SSDI is a government program that offers monthly cash benefits to persons under the age of 65 and who have a qualifying disability and sufficient work credits. In order to receive the benefits, the person must meet both prongs of qualification: work history in which they paid into the Social Security system and have a qualifying disability.
Low-income persons who suffer from a qualifying disability but have no or little work credits may be eligible for a different program called Supplemental Security Insurance or SSI.
What Kind of Disabilities Qualifies for SSDI?
There are a range of disabilities that could qualify for SSDI. When the Social Security Administration (SSA) is determining whether your disability qualifies, they look to four areas:
- Inability to earn enough money due to the disability. If you can no longer work or cannot work enough to make a liveable income, then you may qualify for SSDI.
- Severity of the disability as it relates to work-related tasks. The disability must be permanent and be so severe that you cannot perform basic work-related tasks.
- The existence of medical documentation. Some disabilities automatically qualify for SSDI income without a showing of the other measures. But if your disability does not fall into that category, you must provide substantial medical documentation from your doctor.
- Work test. The SSA will also check to see if you can perform the same kind of work or profession you did before the disability occurred. If you cannot, they will then determine whether you could perform a new job given your age, education and work experience.
How Do I Apply for SSDI?
There are 3 ways to apply:
- Call the SSA to make an application over the phone.
- Apply online at the SSA website.
- Visit your nearest SSA office to make an application in person.
In any of these situations, be sure to have all necessary/relevant documents available. If you go in office, then you have a better chance of your questions being answered if you aren’t sure where to find the necessary documents.
How Much Money Will I Receive from SSDI?
This number can be different for everyone because the SSA uses a formula to determine the cash amount per month for a recipient. Factors can include your work history and whether you have other income from other sources. The average monthly benefit received in 2018 is $1,197.
Most people receive between $700-$1,700.
What Can Cause My SSDI Claim to be Denied?
SSDI can be denied for several reasons. Common examples include:
- Making too much or enough income, even if it is not as much as you used to make before your disability;
- Failing to submit substantial medical documentation of your disability;
- The SSA determined you can perform another type of job; and/or
- You do not have enough work credits with the SSA to receive benefits.
What Happens if My SSDI Claim is Denied?
It is not uncommon for SSDI claims to be denied, but do not get discouraged; you may be entitled to an appeal. When you receive a denial, it will include a review of your disability and information about how to appeal. There are usually four steps to contesting the denial of your benefits:
- In most states, you must first make a written request for reconsideration. In making this request, the SSA will review your claim. However, the officials responsible for denying your claim from the beginning will not be reviewing; there will be a medical consultant and an examiner that reviews the claim. A few claims at this stage may get overturned and the person will begin to receive benefits. However, most will be denied again at this stage. If denied at reconsideration, you should receive another written notice of the denial and next steps to appeal.
- The next phase is a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ALJs are attorneys who will hold a hearing in which the applicant must appear to have their claim heard. The ALJ then determines whether the denial should stand or overturn the denial and the applicant can then begin receiving benefits. About half of those who have a hearing with an ALJ will receive benefits.
- The third phase is the Appeals Council. If your claim was still denied after a hearing, then you can appeal to the council. However, the council does not have to hear your case; they may choose to do so if the ALJ committed some error or wrongdoing. Getting heard by the council may be difficult and winning your case with the council is unlikely.
- The last appeal option is filing a lawsuit against the SSA in federal court. This option is only available after going through the first three. This is a time consuming and expensive process, however, a few cases may be remanded to an ALJ for reconsideration.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me with SSDI Benefits?
If you have applied for SSDI and were denied, an attorney can be very helpful and they may be able to represent you without any out of pocket cost to you. An attorney is recommended in preparing your case for an ALJ hearing so that you have the best possible chance of securing benefits. For all stages of the appeal process, there are concrete deadlines.
If you fail to follow the requirements for the appeal, your claim will be denied and you may be prohibited from seeking an appeal. An attorney can explain your rights and the process and assist you with putting forward your best case to secure SSDI benefits.