Social Security Disability Benefits: Top 10 Things You Should Know
1. What is the difference between Social Security Disability and Social Security Retirement?
The official retirement age to begin receiving full Social Security Retirement benefits is currently 67 years old. You are legally allowed to begin receiving retirement benefits as early as 62, but you will not receive the full amount, and your benefits will not last as long.
Social Security Disability is a federal insurance program funded by payroll taxes, which helps those suffering long-term or permanent disability survive. Unlike retirement benefits, disability benefits are not calculated based on the disabled person’s income, but on the seriousness of their disability.
The Social Security Administration determines a person’s qualification for disability benefits on the following:
- Whether the applicant has a physical or mental condition which prevents “substantial gainful activity”;
- The condition is expected to last for at least 12 months, or end in death;
- The person is under 65 years of age;
- The applicant has a certain number of “credits” accumulated through working prior to onset of disability. For dependent children under the age of 22 who suffer a serious disability, the applicant may use their parents’ disability credits without the parents experiencing any loss of benefits, should the parent(s) become disabled as well.
2. How Can I Apply for Social Security Disability?
You can use the the internet to search for information to help you understand the application process in more detail, or you can simply visit the Strom Law Firm’s disability benefits page. You can apply through the Social Security Administration (ssa.gov) to begin the process. Last year, 2.5 million people applied for some level of Social Security Disability benefits in the US, and on average, 60% of first-time applicants are denied. You are able to appeal the denial, but once the appeals process begins, you could have to argue your case in front of a judge.
While it is not required, you may find it useful to hire a Social Security Disability benefits attorney, who can help speed up the process.
3. Can I Begin Returning to Work While I Receive Social Security Disability?
When the Social Security Disability program was first created by new laws changing the role of the Social Security Administration in 1956, “disability” was considered physical. There were no laws that prevented discrimination against disabled workers, nor requiring buildings to have handicapped access. In order for those with disabilities to survive, they needed some form of income, and the Social Security Administration created a program to help.
Now, the definition of “disability” has greatly changed. Mental illnesses from post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia can qualify the applicant for disability benefits. More people are diagnosed with chronic pain conditions as well, such as fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. As jobs in the US change from primarily farming and industrial labor to desk work, more people with physical disabilities are able to find good jobs.
However, whether your disability is mental or physical, it could prevent you from maintaining employment due to regular doctors’ visits, “flare ups” of chronic pain, or paralyzing fear or flashbacks due to a mental illness. Social Security Disability Insurance is changing many of its definitions of disability to help applicants who want to work as much as they are able, but who also need supplemental income through difficult times.
Social Security Disability has established a “trial period,” which will allow you to keep your disability benefits while you try to return to work, for at least 9 months. If you are able to remain employed, then for the next 36 months, if you need to take time away from work due to your disability, you can apply for disability benefits for that month if your work earnings are not “substantial.”
4. What If I Gave Incorrect or False Information on My Social Security Disability Application?
If you are suffering a disability, you could be frightened about many aspects of your future, including your financial stability. You could feel tempted to exaggerate your disability or add misinformation to your application to speed up the process and help you get your benefits faster. However, this is considered fraud according to the federal government and you could face serious legal consequences if you attempt to lie or mislead on your Social Security Disability application.
Instead of falsifying information on your application, consider a free consultation with the Social Security Disability attorneys at the Strom Law Firm. Because we understand the Social Security Disability application process, we can help you get benefits in a timely fashion.
5. Can I Save Part of My Social Security Disability Earnings?
The Social Security Administration will determine your disability benefits based on your level of disability and what is considered a livable income. However, monthly benefits will also be at a level that you will most likely not have savings left over at the end of the month. In addition, having a savings account with money in it is considered an “asset” according to the Social Security Administration, which could affect the amount you earn next month, or next year.
In 2014, however, President Barack Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act – or ABLE Act – into law. This new law allows those with long-term or permanent disabilities to open tax-free savings accounts to put money aside for medical expenses as their disabilities increase over time. Beneficiaries can deposit as much as $14,000 annually, and can save up to $100,000 before the money impacts their Social Security Disability Insurance.
6. I Applied for Social Security Disability but was Denied Because Someone Stole My Identity!
As more information is posted into databases and online, identity theft has become unfortunately common. Businesses are hacked on a regular basis and credit card information, addresses, and full names are routinely stolen. In 2012, 16.6 million people were affected by identity theft. Hackers can sell your information and fraudsters can open bank accounts and credit cards in your name without you knowing. Worse, they can tap into your Social Security benefits and steal them.
If you applied for Social Security Disability benefits but someone stole your identity and got there first, you will need legal help fighting for your federal rights.
7. Social Security Disability Benefits for Disabled Children
If your child is younger than 18 years old and diagnosed with a long-term or life-long disability, you, as the parent, face many medical challenges. Your child could be your dependent for life, which can take your focus away from work. To help you get through these difficult years, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to disabled children so that their parents or guardians can worry less about their care.
As with individual disability benefits, children must have 1) a physical or mental disability that severely limits their activities and 2) the condition must last or be expected to last at least one year, or result in death.
Combined household income is considered in the decision. If children have little or no income or resources, including through their parents or an inheritance, then they may qualify for SSDI.
8. Survivor Benefits Through Social Security Disability
If you have a disabled spouse, or you are the dependent of a disabled parent, you could rely at least in part on your loved one’s Social Security Disability benefits to make ends meet. If your disabled loved one dies, you could face financial instability.
Fortunately, the Social Security Disability Insurance program has benefits for bereaved dependents, called survivor’s benefits. To qualify, you must be one of the following:
- A parent, guardian, or other caregiver of a child under the age of 16 who received SSDI benefits from your deceased spouse.
- You are at least 50 years old, you were determined disabled before your spouse passed away, and your spouse received SSDI.
- You are 60 years old, before official retirement age, and your spouse received SSDI.
- You are at full retirement age and your spouse received SSDI.
9. My Social Security Disability Application Was Denied!
Many people apply for Social Security Disability Insurance every year, and over half of those applications are denied. The Social Security Administration has strict rules regarding the definition of disability, to determine if an applicant is able to return to work sooner than they claim. This strictness helps prevent fraud, but it also means a large number of seriously disabled people get rejected.Fortunately, you can appeal a denial of your benefits application up to 4 times. You have the right to question the decision through a first appeal, which must be submitted within 60 days of receiving your benefits denial letter. If your first appeal is denied, then you begin the process before administrative law judges.
Going to court to defend yourself can be intimidating, especially if you do not have legal help. Many Social Security Disability applicants hire an attorney to help them through the process, either at the appeals stage, or simply to help with their first application. While it is not required, a Social Security Disability attorney has worked with through the applications process many times and their experience can help speed up the process for you.
10. Who Can I Contact For Help with My Social Security Disability Insurance Application?
If you live in South Carolina or Georgia, and have you, your spouse, or your child has suffered a long-term or permanent disability, you may qualify for SSDI. Because so many applicants are denied every year, it may be in your best interest to get help with your disability benefits application from the beginning. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand the Social Security Disability Insurance process and can help you file an application, and step you through the appeals process. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your disability case. 803.252.4800