The Social Security Act was first enacted on August 14, 1935, to add a social safety net for retirees over 65. The government only realized that a person was disabled and unable to work when their 65th birthday passed. They went completely under the radar until it was time to pay them out at age 65. The government realized there is nothing or very little to pay them with because of no previous employment or long periods of unemployment. Thankfully, due to provisions added as amendments, eligibility looks very different today.
Under President Eisenhower, this amendment did not provide monetary benefits but “froze” a person’s work record, so a disability didn’t count against their expected retirement benefits. Another amendment in 1956 saw the creation of monetary disability benefits for disabled workers aged 50 to 64. Since the early days of Social Security, many changes have been made to the program to include younger disabled workers and adults unable to work at all. A Social Security disability lawyer will help you navigate the ins and outs of the eligibility process.
Understanding Social Security Disability Programs
The SSA administers two disability programs. Both provide a source of income for people who cannot work due to disability. In some cases, you might be eligible under both programs.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires that workers have held jobs but can no longer work. Workers earn “work credits” for each year of employment. The combination of work credits and previous wages are used to calculate the benefit amount you will receive.
The maximum benefit in 2022 for SSDI is $3,345 per month. Most people qualify at a much lower rate, with the average benefit award being around $1,358 monthly. SSDI automatically converts to traditional Social Security benefits when you reach age 65.
Social Security Income (SSI) has no prior work requirement and is needs-based. It can be awarded to people with little or no work credits who cannot work. The benefit amounts are much lower, having a maximum of $841 monthly for a single person and $1,261 for couples residing together. In Pennsylvania, benefits are decreased slightly for individuals and couples residing with other people. The maximums are $522 and $783.34 for co-habiting individuals and couples.
For a free legal consultation with a Social Security Disability lawyer serving Avalon, call 412-661-1400
What Are the Qualifications for SSDI?
When filing for SSDI, applicants must meet specific criteria, including:
- They must have worked jobs that paid into Social Security.
- Have a qualifying medical condition.
The program pays out monthly benefits to persons unable to work when their disability causes a period they can’t work for one or more years. SSDI aims to allow a person to recover from an injury or illness and rejoin the workforce. Work incentives are provided to assist disabled recipients to learn new trades when they cannot return to the same line of work they previously held.
Benefits automatically convert to Social Security retirement for people receiving SSDI when they reach retirement age. The amount remains the same after conversion.
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Understanding Work Credits
Work credits are based on past yearly wages. If you are self-employed, they are based upon that income. The exact figure necessary to earn a work credit varies each year. In 2022, the amount of earnings per work credit is $1,510. Workers can earn up to four work credits each year.
The requirement for work credits depends on the age at which you become disabled. The baseline is 40 work credits, with at least 20 of those earned within the past ten years. Younger workers may qualify for SSDI at a lower work credit rate based on their years of actual work.
What Are the Eligibility Qualifications for SSI?
Unlike SSDI, SSI is not income-based, but is based on need. If a person is disabled and unable to provide for themselves, and they qualify for SSI, it will provide a small stipend. You are eligible to apply for SSI if:
- You are 65 or older
- You are blind
- You are disabled
Additional qualifying points include:
- You have limited income and resources
- You are a U.S. citizen (this also includes nationals and certain categories of legal aliens)
- Must be a resident living in the District of Columbia, one of the 50 states, or the Northern Mariana Islands
- Must not visit or reside in another country for more than 30 days or more
- Cannot be confined in prison or hospital under government funding
- You must apply for all other benefits you may be eligible for
- Authorize SSA access to financial records from banks and financial institutions
- File the appropriate application
- Meet other requirements
In order to receive SSI, you must apply for separate benefits under programs you have eligibility for, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. Applications for these programs are generally available in your local SSA office.
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What a Social Security Lawyer in Avalon, PA, Can Do for You
At Berger and Green, our Social Security disability lawyer in Avalon, PA, has filed several claims. They can guide you through filing, so having a Social Security disability attorney can be beneficial. In addition to advising you about your claim, our Avalon Social Security disability team can help you in many ways, including:
- Ensuring that your application is complete
- Check your medical documentation to verify your disability
- Assist in obtaining necessary documentation
- Assist in submitting your claim with SSA
- Represent you at review board appearances
- If necessary, file a request for an appeal of a denial of benefits
- Monitor and manage your claim through the entire process.
Our disability team remains aware of policy changes and requirements for filing successful claim requests. Although nothing will speed the process, their assistance can be very beneficial.
What Qualifies as a Disability?
During the application process, you need to document your disability. The SSA provides a list of covered disabilities in their Blue Book. These impairments are listed because it has already known that they are debilitating. Benefits can also be awarded for disabilities not included in the list, but you may need additional documentation.
If your disability diagnosis is not listed, don’t despair. You may still qualify for benefits, but the determination will be based on a scale called Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). A review board will evaluate your impairment based on information from a variety of sources, including:
- Diagnostic test results
- Your medical records for all clinics, offices, and hospitals
- Statements from medical professionals and doctors
- An examination by an unaffiliated doctor that is paid for by the SSA
Social Security Disability is an insurance program. It will follow some of the same policies you see with commercial insurance providers, such as a tendency to deny a claim and force you to justify your disability.
What to Do If Your Claim Was Denied
Although not every claim is denied automatically, many people receive denial letters. The reason for denial might be a problem with your documentation:
- Incomplete medical records
- Your impairment doesn’t meet the requirements
- Other qualification problems
- Incorrect or incomplete application
You must respond within 60 days to file an appeal once you receive a “Social Security Notice of Disapproved Claim.” A Social Security disability lawyer in Avalon, PA, can work with you to file the notice of appeal and correcting the problems with your initial application.
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Berger and Green bring more than 40 years of experience to your claim. Whether you are a first-time applicant or need help with an appeal, our Social Security disability attorney in Avalon, PA, is available to assist you. Contact our office to discuss your claim.