Applying for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) can be daunting. Not only is there an application to submit and medical documentation to collect, trying to understand the SSDI terminology can make you feel as though you’re reading a foreign language. All this while you worry about how you will support yourself and your family, now that your disability has made you unable to work. To help, we’ve created a list of the top seven things you should know before you apply for SSDI benefits.
1. You can apply for benefits as soon as you become disabled. Many people mistakenly believe they must wait 12 months from the date their disability began before applying for SSDI benefits. But you can actually apply for SSDI benefits as soon as you become disabled.
The confusion lies in the fact that SSDI benefits are only paid for total disability expected to last more than 12 months. As long as your medical documentation supports your disability lasting more than 12 months, you can apply once you are no longer able to engage in substantial gainful activity.
2. You need medical documentation of your disability. Eligibility for SSDI benefits is based on your disability, so your application must include proof of disability. But you will need more than a doctor’s note stating, “The applicant is disabled.” The Social Security Administration (SSA) has very specific criteria that covers not only the type and severity of injury or illness that qualifies as disability, but the specific type of medical documentation required to substantiate each of these disabling conditions as well.
3. You must have worked enough quarters to qualify for benefits. Because SSDI is funded through the payment of Social Security taxes by employees, applicants must have worked a certain number of quarters, within a specified time period, in order to receive benefits. This is in addition to meeting the disability requirement. Known as the “recent work” and “duration of work” tests, the number of quarters an applicant must have worked in order to be eligible for benefits depends on the applicant’s age at the time he became disabled and how long he had been employed on the date of disability.
4. There are no income or resource limits. Eligibility for SSDI is based solely on an applicant’s disability and whether he has worked enough quarters. It is not based on the application’s income or resources falling below a certain limit; these limits apply only to the receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
5. Your application will most likely be denied. The most recent estimate is that 64% of individuals who apply for SSD benefits will be denied during the initial review. But a denial can be appealed, and the chance that your application will be approved actually increases, with 74% of all applications scheduled for a hearing being approved by the hearing officer.
6. You can increase your chances of approval by being prepared. The SSA does not require that SSDI applicants have an interview with a disability examiner (the person who evaluates your claim). So the only information the disability examiner will have to go on when deciding whether to approve your application is the information you provide.
To increase the chance that your claim will be approved at the initial review, it is important to be prepared before submitting your application. This includes writing down all of the information regarding your medical history as it relates to your disability, including dates, provider names, medical procedures and tests performed, along with how the disability negatively impacts your activities of daily living (ADL) and job performance. You should also detail your work history for the past 15 years to help the SSA determine if you have worked enough quarters to qualify for SSDI benefits.
7. You can hire an attorney to assist you during any part of the process. There is no requirement that you hire an attorney to help you apply for SSDI benefits, or that you have legal representation during any phase of the appeal process. But your chances of approval greatly increase if you hire an experienced SSDI attorney. An experienced SSDI attorney who focuses solely on SSDI claims understands the process and can make sure you provide the SSA with all the information necessary to substantiate your disability claim.
Most SSDI attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t pay unless your claim is approved. Even then, the SSA limits the amount an SSDI attorney can recover to 25% of the applicant’s retroactive benefits, up to a maximum of $6,000.
Are you applying for SSD benefits for the first time or have you been denied SSD benefits? Consider the Law Office of Attorney Neil H. Good for your representation. Contact us online or call #(847) 577-4476 for a free case evaluation.