The Social Security Disability
Experts Since 1984

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal insurance program that provides income to those who are unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment until their condition improves and guarantees income if they are unable to return to work.

In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from performing any substantial gainful activity (SGA). You must also be older than 18 years of age, but under the age of 65. Additionally, you must also have acquired sufficient work credits by working 5 of the last 10 years. Your claim must also be supported by medical evidence, and meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria for a disability.

The SSA maintains a listing of qualifying medical conditions known as the Blue Book. However, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your condition is not included in that listing, provided that it is medically equal to a listed impairment.

Your claim must be supported by medical evidence which includes a doctor’s examination and treatment notes, mental health records, lab tests, radiological images (MRI, CAT scan and X-rays). The medical evidence must also be timely, accurate and sufficient.

The time it takes to complete an application for Social Security disability benefits varies. Although the SSA claims an initial decision will be made within 3 to 5 months from the time the application it submitted, an approval or denial of an initial claim can take about 6 months. Additionally, about two-thirds of the initial applications are denied. The appeals process, including a reconsideration claim, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and a review by the Appeals Council, can add months and years to the process. The SSA does have a fast track approval process for certain urgent cases, however, and the agency is taking steps to expedite the application process in general.

The time it takes to begin receiving benefits depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is whether your initial application is accepted. If the SSA approves your application, SSDI payments generally start the 6th full month after you first become disabled. If your case goes through the appeals process, however, it can take up to two years, and even longer if your case proceeds to federal court.

The amount of the benefit you will be awarded depends on a number of factors such as the amount of your earnings prior to becoming disabled, the gross monthly income of your household and the number of dependents you have.

Generally, you may still be eligible for benefits if you are still working while applying for disability benefits, provided that you do not work more than 20 hours per week and you earn no more than the maximum allowable monthly income. If you work more than that or your earned income exceeds that threshold, you are considered to be performing SGA and are ineligible for benefits.

In some cases, it may be possible to receive SSDI and Supplemental Security Income or SSI simultaneously, or “concurrent benefits.” This is only available to those who have been approved for SSDI with low monthly benefits, usually due to a limited work history and low wages. The SSA sets a limit on earned and unearned income. Provided that your SSDI benefits and other sources of income don’t exceed the SSI limit in your state, you may qualify for concurrent benefits.

Given the fact that the majority of initial disability benefits claims are denied, and the appeals process is lengthy and complicated, having proper legal representation will increase the likelihood that your claim will be approved.

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