Social Security benefits can be a very helpful form of financial assistance when an injury, illness, or disability prevents you or your family members from being able to work and earn an income. It is very important to know how social security benefits work and which conditions will allow you to qualify for the benefits. This article will serve as a guide to help you understand how social security benefits work and what conditions are covered.
Social Security Definition Of Disability
Social Securities definition of disability varies from other programs.
Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work. You are considered disabled if:
- you cannot do work that you do before
- they decide that you can not adjust to other work because of your medical condition
- your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or result in death.
How Social Security decides if you are Disabled
Basically Social Security uses 5 questions to make this determination. They are as follows:
- are you working?
- is your condition severe
- is your condition found on the list Social Security’s list of medical conditions? (Click Here for a link to the list of medical conditions.)
- can you do the work you did previously?
- can you do any other type of work?
First, you will want to know if you can even apply for disability benefits. You can apply if you meet the following criteria:
- you are aged 18 or older
- you are not already receiving benefits on your own social security record
- you are not able to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months
- you have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.
The Application Process
You’ll need to apply.It is best to apply for benefits online.
- your claim can be started immediately meaning you won’t have to wait for an appointment
- you can save your application and return to it at a later time
Before you begin, make sure you have everything on this checklist
Step 1: Look at the Disability Checklist
This disability checklist will help you gather all the information you will need to complete your application. Please click here to view the checklist.
Furthermore, the Social Security Administration has a series of videos that can be found on YouTube that will walk you through the entire application process. To view these videos please click here.
Information Needed to Apply
There will be a great deal of information needed when applying. The information you will need and should have read before you apply are shown below:
- Your social security number
- the name, date of birth and social security number of your current or former spouse
- your bank or financial institution’s routing number, to receive the payments.
- the name, address and phone number of the doctor who is aware and knowledgable on your medical condition.
- the names of all the different medications you are currently taking, and the name of the doctor who prescribed them.
- the name and date of any medical tests and who ordered them
- The amount of money you earned this year and last year
- the name and address of your employer for this year and last year
- a list of the jobs that you had in the last 15 years before you became unable to work
- any information about workers compensation, or any other benefits you filed for, or intent to fill for in the future
There are also several documents that you are required to provide such as :
- birth certificate
- proof of U.S. citizenship, or lawful alien status if you were not born in the states.
- W-2 forms for tax purposes
- medical evidence such as doctors reports, recent test results, and medical records
Step 2 (Optional): Consider Getting a Social Security Disability Attorney
You might want to consider hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney before you apply. This is because the chances of you winning when you have your own attorney are much higher. These experts know exactly how to best get you approved. So while you might pay more money by getting an attorney, your chances of approval are vastly higher. 70 percent of applications are denied — so keep this in mind. A lawyer who specializes in this area can mean you have a higher chance of being in the 30 percent group that get approved.
Step 3: Apply Online
You can apply online on the social security benefit website by clicking here. It is recommended that you apply for disability benefits online for a number of reasons such as :
Step 4: Wait for the Decision
After you have officially submitted your application form Social Security will:
- provide confirmation that your application was received
- review the application and if there is anymore needed information, you will be contacted
- you will be informed if other family members will be able to receive benefits on your record, or if you might be able to receive benefits n another persons’s record, such as your spouse, or parent
- Social Security will then mail the decision to you
The time frame for the SSA to make their decision on your case varies. It can be approved in as little as 30 days, but it can also take up to two years. Usually, the more serious your disability is the more quickly your case will be approved. If you have a serious disability it should only take 30 days.
How Much will Disability Benefits Give You?
The amount of payments you will receive is generally based on your average lifetime earnings. The severity of your disability does not factor into the amount you will be paid. On average, payments range from $700 to $1500 per month.
Length of Payments
The length of payments can be made all the way up to your retirement age if your disability or condition does not approve. Your payments will stop if you improve medically to the point where you will no longer be considered disabled.
What To Do If You Are Denied Social Security Benefits?
Over 70% of initial applications are denied by Social Security. Consider yourself lucky if you are one of the 30% who were accepted the first time they applied. So the other 70% of disappointed Americans might think that its over, and that they will have to find other ways to financially support themselves and their families . But there’s still hope, you can still get the disability benefits you will need and this can be done through the appeal.
The appealing process takes longer then the initial application process however do not reapply for benefits if you are denied. You will just be denied again, you must appeal the decision.
The Appeal Process
If you are one of he 70% that were denied disability benefits on your initial application, it is highly encouraged that you go with the appeal process. The appealing process takes longer then the initial application process however, do not reapply for benefits if you are denied as you will just be denied again, you must appeal the decision. The good news is almost two thirds of applicants are awarded disability benefits at their disability hearing.
To help you with the appealing process it is a good idea to hire a Social Security Disability attorney, as this will greatly increase your chance of being awarded benefits during the appealing process. Many people won’t even think to hire an attorney because of the price but fortunately it does not cost any out of pocket expenses. Social Disability lawyers are paid on a contingency basis, meaning they will receive some of the back pay that you are awarded if you win your appeal case. Usually the lawyer will receive either 25% of your disability back pay, or $6000, whichever is less. The great thing about that is if you lose the appeal the lawyer does not get paid, so they will be very motivated to help you win the case. If you would like to look for an Social Security lawyer in your area click here.
First Step: Reconsideration
The first part of the appeal process is the Reconsideration stage. You begin by filling out a request for reconsideration form which can be found by clicking here.
Second Step: Administration law Judge
If your reconsideration appeal is denied then the next step is to request an in person hearing before an administrative law judge. These judges up hold or overturn decisions that were made in your initial claim. Approximately 70% of disability applicants win their appeal.
Third Step: Appeals Council
If you lose your Administration Law Judge hearing your next step in the appeal process is to request that the Appeals Council review your disability case. Unfortunately the Appeals Council can deny your request for a review. The Appeals Council will look for a flaw or mistake in the ruling that the Administrative Law Judge might have made before they grant a review. The chances of you winning the case are very slim however this step must be taken in order to file a law suit with the Federal Court.
Final Step: Federal Court Review
The last resort in the appeal process is the Federal Court Review. You will definitely need a Social Security Disability lawyer for this federal court review.The Federal judge will hear your case with juries, as the jury primarily looks for legal errors. About one third of cases will be awarded disability benefits by the Federal judge.
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Keep in mind, even though you have a decent chance of winning, you are suing the Social Security Administration. This process can be very time consuming and expensive.