There are two programs funded for and provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) department for the people who have been disabled from earning their daily wages namely,
- SSDI – Social Security Disability insurance for those who have been disabled while being on work and have been part of the social security system, paying taxes for years. The benefits in this scheme are paid to anyone who fits this category irrespective of their family income or their assets.
- SSI – Supplemental Security income is for those who need some form of insurance to meet their daily needs and who haven’t been part of the social security system or have paid taxes before. In this case, there is a limit to the personal assets or family income above which the SSI is not generally granted.
Who can apply?
There is a huge list of medical impairments detailing the criteria which makes a person eligible for applying for disability. There are a set of conditions and proofs required for you to be considered for disability. To avail the disability claim, one should be able to,
- Prove with medical documents that they have at least one severe impairment as per the list.
- Prove that the medical condition is interfering with their work and hence causing them to lose out on wages.
- Prove that there is no other employment option to switch to for reasons like lack of skills, or lack of qualification or age.
- The medical condition should be severe enough to cause disruptions to the work for at least a year. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to wait a year after you are disabled to apply. When you apply, the examiner will see if the condition will be a long lasting one or is recoverable in a couple of months.
How do I file for disability?
You can always visit the field office near you for Social security and fill out the form. However, filing a disability application does not require you to go to the field office of social security always. You can also apply for it over the phone or with an application form online.
Over the phone: You can contact the social security office in your location and ask them for an appointment for a claim through SSDI or SSI or both. Once you have placed your request, your representative will ensure the application and the necessary medical forms are filled as per your information. They will send across a medical release form for you to sign and return on post. Sometimes you will be asked to provide additional documents, proofs, etc. , especially in the case of SSI. Again in this case, you will be given a paid postage envelope to send across the documents. Once they have been reviewed, the documents will be sent back to you on post.
Online application: The online application can only be made if you are claiming for SSDI. For SSI, you will need to get in touch with a claims representative, as that is the requirement. When you are filing your application online for SSDI, you will have to fill in the details in the medical report. Also, the medical release form in the online forum has to be printed, signed and sent to the local social security center from your end. The medical release form is not acceptable with digital signature.
In person application: This is the most advocated method for it ensures that the claims representative gets all the information he/she needs about you and ensures that all the forms are in order. Also you can hand over the medical release form immediately ensuring that there is no delay.
Irrespective of the channel through which you apply, you have to ensure that the medical release form is returned to the social security office within 30 days from the date of filing your disability. The forms are then sent to DDS (Disability Determination Services) who assign an examiner to verify the claim and make the decision.
Can you work while on disability?
This is a very serious concern raised and many are even afraid to take up work for worry that their claim will get rejected. However, SSA has a set of rules for those who can pursue a part time or a full time job while continuing to receive their disability benefits. There is however a predefined limit on the income you can receive while on disability benefits referred to as the Substantial Gain Activity (SGA).
TWP (Trial Work Period): As part of a testing period, the beneficiary of the disability claim can continue to work to test their abilities. The TWP is only for nine months during which one can earn any amount of income while continuing to receive the full benefits. There is a $810 income limit per month and anything above that is considered as a TWP month. These nine months need not be consecutive. Of course, you can remove the expenses related to your impairment from the income to ensure wrong calculation of TWP.
EPE (Extended Period of Eligibility): This period is for 36 months when the claimant can continue to receive benefits provided their income is less than the SGA and he/she continues to be disabled. After 36 months though, the benefits will terminate, if you continue to earn beyond SGA.
Tips to get disability benefits
Statistics show only 3 out of ten applications are granted the benefits. Here are some secret tips to help you gain more points in your favor while applying for disability.
- Provide a complete and a detailed medical report including the treating physicians’ contacts, treatment facilities and ensure that your reports are not older than 90 days.
- Provide a supporting letter from your treating doctor on the limitations you face owing to the disability and why you need the benefits.
- Ensure that you submit all the requested records within the provided timelines to the assigned examiner for a quick processing.
- Last but not the least never hesitate to follow up with the examiner on your claim status.