To qualify for Social Security disability, you must meet specific requirements. These requirements differ depending on whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
A qualified Social Security disability attorney can examine your situation and determine which program you might qualify for. An attorney can also help you put together a strong application so you have the best chance of approval. Call Cordisco & Saile LLC for help: 215-642-2335.
What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?
SSDI and SSI are both government disability programs. However, they exist for different reasons and, thus, have different eligibility requirements.
SSDI is for people with established work histories who, because of their disability, can no longer work. When you receive a paycheck from work, part of the payroll taxes that get deducted fund SSDI. Thus, benefits are only available to those who have worked enough to pay a certain amount into the system. A Social Security disability attorney can examine your work history and let you know if you qualify for SSDI.
If you do not have enough of a work history to qualify for SSDI, you might be eligible for SSI. It is a government benefit program for the needy that provides compensation to people with low incomes and limited assets. While SSDI requires you to have worked a minimum amount over time, SSI has maximums for how much you can earn and remain eligible. What the Social Security Administration (SSA) deems income can be complex. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you determine what your income is under SSA standards.
Qualifying for SSDI
You must meet both medical, vocational, and financial requirements to qualify for SSDI:
The SSA considers several factors to determine if your medical condition qualifies for SSDI benefits. The most straightforward way to qualify is to present a condition that appears in the SSA’s “Blue Book.”
The book lists most serious medical conditions, such as terminal cancer and heart disease, and describes the SSA’s approval criteria for each condition on the list.
To qualify, your condition must satisfy the listing’s severity criteria. For example, if you have loss of central visual acuity, you must provide documentation that proves your “remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.”
If your condition does not appear in the Blue Book, the SSA might grant you something called a medical vocational allowance. To receive this allowance, your doctor must fill out a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which measures whether you can perform work-related tasks (e.g., lifting, squatting, avoiding hazards, walking up and down stairs). These tasks depend on your condition.
If your RFC assessment indicates you can no longer perform the functions of your past work, you might be eligible for a medical vocational allowance.
Your attorney can determine if you have a qualifying condition based on the Blue Book standards, and if not, can help you obtain an RFC assessment that demonstrates your need for SSDI.
You must have received enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. The number you need depends on your age. For example, a 40-year-old needs 20 credits, while a 60-year-old needs 38.
Your current income cannot exceed a set monthly amount, which can vary each year. In 2017, the threshold is $1,170 for non-blind individuals, $1,950 for blind individuals.
Qualifying for SSI
To receive SSI, you also must meet certain medical and financial requirements. The medical requirements are similar to those for SSDI, as the SSA uses the same Blue Book of medical conditions for both programs.
Disabled children can also receive benefits. The SSA maintains a separate list of qualifying conditions for children, which describes in detail what symptoms and functional limitations must be present to receive benefits for a given condition.
If your child’s condition does not appear on the list, you might still qualify for benefits by demonstrating that your child’s impairment is functionally equivalent to a condition on the list. Your attorney can help you obtain the necessary medical documentation to make this argument effectively.
Financial Requirements for SSI
As a welfare program for the needy, SSI has income limits. It is usually equal to the Federal Benefit Rate. For 2017, it is $735 for individuals, $1,103 for couples.
Even if you earn above the limit, you might still be eligible. The SSA excludes some of your income and might also deduct certain household expenses. An attorney can help you determine what your final income is.
Can I qualify for both SSDI and SSI?
It is possible to qualify for both programs. To do so, you would first need to receive approval for SSDI. This means you need a sufficient work history. Then, once you have determined what you will receive from SSDI, you can apply for SSI if your total compensation is below the program’s limits.
Receiving benefits from both programs is rare, and it can be difficult to determine at a glance if you are one of the few who is eligible to do so. However, a good attorney can identify this as a possibility by examining your household finances.
Should I hire a lawyer before applying for Social Security disability?
It is not a requirement to have a lawyer when you apply for either SSDI or SSI. But it is a good idea for several reasons.
One, as you can see from the information above, the process and qualifying criteria for getting Social Security disability is anything but cut and dry. A lot of complexities are involved, and it can be easy for someone without experience working with the SSA to omit a crucial piece of evidence or information.
The SSA has a reputation for declining qualified applicants on technicalities. If this happens to you, you can appeal. However, the appeals process to reverse the initial decision is long and frustrating. It is much better to hire a professional to make sure everything gets done right the first time.
The application process can also be stressful. An attorney takes the burden off your shoulders so you can focus on your health and your family, while still keeping you in the loop as your application works its way through the approval process.
If you are ready to get started, call Cordisco & Saile LLC today for Social Security disability help: 215-642-2335.