If you are not capable of working due to an illness or injury, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability or SSI benefits. The rules and procedures for proving disability can be complicated. Most people are denied benefits the first time they apply, even though they meet the requirements for disability under the law. Navigating the Social Security Administration’s requirements for both filing appeals and presenting evidence makes it difficult for people to win benefits on their own.
In determining whether or not you are disabled, the Social Security Administration does not use the common sense definition of disability that you or I would. They sets out a very precise definition for disability and require that you prove a specific set of things in order to receive disability benefits. According to the law, you are disabled when you become unable to work because of a medically diagnosed physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which can last or has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. This means that you must prove:
- That you are unable to work.
- That you have a diagnosed physical or mental condition, which is being treated.
- That you cannot perform your current job or any past work you may have had.
- That you are physically unable to perform any work whatsoever.
- That your disability must have lasted or be expected to last 12 continuous months or could be expected to cause death.
- That you have applied for the benefit with the Social Security Administration and otherwise qualify for the program.
There are two basic programs available to disabled individuals through the Social Security Administration. The first is Disability Insurance Benefits. In order to qualify, you must have participated in the Social Security system through payment of FICA taxes You must show that you have earned a specified number of work credits within a certain number of years, depending upon your age. Generally speaking, you must have worked five out of the previous ten years in order to qualify for this benefit. However, there are special rules for younger individuals and those who have had a break in their work history. The second program is Supplemental Security Income or SSI. This is a needsbased program, similar to Welfare in terms of financial eligibility.
Whether you are starting a new application or appealing a denial, legal representation helps navigate the complex Social Security Regulations. Although it shouldn’t be, the process is difficult and an experienced attorney is a must. Evidence of your disability must be supplied to the Social Security Administration. The correct paperwork also must be timely filed in order to preserve your legal rights. The Social Security Administration’s own statistics show that claimants who hire experienced attorneys are more likely to obtain disability benefits than those without representation. Dealing with the Social Security Administration can be intimidating, time consuming, and an unnecessary burden when you are already struggling with illness. Hiring an attorney will help you secure the benefits you deserve.