What Is Social Security Disability?

Have you acquired a disability as a result of a serious injury? Or do you have a long-term health condition that will prevent you from working? Are you wondering whether you should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is a program administered by the Social Security Administration that pays benefits to insured workers and their family members.

  • You are considered insured if you have worked for a minimum of 5 of the last 10 years, paid Social Security taxes and are below your full retirement age.
  • The Social Security Administration determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis, after assessing whether you have a qualifying impairment that prevents you from working.
  • The amount of benefits you receive is based on prior earnings. The average SSDI benefit in 2018 is $1,197 per month, with a maximum of $2,778 for those who have had high incomes and paid more Social Security taxes.

Keep reading for answers to some of the most common questions people have about SSDI, and learn why it’s in your interest to talk to a qualified attorney when applying for Social Security disability benefits.

What Qualifies as a Disability?

The SSA maintains an official list of impairments, commonly called the “Blue Book,” along with medical criteria for each impairment.

Examples of qualifying impairments include chronic coronary disease, Parkinson’s disease, extreme hearing or vision loss, or mental impairments such as anxiety or depression.

  • 31% of individuals receiving SSDI in 2014 had mental impairments.
  • 32% had musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or back injuries.
  • 20% suffered from various injuries, cancer, infectious diseases, metabolic or endocrine disorders, diabetes or respiratory diseases.
  • 9% had nervous system or sense organ impairments.
  • 8% had conditions of the circulatory system.

How Is Disability Eligibility Determined?

To qualify for SSDI benefits, the applicant must be able to prove the following to the Social Security Administration: 

  • The individual is unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity.”
  • The inability to work must be caused by a “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment.
  • The impairment is expected to either result in death or last at least 12 months.

The inability to perform “substantial gainful activity” hinges on two criteria:

  • The applicant is unable to do his or her prior work. An example would be if you were a truck driver, and now have a condition that prevents you from being able to drive.
  • He or she must also be unable to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. Even if the SSA determines that you are no longer able to drive a truck, they will still investigate whether you are able to perform the duties of another job.

The SSA looks at a number of determinants in considering each case:

  • Medical records
  • Work history
  • Applicant age
  • Applicant education

How Do You Apply for Social Security Disability?

You can apply for SSDI benefits online, by phone or in person. When you apply, you’ll want to have the following information prepared:

  • Tax returns
  • Names of prescription medications
  • Dates of medical procedures and therapy sessions
  • Disability onset date — date on which you became too disabled to work full time

Your disability onset date can be verified by providing work history records, supporting evidence for allegations made in the application, medical evidence and interviews with family and friends.

Starting from the month SSA determines your disability begins, you will not be paid benefits for the next 5 months. Benefits will commence in the 6th month.

What Should You Do if Your Disability Application Is Denied?

Most claims are denied on the first SSDI application. The primary reason is that the SSA determines that the applicant is able to perform other work that currently exists in the national economy.

If you’d like to appeal, you must file a request within 60 days. To win, you must be able to prove that you can’t do “other” work besides your former job.

There are three opportunities to appeal:

  • Hearing before Administrative Law Judge
  • Review by SSA appeals council
  • Claim in federal court

Why Should You Contact a Disability Attorney?

The application and appeals process for SSDI benefits is quite complex.

Because of this, getting assistance from a qualified Social Security Disability attorney is one of the most prudent and affordable decisions you can make.

Your attorney can help you receive the compensation you’re entitled to, and you only pay for legal services if you qualify for SSDI.

If you are unable to work because of a disability or long-term illness, contact Reynolds & Gold LLC to schedule a free consultation, or call us at 417-883-7800.

We’re here to answer your questions and help you navigate the application process every step of the way.

An approved social security disability benefits form