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Social Security Disability

What is Social Security?

Social Security is a federal law that was enacted to protect workers and their dependents from the loss of income because of retirement, death, or disability. All employees fund the Social Security system through payroll deductions. This is the Social Security (FICA) tax deduction that you see on the pay stub. To qualify for Social Security benefits, an employee must earn credits based on the income they have paid into the system covered by the Social Security tax.

The number of credits needed to receive Social Security depends on your birthday, age, and date of retirement or disability, or for survivor’s benefits, the age of the worker who died. The amount of income you need to accumulate for Social Security credits changes each year.

Full retirement benefits begin at age 65. The standard retirement age will gradually increase until it reaches age 67 in the year 2027. You can order a free report from the government, which will list the income reported under a worker’s name, and estimate the future Social Security benefits based on the age of expected retirement.

The Basic Federal Government Benefits Programs Available to Provide Financial Assistance to Disabled Persons

There are two basic federal government programs that provide financial benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, which are called “SSD” and Social Security Income, which is called “SSI.” SSD benefits will be paid to a disabled worker and his or her family if the worker has earned credit for a certain number of pay credits under Social Security standards and if the workers earnings are lost or reduced due to the worker’s disability. Persons are considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which prevents them from working, and that disability is expected to last for at least twelve months or, to result in death.

Under SSD government benefits, a worker is allowed to earn up to the “substantial, gainful activity level.” The dollar value of the subsidies and disability work expenses are subtracted from the gross earnings in determining whether work is “substantial, gainful activity.” Social Security will not automatically terminate SSD benefits if your earnings exceed the maximum allowance, but the amount of the excess earnings will reduce your monthly Social Security Disability check. The Social Security Disability Program also offers a “trial work” program to test the ability of disabled persons to return to work without losing
benefits. In most cases, the trial work period is limited to nine months, and is accumulated over your lifetime.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“SSD”) provides cash benefits to individuals who have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. The amount of the monthly benefit will vary based on payments made into Social Security while working. Medicare coverage eligibility initially occurs two years after the approximate date of the onset of the disability.

The medical condition or disability must meet the Social Security definition of disability. In general, Social Security pays monthly cash benefits to individuals who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

What to Expect When Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

The Social Security Administration needs to obtain sufficient medical records to document a person’s injury and work history and work credits to award benefits. It is not unusual for the Social Security Administration to reject a person’s initial application for benefits. If there is a catastrophic injury, you should always appeal a denial of Social Security benefits. It is critical to obtain all of the medical records so that they can be presented to Social Security Administration at the time of an appeal from a denial of benefits.

There is also a procedure to file for reconsideration on an application. There are also procedures that should be given priority when there is a catastrophic injury, and the ability to request an immediate hearing.

The process for applying for Social Security benefits is adversarial. Although the Social Security Administration may send you to an “independent medical exam”, a so-called IME, this is not truly independent. Social Security selects the doctor, pays the doctor and receives a copy of the report. If you are involved in an adversary situation such as this, you should consider having an attorney or representative attend the medical exam as an advocate for the disabled person. You should also request in writing a copy of the report that is sent to Social Security.

Another avenue that you may want to consider is to contact your Congressman. Congressmen do have aides that can make calls to Social Security to inquire on the status of an application and to try and help obtain an expedited hearing. Congressmen are your representatives and it is not an imposition for you to make such a call.

Disabled Adult Child Benefits

An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. We consider this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.

The “adult child”—including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild—must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before age 22.

It is not necessary that the adult child ever worked. Benefits are paid based on the parent’s earnings record.

An adult child must not have substantial earnings. The amount of earnings we consider “substantial” increases each year. In 2014, this means working and earning more than $1,070 a month.

An adult child already receiving SSD benefits should still check to see if benefits may be payable on a parent’s earnings record. Higher benefits might be payable, and entitlement to Medicare may be possible.

An adult child already receiving disability benefits should still check to see if benefits may be payable on a parent’s earnings record.

It is possible for an individual disabled since childhood to attain insured status on his or her own record and be entitled to higher benefits on a parent’s record.

No benefits would be payable on the record of a parent who never worked.

If a child is age 18 or older, we will evaluate his or her disability the same way we would evaluate the disability for any adult. We send the application to the Disability Determination Services in your State that completes the disability decision for us.

If he or she receives benefits as an adult disabled since childhood, the benefits generally end if he or she gets married. However, some marriages (for example, to another adult disabled child) are considered protected.

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Disclaimer: Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC is a not for profit corporation that provides without charge confidential social services resources, information and networking opportunities. If you have legal questions you should consult an attorney of your own choosing. The web site and the resources and information provided are not offered in lieu of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition or for any questions you may have regarding a health concern.