3 Tips to Understanding Social Security Disability


The Social Security Administration in the United States has an uncanny ability to weave a tangled web of red tape and confusion in the minds of many of us.  Without being properly informed of the correct steps to take, one may easily be denied the assistance they are due.  In the year 2010, over seven hundred thousand applicants were denied Social Security Disability.

In a time of need, disability payments may be your only source of income, but it will definitely be a vital supplement to your earning if trouble ever strikes.  It is important that you are equipped with the knowledge necessary to acquire the proper provisions you will need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for you and your family.  Below are a few suggestions to get you started.

What are SSD and SSI?

For most, comprehending Social Security logistics can create a sort of confusion and “brain fog”.  Though many people may think that Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income are the same thing, they most certainly are not.  Even though they are both provided to the qualifying public by the Social Security Administration, SSD and SSI are meant to fulfill two different purposes.  Lucky for you, the SSA provides a “Disability Starter Kit” to help make sense of the process of applying for assistance.

Social Security Disability (or SSD) pays benefits to individuals that are “insured”, meaning that they paid taxes from their paycheck to the federal government.  The monthly amount you receive is based upon the amount of money you paid in over the course of your life. Social Security Disability is funded through payroll taxes.  Recipients are actually considered to be insured because they have put a certain number of years into the workforce and have made contributions to the trust fund by paying FICA Social Security taxes over the years. After receiving disability benefits for two years, you will become eligible for Medicare assistance.

Supplemental Security Income (or SSI) pays benefits based on the financial need of the individual.  Social Security Income is available to low-income individuals who have never worked or have not worked long enough to accrue a sufficient amount of work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability.  SSI is funded by general fund taxes.  To meet the income requirements, you must have less than two thousand dollars in assets and a severely limited income.  SSI is typically a quicker method of receiving benefits, although you should expect to have to apply for both SSI and SSD more than once.  Most people are turned down their first time due to the unsavory prevalence of false claims.  Don’t lose hope, though, it’s almost ordinary to have to apply more than once for these services.


Social Security Disability

When it comes to Social Security Disability, you must have worked and paid taxes for five out of the last ten years.  You must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability.  Your disability must be expected to last twelve months or longer or result in death.  Another requirement that sometimes slips the mind is that you must be under the age of sixty-five.  This is one of the most significant differences between the two.  Last, you must be disabled from a job you have performed over the last fifteen years due to injury or illness from on the job incidents (ex: Black Lung from coal inhalation or a missing limb from a machinery accident).

Supplemental Security Income

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income, the applicant must be 65 or older, blind, or disabled.  You must have limited income/resources (under 2,000 dollars in assets, 3,000 for a couple).  Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements are also eligible to receive Medicaid in the state they reside.  Food stamp eligibility is also likely in this situation.  You must be a United States citizen and a resident of one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.  Finally, you must not be confined to a government institution such as a hospital or prison.

Assistance for Applying

The best place to start when it comes to digging up information would probably be the frequently asked question page on the Social Security Administration’s website.  There are also a plethora of different options when it comes to legal assistance.  Legal guidance will help you through the process of reapplying if your application is denied the first time.  The process can be quite confusing without the right mentor by your side.

A short overview of the application process:

  1. File an application with the Social Security Administration.  You must file in person at the local Social Security office, or via telephone.  If you are filing with a lawyer, your lawyer will file on your behalf and take care of any subsequent paperwork that needs to accompany your application.
  2. File a request for reconsideration.  If your application is initially denied, it must be appealed if you want to continue your pursuit to obtain benefits.  You must file your request for reconsideration within 60 days of your first denial.
  3. Proceed to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  If you are denied again, you may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  This will present you with the opportunity to place all of your evidence of disability in front of the judge and have it reconsidered.
  4. If you meet denial at this level, there are a couple more steps you can take.  Your next option would be to bring your case in front of an appeals counsel.  Most people don’t end up having to push this far to receive benefits, but if need be, there is a process in place.
  5. Your final hope if you are denied by the appeals counsel is to take your case before a Federal Court.  By this time, you will most definitely have to have obtained a lawyer.  Make sure he/she is well versed in Social Security law, and trust that your lawyer will help you choose the best route to your appeal.

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About Ferland Manuel

Dr, Manuel Ferland is health care specialist,