Everything You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Insurance

man with disability reading a form

One out of four adults in America has a disability that affects his or her capacity to work. Recent data indicate that close to 40 million people live with a disability, but only about 8.8 million were receiving insurance benefits in 2017.

Part of the reason that a majority of disabled individuals aren’t insured is the long and frustrating application process. A disability advocate or a reliable Social Security disability lawyer can lessen the stress of the application. It would also help to know the application process for disability insurance.

Different Insurance Programs

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two insurance programs for disabled individuals: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you were part of the workforce before your disablement, it’s a good idea to apply for an SSDI instead of an SSI. This way, you get to benefit from the contributions you made to the SSA trust fund when you were still working.

Also, it’s easier to apply for an SSDI, because its approval rates are higher than SSI. This is because judges and claim examiners find applications with a long work history more credible, which most SSI applicants don’t have.

In the SSDI program, the SSA provides monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for at least a year due to their disability until they are capable of working again on a regular basis. After recovering, the insured receives work incentives or continued health care coverage to help him or her transition back to work.

SSDI Qualifications

woman with hearing problems

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked under Social Security and earned the required amount of work credits. Your total annual salary or self-employment income becomes the basis for work credits. In 2019, one work credit is equal to $1,360.

Generally, the number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits is 40, half of which you should’ve earned in the last 10 years. But younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

Apart from having enough work credits, your medical condition should also fall under SSA’s definition of disability. This is determined with five questions:

  1. Are you working? If you are, you don’t qualify for the insurance program. If not, SSA will endorse your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office so they can assess your medical condition.
  2. Is your condition severe? Your disability must impede your ability to do basic movements, such as walking, sitting, standing, and lifting for at least a year.
  3. Is your condition in the list of disabling conditions? If not, SSA will need to assess your disability to see if it qualifies for insurance benefits.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously? If you’re able to perform your previous work duties properly, SSA will consider you well enough not to need any insurance aids.
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

SSDI Application Process

If you seek the help of disability advocates or lawyers, they will handle the application process for you. They’ll gather the necessary information, such as general background, medical history, financial records, and work history. Afterward, they’ll send your claim to the DDS office for assessment. If your application doesn’t get approved the first time, your lawyers will file for reconsideration. SSA takes three to four months to make a decision and will ask for more evidence to support your condition.

If SSA rejects your application the second time, your attorneys will file another appeal and request a hearing before a judge. They will ensure that all relevant and supporting documents regarding your case are presented. Although the entire process may take years, from scheduling to the actual court hearing, it’s the best chance you have for approval. If the judge denies your claim, your disability advocate or lawyer will review your case and decide whether to file another appeal or to start a new claim.

Living with a disability is difficult and demands a lot of emotional and financial strength. The best way to deal with it is to have people who will support you every step of the way.