Benefits for People with Disabilities: How Social Security Can Help
Your Complete Guide to Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer – CHAPTER 5
Whether or not you’ve been hurt on the job and have received benefits through Workers’ Compensation—which we covered in our last chapter of Your Complete Guide to Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer—you may not be able to work because of a physical or mental health condition.
Injuries and illnesses prevent significant numbers of Americans every day from returning to jobs they previously performed. And many more have never been able to work due to a disability. Yet these individuals still need to make money to pay for living expenses and bills.
Does this sound like you or someone you care about? The good news is that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs exist to help individuals receive necessary income even if regular employment is no longer possible or has been totally impossible for health reasons.
Of course, because government entities control these programs, there is a lot of red tape and hoops that claimants must jump through in order to receive benefits. And, ongoing payments can be stopped for a variety of reasons, including administrative errors.
This chapter of our guide focuses specifically on SSD and SSI programs, and how personal injury attorneys can help you resolve problems and fight for the benefits you deserve. Similarly, private disability insurance claims can also be frustratingly complex—we’re not digging into those in today’s post, but our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys here at Westmoreland Injury Lawyers can also help you navigate the world of non-Social Security long term disability insurance.
What is Social Security Disability?
Administered by the federal Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance is one of the most extensive social “safety net” programs our government has in place for disabled workers. SSD/SSDI pays benefits to you and certain family members if you have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.
How do you qualify for SSD?
In short, to be eligible for SSD, you must meet Social Security’s definition of having a “disability.” You must also have been working recently—and for long enough—in jobs covered by Social Security.
Sounds simple enough, right? You become disabled through an accident or illness with a solid work history behind you, in which you always paid into Social Security through your earnings, and you should be able to get benefits. Just apply and get approved! Unfortunately, things can get complicated quickly between your medical eligibility and what are known as Social Security work credits.
Proving your disability status to Social Security involves submitting medical records and allowing access to your medical providers who can work with Disability Determination Services professionals to discuss the following points (and more):
- What your medical condition is
- When your medical condition began
- How your medical condition limits your activities
- What medical testing has shown
- What treatment you have received
Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work—things like lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering—for at least 12 months. It must also be on a pre-determined list of medical conditions (or be as severe as any of the conditions on the list).
Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly income, whether you worked for someone else or were self-employed. You can earn up to four credits each year (they are also known as “quarters of coverage”), and you will typically need at least 40 work credits in total to be considered for benefits.
The good thing about work credits is that they follow you from job to job and earnings pick up where they left off if you have a gap in employment. There are many confusing points about work credits, however, including the fact that the dollar amount you need to earn for a work credit changes from year to year.
Making an SSD claim for benefits
The Social Security Administration encourages you to apply for SSD benefits as soon as you become disabled and cannot work. We realize, though, that knowing the moment you become disabled can often be less than easy to determine. Your medical team may be able to help you recognize when it’s time to make a claim, but you will also want to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to help you.
It’s best to seek legal help with the SSD claim process before you even begin filling out the initial online forms, but lawyers are happy to jump in at any point in the claim process. In fact, many people find they need us most when their claim has been denied, which is an unfortunately common occurrence. If you’ve never worked with a personal injury attorney before, we know that calling on us can seem intimidating. You may wish to refer back to our very first chapter in this guide to learn why you should not worry!
What is Supplemental Security Income?
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources—it is not tied to work history, as those who qualify for SSI may have never been able to work for a living.
It’s true that statistically fewer individuals will qualify for SSI, though one of the helpful things about the program is that it’s not limited to those who have never worked. This means that some people will qualify for both SSD benefits and SSI. Alternatively, if you do not have a work history, but decide to begin working while receiving SSI, there are actually incentives you may be able to claim, as Social Security promotes independence for people with disabilities.
The application process for SSI is no less complex than claiming SSD benefits, and we recommend that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you are thinking about filing, especially if you are doing so on behalf of a minor child.
Need Help with a Social Security Benefits Claim? Call Westmoreland Injury Lawyers.
Have you recently filed for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income and received a denial? Or are you just beginning the application process and confused about how to fill out the forms? In Western Pennsylvania, Westmoreland Injury Lawyers has the experience you need to help you get your benefits or resume benefits that have been unfairly stopped. Get in contact with us today for a free case review!