Social Security Disability Law

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

Over the years, we've witnessed that most people who can work, want to work. We all like being able to take care of our families and ourselves. Work provides not only income, but self-esteem and a community as well. Our work is one of the ways we identify ourselves. When we lose all that because of illness or injury, life becomes more difficult and frustrating - and we worry about being able to pay the bills.

The future can be scary, but if you're disabled, live in poverty, or you're a minor child and your parent has died, you don't have to wait until retirement age to obtain Social Security disability (SSD). You may be eligible for benefits right now.

If you are too ill or too injured to work, you may be asking these questions:

  • Would I qualify for social security disability payments?
  • Do I need an SSD lawyer to get my benefits?
  • How would I pay my SSD attorney?
  • How much would my benefits be?
  • How long will my benefits last?

Social Security Disability Payments are Not Charity; They're Insurance Proceeds

Regardless of what some politicians may tout, SSD payments are not charity. SSD recipients are not leeching off rich taxpayers. If you qualify for SSD payments, it's because you've paid into the system for 20 quarters - that's 5 years!

Paying your FICA taxes (social security and Medicare) is the same thing as paying an insurance premium. You pay in and you get the benefits, if you need them.

It's like paying your homeowners' insurance or car insurance premium. You hope you never need to collect on them but the protection is there just in case.

Social Security Disability Attorneys Help Injured and Ill Folks Get Disability Benefits

The Social Security system has many programs; however, SSD lawyers tend to focus on the disability program and sometimes the welfare program for poor blind and disabled folks, called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you think you may qualify for benefits, consult with a qualified Social Security lawyer, licensed in your state.

Distinguish Between SSD and SSI

All those Social Security programs (and their acronyms) can be tricky and confusing, we’ll do our best to break them down.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) benefits are available to workers who are too injured or ill to work and earn an income.

  • Only your earned income is considered; other sources of income and your resources are not considered. In other words, you could be a millionaire, even the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates and still qualify for SSD.
  • However, you must have paid into the SSD system via FICA taxes. FICA taxes are employment taxes in the form of Social Security and Medicare Taxes. They are deducted from your paycheck by your employer; if you're self-employed, you must pay quarterly payments yourself.
  • The application process is long and difficult and most folks get denied benefits several times. You must appeal within 60 days or your case will be closed; don't give up. They (the Social Security Administration) says "no" not almost everyone through several appeals.
  • The application process is worth the effort if you are approved;
    • You get a monthly cash payment for the rest of your life, so long as you remain so disabled you are unable to work.
    • In addition, two years after you're approved for cash benefits, you are entitled to health insurance (Medicare.)

However, a social security disability (SSD) attorney will help you to customize your SSD application to increase the likelihood of approval. Every SSD case is just a little (or a lot) different from every other case, so articles like this one are helpful but can't provide everything you need for a successful outcome.

Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)

To be eligible for SSI, you must be blind, aged, or disabled and have limited resources and income; there is no requirement that you have paid any taxes. In other words, you might still quality if you are poor and never had a paying a job.

The Differences Between SSD and SSI

  • SSD provides monthly payments for those who have worked, paid into the Social Security system, and are now too injured or too ill to work.
    • Other income and assets are not considered.
    • Medicare is provided two years after disability has been awarded.
  • SSI provides monthly payments for those who are very poor and blind, aged, or otherwise disabled.
    • There is no work history requirement and very low income and assets are required.
    • Medicaid covers health care expenses.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You qualify for SSD if the SSA (Social Security Administration) approves your disability application. There are two prongs to qualify.

  • First, you must have worked and paid FICA (social security and Medicare) taxes for 20 of the last 40 quarters. That's basically 5 of the past 10 years, but the work doesn't need to be continuous.

    Susan was a school teacher for 6 years when she went into an adrenal crisis and almost died. Susan has met the work requirement. She worked and paid FICA taxes for 24 quarters.

  • Second, you must be medically eligible. The SSA has a long list of SSD medical conditions under which you can qualify. You must be expected to be unable to work for one year or more or your illness must be expected to end in death.

    Because of general fatigue, irritability, depression, and anxiety, Susan is unable to work. Her psychiatrist signed that he thinks she is unable to work because of her condition. The SSD does have a list of disabilities under the endocrine system and, specifically, adrenal gland malfunction. Addison's disease is a life long condition.

Though the social security system was indeed set up to provide for sick and injured workers, the application process is long and arduous. Almost everyone gets turned down the first time - and likely even the second time if they appeal. Appeals must be made within 60 days or the claim is blocked and you'd have to start the process over again.

Estimate Your Monthly Disability Payments

You can find out in about 3 minutes. Use the SSA website to get your estimated payments for social security disability. It will let you know whether you're qualified for SSSD and show you the approximate monthly payments.

You can also see what your anticipated retirement and survivor benefits would be.

Susan went online and got her social security statement. If she is awarded disability, her monthly payments will be $1,058 per month for as long as her disability lasts.

How to Find a Social Disability Attorney

Social Security Disability lawyers help injured or ill people, who are unable to work, get the benefits they have earned. While you have the right to deal with the Government on your own, it may not be in your best interests. The process can feel long, arduous, and complicated.

If you want to try on your own to see how it goes, here is the SSD site to get you started.

If you choose to work with a Social Security Disability attorney to help you get disability benefits, you can find a lawyer by:
  • Asking a loved one who has had a great experience and been awarded disability benefits for a referral to his or her disability lawyer.
  • Call the local bar association for a list of SSD attorneys in your area.
  • Find an SSD attorney on the free and private www.attorneys.org and receive a free - no obligation case evaluation.
Social Security Disability attorneys are paid a portion of your back benefits only:
  • There are no out-of-pocket attorney fees or expenses.
  • If you don't get approved for disability benefits, you pay your attorney nothing.
  • If you do get approved, you pay nothing out of all future monthly payments.
  • Your SSD attorney receives 25% of your back payments, only.

Of course, you always have the option of going it alone - fill out your own applications and file your own appeals. We hope this glossary and our other Social Security Disability articles will help you to do so. We are rooting for you and wishing you the best of luck as well as a happy and healthy future.

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