the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income a claimant must:

  • Have resources and income which are below the federally mandated amount.
  • Be considered a United State’s citizen or meet the non-citizen requirements.
  • Be determined disabled or blind by the Social Security Administration.
  • Complete a Supplemental Security Income application and submit it to the Social Security Administration.
  • Be a resident of the 50 States, District of Columbia, or Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Not be performing substantial gainful activity. The SGA amount varies depending on a claimant’s disability status. Blind individuals are allowed to make higher earnings than a non-blind claimant.

If you have questions regarding your Social Security Disability eligibility, contact the Social Security Administration or visit their website at www.ssa.gov. The Social Security Administration has a useful website that can answer most of your Social Security Disability questions. Social Security Disability claimants who have stopped working due to a physical or mental health conditions may be considered disabled if their physical or mental health condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in their death. Social Security Disability claimants may also contact a Social Security Disability lawyer for more information. Disability lawyers specialize in winning Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits for their clients everyday.

Components in the Disability Determination Process

If you have filed a Social Security Disability application you may have waited weeks or months to receive your reply. You may be wondering where your Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income application has disappeared and why does it take so long to get a disability application approved. Let’s talk about the components of the Disability Determination process.

The Social Security Administration has ten administrative regional offices located across the United States. Each regional office has responsibilities to manage a network of Social Security Administration Field Offices in its region. Each regional office also has a Disability Qualify Branch which requests Social Security Disability cases which it will analyze and perform quality reviews.

In 1998, the Social Security Administration formed the Office of Central Operations by merging several offices together. Currently, the Office of Central Operations is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and is responsible for establishing and maintaining earnings records for workers, processing Title II disability claims for claimants who are under 54 years of age and live in the United States (The Office of Disability Operations) and international Title II claims for claimants who reside outside of the United States (The Office of International Operations).

The Social Security Administration also has a Federal Records Center which maintains all paper records. The Federal Records Center is the final repository for all of the records for disability claims.

In addition to all of the locations listed above, the Social Security Administration also has six Program Service Centers which are located regionally around the United States. There are Program Service Centers in the following cities: Jamaica, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Birmingham, AL, Chicago, IL, Richmond, CA, and Kansas City, MO. Each Program Service Center represents a region of the country and is responsible for processing disability claims, disability appeals, maintaining records and processing Title II claims.

Each of these service centers is run by dedicated Social Security employees who are working hard to process applications, evaluate a claimant’s personal information, review medical files, analyze earnings data and get the information to the next location to help the Social Security Administration make a disability determination for you, the disability claimant.

Does it take a long time to process Social Security Disability claims? Yes, but there are thousands of Social Security Disability applicants just like you who are waiting for their Social Security Disability benefits. It is easy to get discouraged. Talk to a Social Security Disability lawyer about what you information you need to increase your chances of having your disability application approved.

How to Claim Disability Benefits

Claiming Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration is a multi-step process. Patience and tenacity is name of the game. Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is available to workers who have been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration and have worked and contributed employment taxes to the Social Security Trust Fund. Disabled claimants who have not paid employment taxes and who have limited income and resources may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits.

How do you claim your disability benefits?

  1. Determine if you are disabled. Do you have a disabling mental or physical impairment which is so severe that you are unable to work for at least 12 months or is the condition expected to eventually cause your death? The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine if they think you are disabled based on criteria they have established. In general, the SSA must determine you are unable to work your current job and do not have enough residual functional work capacity to be retrained for any other type of employment. Claimants may qualify if they have one severe condition or several conditions which together make it impossible to continue to work. Claimants applying for Social Security Disability Insurance must have earned enough work credits to qualify. The amount of credit needed will vary by age. Claimants do not have to wait 12 months to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits.
  2. Apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This can be done online by visiting the Social Security Administration website at http://www.ssa.gov/disability or visiting the nearest Social Security Administration office. Claimants may also call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an in-person or telephone interview. Applicants must bring the following to their Social Security Disability appointments:
    • Copies of all work history information for the past 15 years
    • Copies of your most recent W-2 forms
    • All medical information including: doctors, hospitals, and clinics names, phone numbers and addresses
    • Social Security Number
    • Birth certificate
    • Dependent information
  3. Complete the Social Security Disability application and all necessary forms. Forms must be completed which give the Social Security Administration permission to gather medical records from all the medical facilities and doctors you have visited which have relevant information about your impairments. You must provide the names and addresses of all the medical providers and the dates you received service.
  4. Outline the reasons you are unable to work. You must give information for jobs you have worked in the past 15 years. Information provided will include: the job description, hours worked and the physical and mental requirements for each job.
  5. The Social Security Administration gathers medical documentation from your medical providers. Claimants often wonder why it takes so long for the Social Security Administration to make a decision about a claimant’s disability. Reasons vary, but the main one is the length of time it takes for hospitals and doctors to send medical records to the SSA.  The Social Security Disability examiner can not make a disability determination until they have receive all of your medical records.