What actions do I have to take to collect SSDI?

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The primary benefits that you can receive through the Social Security Administration (SSA) are SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) and DAC (Dependent Adult Chid) benefits.  While SSDI benefits require you to essentially “buy into the system,” you can receive DAC benefits even if you do not make periodic payments to the Social Security System.  In addition, you may be eligible to receive SSI monthly payments even if you are already receiving SSDI benefits.

SSI is a Federal program funded by general tax revenues.  It is designed to meet the needs of those with limited resources and income who are over the age of 65 (or disabled or blind).  SSI provides monthly clothing, food and shelter to those who are eligible.  An individual may qualify for SSI if his/her resources are worth $2,000 or less.  A couple may be eligible to receive SSI if their combined resources are worth $3000 or less.  Effective January 1, 2021, the Federal benefit rate is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple.  

To be eligible for SSI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be disabled, blind or over the age of 65;
  • Have limited income and resources;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a lawfully permitted alien meeting additional requirements;
  • Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands, except for a child of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty anywhere outside the United States or certain students temporarily abroad.

If you are unable to work due to an injury or illness, you may be eligible for SSDI through the Social Security Administration.  SSDI is a type of disability benefit available to those individuals who are unable to work due to a severe medical condition, injury or illness.  To qualify for SSDI you must have paid into the system during the term of your employment.  It can be intimidating and confusing for a layperson to determine whether he/she is entitled to benefits and, if so, the amount of such benefits.  As a result, it is highly advisable to retain an attorney who specializes in disability rights to help you obtain your maximum benefits.

The first step is determining whether you are entitled to benefits at all.  You are likely entitled to SSDI benefits if you meet the following criteria:

  • You spent multiple years working for employer(s) who paid into the Social Security system, or you were self-employed and paid into the system;
  • You currently have a severe disability, injury or illness that prohibits you from working;
  • Your disability, injury or illness has lasted or will last a minimum of one year or may even potentially result in death;
  • You are the spouse, widow or dependent of someone who meets the above criteria.

In contrast, an adult disabled before the age of 22 may be eligible for “child’s benefits” if a parent is deceased or receives Social Security retirement or disability benefits.  This is called a Disabled Adult Child Claim (DAC).  To qualify, the “adult child” must be: (1) unmarried; (2) age 18 or older; and (3) have a disability that started before age 22.  The parent must be disabled, retired or deceased.  For this benefit, it is not relevant whether the DAC ever worked.  The DAC benefit is almost always higher than the disability benefit based on the claimant’s own limited work record.  Furthermore, the DAC benefit is usually supplemented by Medicare benefits.  To qualify, the “adult child” must be: (1) unmarried; (2) age 18 or older; and (3) have a disability that started before age 22.  The parent must be disabled, retired or deceased.  The SSA uses the same criteria in determining disability for a DAC as it does for SSDI.  

It is imperative to recognize that an initial determination that an adult or a Dependent Adult Child is disabled does not guarantee that the individual can claim benefits forever.  The SSA conducts Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) to determine whether individuals continue to meet the criteria of being “disabled.”  CDRs occur at least once every three years, however, if the SSA believes that a person has a medical condition that is not expected to improve, it will still review the case once every five to seven years.  A typical CDR takes 1-3 months to process.  If the SSA determines an individual is no longer eligible, all benefits will stop.  

It is essential to retain a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to ensure you receive your maximum benefits allowable under the law.  An attorney well-versed in Social Security disability law will help you successfully navigate the intricacies of the process, from filing the initial claims to helping you appeal if your claim has been denied.  In addition, a veteran lawyer will help you organize the requisite documentation for a CDR and determine the next best steps should the CDR find you are no longer eligible for benefits.  It is a little known fact that approximately 2/3 of all claims submitted to the Social Security Administration are denied initially.  Having a strong advocate in your corner can help change that initial “no” into a conclusive “yes.”

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