If a disability prevents you from earning the money you need to pay your bills and support your family, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. This is true even if you earn military retirement or most other benefits related to your service.
At Berger and Green, we help retired military service members in Pittsburgh get the benefits they deserve. We can help you determine if you qualify and help you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Call our office today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a time to talk to one of our attorneys about getting disability benefits for retired military personnel.
If I qualify for U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Disability, will I get SSD benefits?
Some people who qualify for 100% disability under the VA rules will also meet the criteria to receive SSD benefits. Others, however, will not. This is because the VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have different definitions of disabled.
The VA grants each veteran a percentage of disability based on their own impairments listings. Under their regulations, you may be 90% disabled and still work. On the other hand, the SSA does not offer benefits for short-term or partial disability. This means you either qualify as disabled or you do not qualify for benefits.
Under the SSA’s rules, you only meet the criteria of disabled if you cannot perform the job duties:
- Of your current job;
- Of any job you previously did; and
- Of any job you could do based on your age, skills, experience, and education.
What are the qualifications for disability benefits?
There are several qualifications you must meet in order to draw SSDI or SSI benefits, no matter your veteran status. Those may require you to have a certain number of work credits, to meet the SSA’s income qualifications, and to have a health impairment that prevents you from working.
Like others who work for private businesses, active duty military members pay Social Security taxes and earn work credits for SSDI and other benefits. This has been true since 1957 for those in active duty or active duty for training. The change took effect in 1988 for inactive duty service in the reserves. If you served before these changes, you may receive special credits from the SSA.
If you were in the military or earned at least $5,200 per year in any job that paid Social Security taxes in the last decade, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. Some younger applicants may still be able to meet the work credits qualification if they have less than five year’s work history.
You do not need work credits to qualify for SSI benefits.
To qualify for SSDI, you must not earn more than the SSA’s substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. For 2017, that limit is $1,170 per month. This only includes earned income, however, and veteran’s benefits such as VA Disability and Military Retirement is not included. However, the SSA calculates the income limits for need-based SSI benefits differently. To qualify for SSI benefits, you will need to prove you have a limited income and few personal assets. Your VA Disability or retirement income may prevent you from qualifying for this type of disability benefit.
The SSA has a collection of impairment listings outlining the types of health conditions and the criteria necessary to meet the definition of disabled. Proving you meet the criteria listed under the applicable condition is key in getting approved for benefits. You may still qualify without meeting all criteria or if your condition is unlisted. This is possible if you provide medical evidence showing your condition is so severe it prevents you from working. You should discuss this with your doctor to ensure your impairments are well-documented in your medical records.
The disability attorneys at Berger and Green can help you understand the differences between the SSDI and SSI programs and determine if you qualify for benefits. Contact us before you apply for assistance with your application.
How can I prove my disability?
The SSA requires documentation of your medical diagnosis, treatment, and any related impairments. Proving you meet the criteria of disabled is often the most difficult part of getting the benefits you deserve. Let us review your case with you before you apply. While we cannot guarantee approval, we do know what type of documentation the SSA is looking for. Often, this includes:
- Your complete medical file;
- Test results, such as lab work and pathology;
- Imaging scans and x-rays;
- Notes about hospitalization and treatment;
- Lists of your prescription drugs; and
- Other documentation of your medical conditions or impairments.
In addition to talking to your treating physician about your SSD application, you may also want to discuss it with any specialists or therapists who may have additional documentation of your condition.
How do I apply for SSD benefits in Pittsburgh?
There are several ways to apply for SSD benefits. Both SSDI and SSI require separate applications. You can complete an SSD application online or over the phone at 1-800-772-1213. You can also contact your local SSA field office to make an appointment to apply in person. However, you cannot file an SSI application online; you must make a phone or office appointment. Berger and Green can help you file applications for both SSDI and SSI.
Service members and retired military personnel may receive expedited consideration when filing a claim, but you should still expect to wait several weeks before you hear anything about your application from the SSA.
What if they deny my claim, but I believe I qualify for benefits as a disabled veteran?
If the SSA denies your claim, you need to call us as soon as possible. Our disability attorneys can navigate the appeals process for you. This process is time-consuming and requires expert knowledge of what the SSA is looking for.
We only have 60 days after your denial to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. We will take that opportunity to present additional documentation to prove your impairments or other disability qualifications. This often allows us to secure benefits for our clients.
How can I contact Berger and Green about Pittsburgh disability benefits?
If you need our lawyers to review your claim before you submit it or if the SSA denied you for benefits, you can reach the office of Berger and Green by calling 412-661-1400 today. We can help you understand the programs you qualify for and secure the benefits you deserve.