Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability
Q:Am I eligible to receive Social Security Benefits?
A:There is no quick and easy answer to this question. And, being able to provide a meaningful answer requires careful consideration of many factors. First, you must be “disabled.” Second, your eligibility to receive benefits depends on the type of benefit for which you’re applying. There are two types of benefits offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA): Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Although the analysis of whether you’re “disabled” is the same for either benefit, the analysis for eligibility is very different. Am I “disabled”? “Disability” is defined as: “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairments which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” To be determined disabled, not only must you not be able to perform any of your prior jobs, your medically determinable impairments must prevent you from being able to realistically perform any job that is available in the national economy.
Q:What are SSDI benefits?
A:SSDI benefits are considered an “entitlement” benefit. That is, you are entitled to receive SSDI benefits if you meet the definition of “disabled” and you have worked and paid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) premiums throughout your work life. First, in order to receive SSDI you must pass the “recent work” test–i.e., you must have worked and paid FICA premiums for roughly 5 of the past 10 years. The last time you paid a FICA premium establishes your Date Last Insured (DLI). Second, your DLI must be after your alleged onset date of disability (AOD). Your AOD is the earliest date in which you think you satisfy the definition of “disability.” While the SSA has the information necessary to calculate your DLI, it will be your responsibility to produce evidence, as provided by one of your treating physicians, to persuasively establish your AOD. If you are disabled and eligible to receive SSDI benefits, you will not only receive monthly benefits moving forward, you will also receive back-due benefits in a lump sum starting on your AOD. The amount of your SSDI benefits depends on the amount of FICA premiums you’ve paid throughout your life.
Q:What are SSI benefits?
A:SSI benefits are considered a “needs-based” benefit because unlike SSDI, your eligibility to receive SSI benefits is not based on your work history. Rather, its based only on your financial needs. Generally, for an individual to qualify to receive SSI, requirements regarding general income must be made. The SSA will consider your income, if any, and calculate your resources such as property or cash on hand. If you meet the definition of disability and your income and assets are under the maximums set by the SSA, you will be eligible to receive SSI benefits. If you are disabled and eligible to receive SSI benefits, you will not only receive monthly benefits moving forward, you will also receive back-due benefits in a lump sum starting on the date in which you filed your application for benefits with the SSA. The amount of your SSI benefits is fixed by SSA rules and regulations.
Q:Do my Dependents get benefits too?
A:SSI does not grant benefits beyond that which the SSA provides to the disabled individual. However, if you qualify for SSDI benefits, certain family members may also qualify for dependents’ benefits. Spousal benefits: If you are disabled, your spouse may also be eligible to receive benefits if your spouse is at least 62 years old, or if your spouse is carrying for a child who is under 16 years old and is eligible for minor dependents’ benefits. Adult children (18 and over): your adult children can receive dependents’ benefits if the adult child is disabled and the disability occurred before the child turned 22 years old, or the child is a full-time student and is under 19 years old. Minor children: your minor children usually are eligible to receive SSDI benefits. “Children” includes biological children, adopted children, and dependent step-children. Generally, in order for a child to be eligible for SSDI benefits, they must be unmarried and under 16 years old.
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