Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability
Q: How do I know if I am “disabled” enough to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?
A: The Social Security Administration (SSA) says that a successful applicant for disability benefits must be completely disabled. This is unlike some other programs and insurance policies that assist partially disabled persons. The disability must be a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least one year (or has already lasted one year) or will result in the applicant’s death. This does not mean, however, that the applicant has to be permanently disabled.
Q: What if my application for benefits is denied?
A: If your application is denied, you may appeal the decision. There are several levels of appeal: reconsideration of your claim; a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ); review by the Appeals Council; and review by the federal district court. You have a limited time in which to file the appeals, however. The advice and assistance of an attorney can help you make a stronger case during the appeals process.
Q: If I can work a little bit, can I still qualify for benefits?
A: The Social Security Administration (SSA) says that you must not be able to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which means the type of activity a person normally does for pay or profit. If your monthly earnings are below a certain amount (which SSA sets every year), however, you will not be considered to be performing substantial gainful activity. If you are receiving disability benefits but wish to try working, you can take part in nine months’ worth of a work trial period, during which SSA will not stop your benefits if you are still disabled.
Q: Is there a work history requirement to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?
A: Yes. To receive Social Security Disability benefits, you must have both a disability and a sufficient work history. The required work history depends on your age when your disability began; you must have worked for a certain number of years. Your work also must be recent enough to qualify.
Q: Will the amount of my benefits have anything to do with the severity of my disability?
A: No. Your disability benefit will be based on your earnings history, not the specific nature of your disability.
Q: What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?
A: The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are both run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI provides benefits to people who are unable to work because of their disabilities. To be eligible, applicants must have a qualifying work history and be disabled or blind. SSI is a needs-based program. To be eligible for SSI, applicants must have limited income and resources and be aged, disabled or blind.
Q: If my application is approved, when will the benefits start?
A: Benefits typically are paid beginning in the sixth month after the disability started. The application and decision process may take a long time, so it is best to apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled.
Q: Can I receive workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability at the same time?
A: Workers’ compensation benefits may reduce your Social Security Disability benefits, but you can receive them at the same time. If the total benefits exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings, your Social Security Disability benefit will be reduced.
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