All About Social Security Disability Insurance

All About Social Security Disability Insurance

The federal government has a way to protect social security members from the financial hardships of sustaining a disability. This is called the Social Security Disability Insurance, also known simply as SSDI. Applying and receiving the benefits of this insurance program can be very complicated. But certain factors can easily be understood, such as those enumerated below.

Eligibility for SSDI

SSDI is an interesting program, so it is not surprising that many people would like to receive its benefits. But unfortunately, not everybody is eligible to enjoy them. There are certain guidelines that need to be passed for a person to be viable for coverage. First, the person should be contributing to the social security program for a specific number of years. Second, the person should be truly medically disabled, either through injury or medical condition. The age of the person and his or her number of years in employment are also taken into consideration. A combination of these factors may increase chances of approval. For example, a person who has worked for twenty years, diligently contributed to social security, and suddenly become disabled, may have more chances compared to a person who has worked only for five years.

Coverage of SSDI

Coverage can either be short-term or long-term, and this will depend on the severity of the person’s disability and how badly it needs medical attention and expenses. Typically, the coverage is calculated in a way that involves a percentage of the person’s average earnings wherein he or she has contributed to the social security program. Different earning brackets have different percentage calculations.

Advantages of SSDI

When you look at it in a different perspective, SSDI is there to give back what the disabled person has contributed, especially now that he or she needs the financial cushion for the disability. The clear advantage of having the benefits of Social Security Disability Insurance is that the person can now attend to his or her medical needs and have enough financial flexibility for everyday expenses. This may also prevent emotional and psychological problems that may arise from getting disabled and experiencing financial hardships because of it, such as depression, increased irritability, and disinterest in social activities and events.

Finding Representation for a Disability Claim

Although it may seem unnecessary to have an injury and disability representation or lawyer when you are claiming benefits presented by the Social Security Administration (SSA), nevertheless it may be to your best interest. Even when the SSA does not require their claimants to have legal representation, the procedures and process can be long and confusing, causing denied or delayed benefits. Also, having legal representation could greatly increase the chances of not only having an approved claim, but most importantly the disability onset date, something that could significantly affect the amount of benefits you may be provided.

It may be beneficial to be represented during the filing process, but most legal representations are really required during the appeals process. After a denied benefits application, you have only 60 days to file for an appeal in the disability court, and notifying the SSA about hiring a representative is a must. You must also choose whether you need a legal representation, or you can hire a non-lawyer to represent you in court.

Regardless of who you hire (whether a disability lawyer or non-lawyer), they will only be paid once the claim has been approved: and they are paid through the SSA benefits, having the same rates. Upon deciding to have a representation, sending a letter to the SSA by filling up the Appointment of Representative form should be made. If you have hired a non-lawyer, he or she should sign their names on the forms. Subject to the SSA approval, a contingency agreement between you and your representative should be signed. This agreement would permit the representative to be paid not more than 25 percent of your benefit amount, but out-of-pocket expenses will be covered by the claimant.

One last advantage of having injury or disability representation is that they are more knowledgeable with the laws and procedures, and are   familiar with the judges who preside on these hearings. This could make them more flexible in their approach to zealously represent your claims in court.

Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two main programs that provide financial assistance to eligible workers and individuals who get disabled before their retirement age. These disability payments are the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). An applicant, whose disability is found in the list of physical disabilities and ailments drawn up by the Social Security Administration, is eligible to receive SSDI or SSI benefits (even if claimant files only for SSDI, Social Security will still evaluate your case to see if you are qualified to receive benefits under SSI and/or SSDI. Thus, in the event that your SSDI claim is denied, you no longer need to re-apply for a possible SSI benefit.

Under SSA rules, to qualify for an SSDI benefit, a disabled claimant must be an “insured worker” below 65 years old. Being an “insured worker” means that claimant ought to have worked long and recently enough, and has earned a specific amount of work credits (within a specified time) through payment of Social Security taxes, which is taken from his/her monthly pay.

The (legal) least number of credits a worker must earn to be eligible for SSDI benefits is 20, which is earned after 10 years of work (a worker can earn four credits within a year of work as each credit is made after three months of SS tax payments). The amount of work credits required for disability benefits increases with your age, such that if you get disabled at the age of 44, you must have earned at least 22 credits. Under particular circumstances, however, SSA may still consider you eligible for SSDI benefits even if you have not paid SS taxes for some time due to loss of work of if you get disabled after working for earning only six credits. Certain members of your family (who meet SSA requirements) may also qualify for auxiliary benefits which is to be based on your credit record.

An SSI benefit is given to adults or children with disability and limited resources and income. Income limits cannot exceed the mandated federal benefit rate or FBR, the amount of which is affected by the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In 2012, for instance, individual FBR was set at $698/ month and $1,048/month for couples, even if only one of the couples is eligible.

Limited resources, on the other hand, refer to cash or asset. A “resource” may be classified either as liquid (like cash, some types of life insurance, promissory notes, mutual funds, bonds, checking and savings accounts, stocks and any other type of asset that may be converted to cash in 20 working days’ time) or non-liquid assets, which include personal properties (such as cars) and real properties (like land).

The amount limit set by the government for resources (in 2012) was $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples (even if only one of the couples is eligible for SSI). Certain assets and properties, like a wedding and an engagement ring, and house, respectively, are exempt from those considered by the Social Security Administration.

Social Security disability benefits can be a lifeline for a disabled worker and his/her family. Earning or being denied of this benefit will cause a major effect in the lives of those affected. Due to the complexity of the law and procedures for filing a claim, however, the disabled and his/her family can be overwhelmed by all the legalities involved just to be deemed qualified to receive the benefit applied for. Thus, deciding to hire the services of a legal professional, who knows the details of the law and can help you understand them, would be one wise decision.