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Obtaining Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits

If you become disabled before reaching retirement age, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits from the Social Security Administration. These are the largest of several federal programs that provide financial help to people with disabilities. Each year, over five million people receive benefits under these programs. Here is information to help you determine if you are eligible to receive these benefits — as well as what to do if you are wrongly denied benefits or are receiving less than what you are legally entitled to obtain.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits are cash benefits paid by the Social Security Administration to people who are disabled and unable to work for at least one year because of their disability.

To be eligible for these benefits, you must have worked in jobs that are covered by Social Security. You must also have worked for the minimum amount of time required by the Social Security Administration (a “duration of work test”) and recently enough before your disability (a “recent work test”). The amount of work needed to satisfy the duration of work test and the recent work test varies depending on the age at which you become disabled.

Another requirement for receiving Social Security disability benefits is that you have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. This means:

1) You have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from doing any substantial work; and

2) Your medical condition must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year, or be expected to result in your death. Partial or short-term disabilities are not enough to qualify for benefits.

The Social Security Administration decides whether you are disabled. It uses many factors to make this decision. One test is to see if your impairment is on their list of medical conditions that automatically mean you are disabled. Another test looks at whether your medical condition and other factors like age, education and past work experience prevents you from doing not only your previous work, but also prevents you from doing other work. If you are unable to do your previous work and cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition, your claim for benefits has a better chance of being approved.

If your claim is approved, you will receive monthly cash benefits based on your previous earnings. You can get Social Security disability benefits until age 65. When you turn 65, your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits, but the amount usually stays the same. Certain family members can receive benefits based on your work record.

To obtain Social Security disability benefits, you must apply for them. Because it can take several months for you to start receiving benefits, it is important to apply as soon as you become disabled. Our law firm can guide you through the complicated process of obtaining benefits, and help you through the appeals process in case your application is denied (see below).

Supplemental Security Income

The other major program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides monthly cash benefits based on disability is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The basic purpose of SSI is to assure that people who are aged, blind or disabled and who have limited income and resources will have a minimum level of income. The main difference between SSI benefits and Social Security disability benefits is that the latter are based on a person’s prior work, while SSI benefits are paid based on a person’s financial need. You do not need to have worked for a certain amount of time to be eligible for SSI benefits.

To receive SSI benefits, you must be disabled, blind or at least 65 years old and meet certain requirements concerning U.S. citizenship and residency. In addition, you must have income below a certain Federal level (which changes from year to year), and you cannot own real or personal property over an amount set by law.

The amount of SSI benefits you will receive depends on several factors, including the state where you live and your assets, income and living arrangements.

Appealing Denials of Benefits

If you are denied Social Security disability benefits or SSI benefits — or believe you are not getting the right amount of benefits — you have several avenues of appeal. The first step in the appeals process is to request a reconsideration of your application. If this appeal fails, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. If you are not satisfied with the decision of the administrative law judge, you can then request a review by the Appeals Council. If this review also does not satisfy you, you can then file a civil case in federal court.

Appealing a denial of benefits can be complicated, as there are specific procedures for making an appeal. In addition, there are strict time limits for making appeals. Many appeals are successful and result in the person receiving cash benefits that were originally denied.

If you are disabled and cannot work, you may be entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits or SSI benefits. These benefits can be vital in providing for your care and the care of your family. Call us for help in obtaining these benefits. Also call us if you have applied for these benefits and been denied. The appeals process is complicated and you should have an experienced attorney on your side. We can help you appeal your claim, represent you in hearings, and help put together the strongest case so that you have the best chance of receiving all benefits. Call promptly so you do not lose valuable benefits because of delay.

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