SSDI Frequently Asked Questions
What is the definition of disability?
Disability is defined by law, and the only way to define disability is in terms of what the law states. The Social Security Act defines disability for both SSD and SSI as an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which could be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
Furthermore, an individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if a physical or mental impairment are at such severity that the person is not only unable to do their previous work, but cannot perform any other substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. This is regardless of whether or not such work exists in the immediate area. Also, it does not have to be a specific job vacancy or whether or not the person would be hired if they were to apply for that work. It is very important to understand the statute, because it is not necessarily a common sense definition of disability.
What are Social Security Disability benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two main disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both of these programs pay benefits to disabled people who meet medical criteria.
Is there a difference between SSI and SSDI?
SSDI provides benefits based on taxes paid while you were working. In order to receive SSDI, you must have a sufficient work history and a disabling condition. The work history will depend on factors such as age, years worked, and how recently you have held a job. SSI is a needs-based program for disabled applicants with little income and limited financial resources.
Resources are things people own, such as cash, bank accounts, stocks, savings balance, certain types of life insurance, personal property, and things of that nature.
What is the maximum federal Supplemental Security Income payment?
The maximum federal Supplemental Security Income payment amounts increase with the cost of living increases that apply to Social Security Benefits. In 2016, there was no cost of living increase, and the maximum payment in 2016 was $733 for an eligible individual, and $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. That means that if a couple both receive SSI, their total benefit would be $1,100. The total does not take the individual amount of $733 and multiply it by two; it is going to be less than that amount, and right now it is $1,100.
Congress determines if the cost of living will increase, and if the determination is that there will be an increase, then the payment will increase as well. If personal income increases, which includes both earned and non-earned income, the SSI payment will be reduced.
Am I considered disabled enough to qualify for benefits?
For most adults, the SSA defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful work activity due to a serious physical or mental impairment. Also, the physical or mental impairment must prevent the applicant from engaging in work activity for a year or more, or be expected to result in death. The SSA considers whether the applicant is unable to do his previous work and is also unable to engage in other work considering the applicant’s age, education, and work experience. Therefore, you must be completely disabled in order to qualify for benefits. You do not have to be permanently disabled. Social Security benefits do not cover partially disabled people.
Are retroactive benefits available for SSDI and SSI?
Yes, there are retroactive benefits available for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and that is calculated as 12 months prior to the application date. If a person applies on January 1st, the farthest back the retroactive benefit could go would be 12 months prior to that application date.
Regarding retroactive benefits for SSI, there is no retroactivity; it is based on the protective filing date. If someone files on January 1st, and even if they were disabled the year before that, they will only get paid back to the protective filing date.
Is there a waiting period?
For SSI, the payment begins with the date of application.
For SSDI, there is a waiting period. It is confusing and hard to understand, but the waiting period for disability insurance benefits is defined as five whole months from the date of onset of the disability. If someone is found disabled as of January 1st, they would not get paid on January 1st of the particular year; they will have to wait five whole months so June 1st would be the first month that they would get paid for the Social Security Disability Insurance.
What if I am denied benefits?
When a claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. Appeals occur at many levels. These include claim reconsideration, a hearing before an administrative law judge, an Appeals Council review, and review by the federal district court. You only have a limited time to appeal your claim. Therefore, you should seek the advice and assistance of an attorney soon after receiving a denial.
Can I still qualify for benefits even if I work?
In short, yes. The SSA presumes that an applicant is engaging in substantial gainful activity if the applicant is earning more than the monthly amount set by SSA. If the applicant earns over this amount, the SSA will usually find them not disabled, even if the applicant has a serious disability. If your monthly income falls below the amount set by the SSA, you may be eligible for benefits. It is possible to work after qualifying for benefits by taking part in a 9-month trial work period.
Will the amount of my benefits be based on the severity of my disability?
No. The amount of your disability benefits will be calculated based on your work and earnings history. It does not have anything to do with the nature or severity of your disability.
When do my benefits start if I am approved?
Typically, benefits will start approximately six months after your disability starts. The whole application process can take a long time. It is important to start your claim right away.
Is it possible to receive Social Security Disability and workers’ compensation?
Benefits being paid by workers’ compensation could reduce the benefits that you are paid from Social Security. Although this is true, you can receive them at the same time. If your total benefits exceed 80% of your earnings, your disability benefits may decrease.