When most people hear “Social Security” they think about Social Security Retirement benefits. Many people do not understand all the benefits the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers. SSA pays disability benefits under two programs:
- The Social Security Disability insurance program pays benefits to disabled people (and certain members of their family) who have worked long enough and paid enough Social Security taxes.
- The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children with limited financial resources.
The amount of work required for adults to be insured under the Social Security Disability insurance program depends on their work credits. Without going into detail here, adults that apply for disability must have worked and paid taxes on the income for 5 out of their last 10 years of work.
At Cardinal Law Partners we help individuals at every stage of their Social Security disability claim. The process can take years and requires the claimant to complete and submit dozens, sometimes hundreds, of documents to the Social Security Administration for review. The process starts with an initial application. If the Social Security Administration denies the claim for benefits, the claimant begins the process of appeals that may include filing a Request for Reconsideration, filing a Request a Hearing before a federal Administrative Law Judge, filing an appeal to the National Appeals Council, and even sometimes filing a civil action against the Social Security Administration in Federal District Court.
This process can take months or even years. It takes so long that many people often just give up. Although it can take over a year for the Social Security Administration to offer a hearing date, the Social Security Administration does impose strict deadlines on how long claimants can take to provide written appeals on their denials. It is for this reason that we recommend that every claimant who pursues a disability claim find an experienced attorney to help with the process and help make sure deadlines are being met.
The Social Security Administration will look at several factors to determine whether claimants meet their definition of disability. One requirement to be approved for benefits is that the claimant suffer from a severe impairment – a physical or mental condition that poses more than a minimal impact on a person’s ability to work. Some types of impairments, like terminal cancer, are readily recognized by the Social Security Administration. Other types of impairments have varying levels of severity and impact on work activities so the Administration will review medical records and other independent sources to determine the extent of disability.
The disability must last, or be expected to last, at least one year. There are no short term disability programs through the Social Security Administration. If claimant’s medical conditions do not result in an inability to work for over one year, then the claimant will be found not disabled. It is important to recognize that the Social Security Administration looks at functional capacity of each individual after considering all of a claimant’s physical and mental impairments.
Social Security Disability have kept millions of hard working Americans out of poverty. In addition to monthly benefits for the disabled claimant, the claimant’s non-adult children will often be entitled to benefits. Moreover, the claimant will be eligible for Medicare after 30 months of being found disabled (or even sooner is some specific situations). Individuals approved for SSI will typically receive Medicaid. In our experience, the chance to receive medical coverage is worth the wait all by itself.
Cardinal Law Partners offers free consultations to people thinking about applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. We will also speak to people who have had their claims denied by the Social Security Administration. Do not take their denials as a final answer!