What is Social Security Disability (SSDI)?
Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not. Certain family members of disabled workers may also receive money from Social Security.
How do I apply for disability benefits?
There are two ways to apply for SSDI benefits:
- Apply online at socialsecurity.gov; or
- Call the toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local office or make an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.
When should I apply?
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take a long time to process the initial application. You can complete the application form online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/3368.
Who decides if I am disabled?
Social Security will review your application to make sure you meet the basic requirements for disability and also that you have worked enough years to qualify. Also, they will evaluate any current work activities. If you meet the requirements, your application will be forwarded to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.
The Disability Determination Services office will ask your doctors for specific information regarding your condition and your ability to do work-related activities such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, and remembering instructions. In some cases, you will be asked to see a Social Security physician and/or psychologist.
How is the decision made?
Social Security uses a five step process to decide if you are disabled:
- Are you working? If yes, what are your earnings?
- Is your medical condition severe enough to limit your ability to do basic work activities?
- Is your medical condition on the list of impairments?
- Can you do the work you did before?
- Can you do any other type of work?
What if I disagree with Social Security’s decision?
Decisions can always be appealed. In some states, there is a reconsideration step, where another case worker will review your file to see if the decision should be changed. In all other states, and after reconsideration, you can appeal through the hearing process.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at any time. Attorneys work for a percentage of your back pay. At your hearing, there is usually a Social Security judge and a vocational rehabilitation professional that will testify about jobs that you can do in your geographic area that fall within your limitations. In some cases, medical experts are also present.
Social Security is currently backlogged at all steps of the process, although some states are much slower than others. It is not unusual for it to take one year or longer to get a hearing scheduled.
When do benefits start?
If your application is approved, your first Social Security benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.
How much will my benefits be?
The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings.
When do I get Medicare?
You will get Medicare coverage automatically two years after your disability date. For example, you apply for disability on January 2, 2005. Your claim is approved as of April 1, 2006. Disability payments will be paid as of July 1, 2005 and Medicare will begin as of July 1, 2007.
What is Supplemental Security Income?
SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. Social Security administers this program.
It pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. Blind or disabled children, as well as adults, can get SSI benefits. This income can supplement Social Security Disability payments for very low income individuals.
How is SSI different from SSDI?
Unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on your prior work or a family member’s prior work. In most States, SSI beneficiaries also can get Medicaid (medical assistance) to help pay for hospital stays, doctor bills, prescription drugs, and other health costs.