Category Archives: Disability Benefits

Disability Information from Disability Benefits Home Blog

Disability Benefits hits high in December 2012

Disability benefits continue to rise

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits hit a record high in December with an estimated 8,827,795 workers collecting disability, up from an estimated 8,805,353 in November.

What does this mean for the future of the Social Security program? Right now the SSA is running a deficit of a $47.8 billion, which means of the $725.429 billion in cash that the program gathered from employment taxes, they paid out an estimated $773.247 for benefits and overhead expenses. 2009 is the last year that the Social Security Trust Fund has had a net cash flow surplus; the last two years they have had deficits.

The SSA will, however, report an increase this year because the United States Treasury paid back interest for some of the money they had drained from the Social Security Trust Fund in prior years to cover the Federal Government’s deficit spending.

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SSDI – I am 69, can I get my benefits?

Recently on our disability forum we had a claimant ask if they were still eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if they had reached 69 years of age but they were now disabled and unable to work due to a severe health condition.

The short answer is no. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is not offered to applicants who have reached their full retirement age. The expectation for this claimant is that if they cannot work, assuming they have sufficient work credits, they would begin to claim SSA retirement benefits. Information about filing for SSA retirement can be found on the SSA website at www.ssa.gov.

I was getting SSDI but now it is gone

Another common misconception is that when you are getting SSDI and you reach your full retirement age that you will continue to get both SSDI and SSA retirement benefits simultaneously. This is also incorrect. If you are getting Social Security Disability Insurance and you reach your full retirement age your SSDI payment is automatically converted to SSA retirement; and SSDI is terminated.

Can I get SSDI if I have not reached my full retirement age?

Claimants who are less than their full retirement age (but who have reached their early retirement age) and who are disabled and unable to work may apply for SSDI benefits instead of their SSA early retirement benefits.

Whether or not this is a good idea will depend entirely on your estimated payment for each benefit and if you have the fortitude to fight through the SSDI application process. Although it will be less difficult for an elderly claimant (over the age of 62) to get SSDI benefits, unlike SSA retirement, there are no guarantees. Claimants will also have to wait 24 months from the date of their disability to get Medicare so you also may have to continue to wait to get healthcare benefits.

Contact the SSA to discuss your payment amounts for each benefit or review your most recent Statement of Earnings, which is the report sent to every worker each year listing their estimated disability and retirement benefits.

Can I get Supplemental Security Income if I am 69?

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is offered to the aged, disabled or blind who are unable to work. If you are 69 years old and you are no longer able to engage in what the SSA terms substantial gainful work activity you may qualify for SSI benefits, assuming you have VERY limited income and resources.

SSI can be a great option for the aged who did not acquire enough work credits in their life to be considered insured for SSDI or SSA retirement benefits.

What if you are getting SSA retirement? Can you still get SSI benefits? Yes, but only if your SSA retirement is VERY low and you have limited income and resources. A low income is one that is less than the current federal benefit rate of $698. Income from other sources such as a working spouse is counted in the income evaluation. So if you spouse is working and making too much money you would not qualify for SSI benefits, regardless of your age or health.

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SSA- What vocational rehabilitation services can I get?

We receive many questions on our disability forum about vocational rehabilitation services which are available to disabled disability applicants or disability recipients. The good news is that even though the Social Security Administration does not provide vocational services, they do help qualifying applicants find the help they need through state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

When Can I get help with rehabilitation Agencies?

If you file a SSDI or SSI application, when your application is sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state for review, the examiner is supposed to also determine if you would benefit from vocational rehabilitation services. If so, your case should be referred to the appropriate state vocational rehabilitation agency.

If your application is sent for review the appropriate agency will contact you (after reviewing your work history and medical condition) to determine if you may be able to retrain for some type of new work. If so, the counselor will work with you to develop a work plan and evaluate additional vocational services that may be needed to help you achieve your goals.

Paying Providers for Vocational Rehabilitation Services

If you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits and you are referred to a vocational rehabilitation services office for help reintegrating you back into the workforce, the SSA will pay for these services.

What types Of Vocational Rehabilitation Services are available to me?

Rehabilitation services are provided to help disability claimants returned to new work or enter the workforce for the first time. Services which may be provided can include:

  1. An assessment to determine your current skills and abilities to work.
  2. Counseling
  3. Devices to help increase your mobility including a modified vehicle or a wheelchair
  4. Job Training
  5. Transportation to work
  6. Job placement

What if I refuse the rehabilitation services?

There are a few reasons that you may be allowed to refuse rehabilitation services, but in general, if you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits and you refuse to cooperate this could result in a suspension of your SSDI or SSI benefits.

Will I get my benefits when I return to work?

The SSA has implemented programs or work incentives to encourage disability recipients to return to work. These incentives allow disability recipients to continue to receive their health care coverage and their monthly disability payments while they attempt work. Incentives vary by program, but they generally include receiving benefits for a specified time while you test your ability to work, continued medical coverage through Medicaid or Medicare for a specified time, and a deduction from earnings for the cost of certain impairment-related work items in determining whether earnings are too high to continue receiving benefits.

More information is for rehabilitation services can be found in the SSA publication Working While Disabled.How We Can Help (SSA Publication No. 05-10095) or If You Are Blind.How We Can Help (SSA Publication No. 05-10052).

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

It is not unusual for many disability applicants to be denied the first time they apply for SSI or SSDI benefits. If you have been denied, you can contact a disability lawyer to find out if they can help you with your case.

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SSA says disability not severe enough can a lawyer help?

There are a variety of reasons your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application can be denied. Recently on our disability forum we had a disability applicant pose a question, “If my case was denied because the SSA claims I am not disabled enough, can a disability lawyer help me win my SSDI or SSI case?”

Why would the SSA state my claim is not severe enough to get SSDI or SSI?

If the SSA claims that your condition is not severe enough to win SSDI or SSI what they are saying is that you have the residual capacity to perform work, despite your condition. They may believe you can still perform your current job or they may admit that although you cannot perform heavy work, for instance, you can retrain for new, lighter work.

This type of denial is very common, and claimants seldom understand what they need to do to prove that they cannot work their current job nor can they retrain for new work.

How do I prove I cannot work a new job and I should get SSDI or SSI?

To prove you cannot retrain for new work you first must understand how the SSA classifies “work.” This is done by what the SSA terms exertional work levels: sedentary, light, medium, and heavy.

For each of these classifications there is a specific amount of time the SSA believes a claimant should be able to perform specific tasks. For instance, if they believe you can perform sedentary work they will expect you to be able to carry and lift 10 pounds or less, stand or sit for less than 2 hours within an 8 hour work day and alternate between sitting and standing. Applicants who are young and have a high educational level will have difficulty proving that they cannot train and perform sedentary work.

The Second classification is light work. This is a step up from sedentary in the amount of effort it will take. For instance, you will sit for no more than 2 hours, stand up to 6 hours and lift up to 20 pounds. This type of work includes a store cashier or grocery store stocker.

Medium and heavy work require even more effort, including lifting more weight and standing more than sitting.

If the SSA said that you can retrain for new work, which in essence means your condition is not severe enough to be considered disabled and win SSDI or SSI, you will have to prove, through medical evidence, that you do not have the ability to work. Let’s review how a disability lawyer would help you prove this.

What does a disability lawyer do?

The primary benefit of hiring a disability lawyer occurs at the hearing level. At this level the disability lawyer will review your medical records and determine what was missing or what information should be obtained to improve your case.

If necessary, the disability lawyer will contact your doctor or potentially send you to another doctor to get more specific information about your functional limitations to work.

Disability lawyers also understand the work classifications used by the SSA and will know how to argue that you cannot perform certain types of work.

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SSA- They want me to see their doctors. Do I need a lawyer?

If you have submitted a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application you may have received a request from the Social Security Administration to go to a consultative examination. You may be wondering if this is good for your case and whether or not it signals the need to hire a SSDI disability lawyer to improve your chances of winning SSDI or SSI benefits.

The truth about a consultative examination

If the SSA has told you that you need to see a consultative examiner this is not good news. The SSA makes their SSDI or SSI disability determination almost exclusively based on your current medical records and the fact that they need you to see another doctor means they do not feel that they have sufficient medical evidence to make a disability determination.

Although the consultative examiner or C.E. does not work for the SSA (they are not a government worker but are contracted by the SSA) and is supposed to provide an “unbiased” medical evaluation, what most disability applicants observe is that the consultative examination is nothing more than a cursory, and I mean VERY cursory, evaluation.

What does this mean for your case? It is likely, unless you have a condition which is obviously very disabling, that they may not have enough information or time to fully determine whether or not you can work.

What are my options?

Unfortunately, if you have been told to go see a C.E. you must comply or your case is likely to be automatically denied. Keep in mind, however, that the information the C.E. provides back to the SSA is generally not helpful and you have a high chance of being denied. The C.E. is not responsible for deciding if you are disabled; they only provide information to the SSA who is responsible for making the disability decision.

Denied after a Consultative Examination, what next?

If you are denied after the C.E. examination than it may be time to talk to a disability lawyer. The Disability lawyer will tell you what I am going to tell you: winning disability without being under the care of a doctor and without specific medical evidence that you cannot work is very difficult.

There are a handful of SSDI or SSI disability applicants who will win benefits after a consultative examination but this will be the exception, not the rule. Relying on the consultative examiner is never a good idea.

This begs the question, “What if I cannot afford medical care?” This is one of the great questions and there is no good answer. Thousands of severely SSDI and SSI disabled applicants are denied each year simply because the lack medical evidence to support their case. Review my blog, How can I get Social Security Administration disability if I cannot afford to see a doctor? for more information.

Do I need a disability lawyer?

Not everyone will need a disability lawyer, and many applicants will be approved without legal help; however, up to 75% of claimants are denied at the application level and a disability lawyer can help you appeal your denial.

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