When you are disabled and cannot earn a sufficient living, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. In order to secure your benefits, you will need to meet specific qualifications, go through the application process, and be able to produce sufficient evidence of your disability. The process can be lengthy and somewhat complicated. Consider speaking to a Toledo disability attorney before you file for benefits.
Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault is dedicated to making sure hardworking Toledo residents fully understand what their rights are and how to handle their SSA claim correctly.
What kinds of Social Security benefits might I be eligible for?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees and distributes various kinds of benefits, including retirement benefits, Medicare, survivors’ benefits, and disability benefits. There are two basic types of disability benefits:
- SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are those for workers who have sufficiently paid into the Social Security system and can no longer work because of a disability.
- SSI – Social Security Income (SSI) benefits are for disabled children and adults with limited income and resources.
So long as they continue to meet the SSA’s requirements, recipients of both types of benefits receive an income check each month to help them meet their basic needs.
According to the SSA, the average SSDI benefit in 2016 is $1,166/month and the maximum benefit is $2,639/month, and the maximum SSI payment is $733/month. The actual amount of benefit you might be entitled to will depend upon your work history and pre-disability income (for SSDI) or your current income/resources (for SSI).
How do I qualify for benefits?
In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you will need to meet the SSA’s strict definition of disabled. Generally, this means that you suffer from a condition that 1) is serious enough to impair your ability to work, are not working and 2) has lasted/a doctor expects will last at least one year.
In its Blue Book, the SSA maintains a listing of impairments that qualify people as disabled. The SSA divided the listings into 14 sections, each of which contains a sublist of specific disabling medical conditions:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Respiratory System
- Cardiovascular System
- Digestive System
- Genitourinary Disorders
- Hematological Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders
- Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
- Mental Disorders
- Immune System Disorders
To qualify for disability benefits, your condition must be in the Blue Book, you must have a combination of medical conditions that impair your ability to work, or you must have another condition that the SSA deems as severe as those listed.
In addition to meeting the definition of disabled, you have to meet certain earnings or income requirements.
If you are applying for SSDI, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to have earned a certain amount of work credits, as per the SSA’s guidelines. The number of credits you need depends upon your age. For instance, if you become disabled at the age of 30, you need 12 credits (three years of work credits), whereas if you become disabled at the age of 60, you will need 38 credits.
When applying for SSI, work credits are irrelevant; instead, your income and resources will need to be below the $733 threshold in order to qualify, and you must have less than $2,000 of resources. However, the SSA allows for various income exclusions, so even if you make over $733 a month, you may still qualify.
How do I apply for disability benefits?
You can apply for benefits online, via phone, or at a local Social Security office. The seven-page application is daunting and you must make sure you fill it out thoroughly and carefully in order to preserve your rights to benefits.
Our disability team at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault can help you with all the paperwork and ensure everything is accurate and complete. Also, you will need to gather a host of documents/information to have on-hand when you apply, such as:
- Your birth or baptismal certificate
- Social security card
- Contact information for all of your doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you
- An Adult Disability Report
- Your medical records including your lab and other diagnostic test results
- A list of all of your prescriptions
- Your most recent W-2 Form or tax returns
You must submit several other forms to the SSA, in addition to certain forms you will need to give your doctors to fill out.
If it seems like a lot, you are right: it is. The federal government is very strict about disability benefits and it requires very specific and thorough supporting evidence. But your Toledo Disability Attorney can help. They can explain what forms you need, help you collect the necessary paperwork, and ensure everything is accurate.
How can a Toledo Disability Attorney help me if the SSA denies my application?
The Administration denies more than half of all Social Security disability claims, according to the SSA. It denies some claims because of technical details such as incomplete documentation, while it denies others because applicants failed to meet the medical prerequisites. In any event, if the SSA denies your application initially, you can appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeals:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge
- Review by the Appeals Council
- Federal Court review
At each stage of the process, the SSA will issue you a letter with a decision either denying or accepting your claim, along with instructions for what to do if you disagree with the decision. If the Administration has denied your application for benefits, be sure to seek legal counsel before trying to appeal.
If you made mistakes or somehow mishandled things the first go-around, it is in your best interests to get professional assistance to thoroughly prepare before asking the SSA for a reconsideration. Enlisting the help of a Toledo disability attorney who understands the intricacies of the SSA system will improve your chances of getting an approval.
For help applying for and securing the disability benefits you and your family need, contact Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault in Toledo for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation: 419-843-6663.