What Is Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability is part of a federal program designed to support individuals and families struggling with chronic, severe disabilities that prevent them from earning a living. As a whole, the primary goal of the Social Security program is to provide income security for retired elderly people, individuals with disabilities, and the surviving family members of deceased workers. This system provides a steady source of income for millions of Americans, allowing them to maintain a basic standard of living and cover essential expenses like housing, healthcare, and food.
To receive Social Security disability benefits, a recipient must have contributed to the system throughout their working years via payroll taxes. You also must meet certain SSA-set criteria to be considered for the program. These include having a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) and having a certain number of work credits based on your age and work history. If you’re approved for benefits, you will receive monthly payments from the Social Security Administration to help you cover living expenses and medical costs.
Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance: a Comparison
Although both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are designed to assist people with disabilities, there are notable distinctions between the two programs:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides financial assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources who cannot afford basic necessities like food, shelter, and medical care. One of the unique features of SSI is that it is entirely need-based, meaning that the amount of assistance you receive is directly tied to your financial need - and has nothing to do with your work history.
To be eligible for this program, you must satisfy the SSA's definition of disability. - a medical condition that prevents you from working for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death. Secondly, SSI eligibility requires you to meet the income and resource requirements determined by the Social Security Administration. For 2023, the federal income limit for SSI is $794 per month for individuals and $1,191 per month for couples. However, this can vary by state - some states have higher limits than the federal limit.
The SSA also takes resource limits into account. For an individual, this is $2,000 in countable resources. For a couple, the limit is $3,000. These “countable” resources can include cash, bank accounts, stocks, and investments. Some assets, however, such as a primary residence and a single car, are not counted towards the SSA’s resource limit. It's important to note that these limits can change each year with adjustments based on inflation and other factors. Additionally, not all income and resources are counted when determining eligibility for SSI, so it's important to consult with the SSA or a qualified representative to understand your individual situation.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
While both Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income serve as social safety nets for individuals whose disability prevents them from earning a living, the programs differ in their eligibility requirements. Unlike SSI, which is a needs-based program, SSDI is a federal insurance program that you pay into through payroll taxes throughout your working years.
To be eligible for SSDI, individuals must have worked for a certain period of time (over 10 years) while paying Social Security taxes. More specifically, you must have earned a certain number of work credits, which are based on your earnings history, to qualify for SSDI benefits. This is a major advantage of SSDI, in that those with higher earnings and longer work history can receive a drastically higher benefit amount. Aside from the work credit requirement, you must also meet the SSA's definition of disability mentioned above.
Below are just a few of the ways our Montgomery disability attorneys can help you obtain both disability benefits and peace of mind:
Determine Eligibility - One of the first steps in obtaining Social Security disability benefits is determining whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Your disability attorney can guide you through the eligibility requirements for both programs to determine which one is the best fit for your unique situation.
Gather Documentation - For a qualifying Social Security disability claim, the SSA requires you to provide extensive documentation. This includes medical records, treatment plans, doctor’s notes, and any other relevant information that supports your disability claim. In addition to medical documentation, your Montgomery attorney can assist with gathering information about your work history, including employment records, pay stubs, and tax returns. Your attorney will guide you through the process of gathering this documentation and evidence while ensuring it’s as accurate and comprehensive as possible.
Represent Your Needs - Once all of the necessary documentation has been gathered, your Montgomery attorney can help you organize and present it in a way that best supports your disability claim, explaining the impact of your disability on your ability to work and perform daily tasks. Your attorney will represent you with dedication and expertise throughout the appeals process. This can involve requesting a reconsideration or hearing to present supporting evidence. Having a Montgomery attorney on your side during your appeal can greatly increase your chances of success.
Maximize Your Benefits - Your Montgomery attorney will work tirelessly to ensure you receive all of the benefits you’re entitled to. This may involve exploring additional sources of financial assistance, such as workers' compensation or private disability insurance.
Overall, a Montgomery disability attorney can be an invaluable ally in helping you obtain the benefits you need and deserve. Our goal is to help you focus on your life, health, and well-being without fear of the future.
Are There Any Benefits to Seeking Local Attorneys for My Case?
There are many advantages to working with a local Montgomery attorney. One of the primary benefits of seeking out a Social Security disability attorney in your area is their knowledge of the local legal system. They are familiar with the judges, courts, and procedures involved in Montgomery disability cases - having handled them before - and understand the location-specific laws and regulations that may apply to your case.
A local Montgomery attorney may also have connections to medical professionals, vocational experts, and other resources in the Montgomery, AL area that can be useful in building a strong disability claim. Finally, a Social Security disability attorney serving Montgomery residents can offer you a greater degree of access and personalized attention. A nearby Social Security disability lawyer is far more likely to be available to answer your questions and meet with you on short notice to address your concerns throughout the course of your case.
My Claim Was Denied - What Are My Next Steps?
The denial of your Social Security Disability claim is a frustrating, anxiety-inducing experience. However, it's important to remember that you have the right to appeal the decision and request a hearing before an administrative law judge. If you've recently been denied, our team of Social Security disability lawyers will handle the following steps:
Review the Denial Letter - Your denial letter should specifically explain why your claim was denied. Make sure you review it carefully and take note of the reasons for the denial to show your attorney.
Request an Appeal - You have the right to appeal the decision, but you must request your appeal within 60 days of receiving the denial letter. You can appeal online, by mail, or in person. Your attorney can assist you with this process.
Gather Additional Evidence - In many cases, the reason for the denial is a lack of sufficient evidence to support your claim. Your Montgomery attorney will help you gather any additional medical records, test results, or other evidence that can help strengthen your case and demonstrate the severity of your condition.
Await the Decision - After the hearing, you will receive a written decision from the judge. If the decision is still unfavorable, you may be able to continue the appeals process by requesting review by the Social Security Appeals Council or filing a lawsuit in federal court.
Appealing a denied Social Security Disability claim can be a complicated and confusing process. That's why it's important to have an experienced attorney on your side to guide you through the various stages, advocate on your behalf, and ensure you have the best chance of success. Our attorneys are prepared to use their legal expertise and advocacy skills to help you obtain the benefits you deserve - contact us today at (877) 715-9300 to set up a complimentary consultation.
Eligibility Criteria: Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits in Montgomery, Alabama
To qualify for SSI or SSDI Social Security disability benefits in Montgomery, AL, you must meet the SSA's definition of disability. The SSA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
Medical Requirements (SSDI and SSI)
Additionally, SSDI eligibility requires you to have earned a certain number of work credits based on your age and work history. Below are the specific medical and work history requirements of these programs:
The applicant must have a diagnosed physical or mental impairment or disability that is considered a full, rather than partial disability;
The disability must be so severe that it prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA);
The applicant must be following the recommended course of treatment for their disability;
The disability must be expected to last at least one year or prove fatal.
Work History Requirements (SSDI)
A certain period of time must have passed since the applicant last worked and paid Social Security taxes;
The applicant must have accrued a minimum number of work credits based on their age and employment experience. The SSA typically requires 40 credits, 20 of which must have been earned in the 10 years before the start of the disability.
SSI Eligibility Requirements
The applicant must meet SSA criteria for resource and salary limitations;
The applicant must be 65 or older;
The applicant must be totally or partially blind or have a medical condition that prevents them from working and is expected to last at least one year or result in death;
The applicant must not be engaging in SGA;
The applicant must be following the recommended course of treatment for their disability.
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. However, the application process can be complex and time-consuming, and the SSA denies many initial claims. If your claim has been denied, let our lawyers help you. Contact Wettermark Keith at (877) 715-9300 or via our website chat or online form to schedule a complimentary consultation with our Montgomery legal team.
How Age, Education, and Work Experience Impact Your Claim
Age often influences the SSA’s evaluation of Social Security disability claims. Generally, it’s easier for older individuals to be approved for disability benefits, as the SSA assumes they have a more difficult time adapting to new work and finding new jobs.
The SSA may also consider the claimant's level of education and how it relates to their ability to perform different types of work. For example, if someone has a high school education and has previously worked in a skilled profession, it may be assumed that they could potentially perform other types of work that do not require the same level of skill.
Finally, work experience factors into the SSA’s judgment of disability claims. If your work experience is limited or if your disability prevents you from performing your past work, you may be more likely to be approved for disability benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
SSI is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to individuals with limited income and resources who are unable to work due to a disability. It is designed to provide a basic level of income to individuals who do not qualify for SSDI benefits. SSDI, on the other hand, is an insurance program that provides benefits to individuals who have paid into the Social Security system through their work history. To qualify for SSDI, an individual must have a work history and have paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years. The amount of SSDI benefits a person receives is based on their work history and average lifetime earnings.
The SSA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. The impairment must be severe enough to prevent you from doing your previous work or any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
The time it takes to receive Social Security disability benefits can vary based on several different factors, including the complexity of your case and the backlog of claims at the SSA. On average, it can take several months to a year or more to receive a decision on your initial disability claim. It’s important to note that many initial disability claims are denied. Thankfully, you can appeal this decision, although this typically adds several more months - or even years - to the process.
While you can work while receiving Social Security disability benefits, there are certain rules and limitations involved. If you earn more than a certain amount, your benefits may be reduced or eliminated. The SSA sets limits on your substantial gainful activity (SGA), or the amount of money you can earn while still receiving disability benefits. In 2023, the SGA limit for non-blind individuals is $1,380 per month - and $2,430 per month for blind individuals. If you earn more than these amounts, your Social Security disability benefits may be reduced - or halted altogether.
If your initial Social Security disability claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. The first step in the appeals process is to request a reconsideration, or a review of your case by a different claims examiner. If your claim is denied again, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present additional evidence and testimony to support your claim. It’s here where a lawyer is most crucial. If the judge denies your claim yet again, you can request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council and, if necessary, file your Social Security disability lawsuit in federal court.
Drug or alcohol addiction alone does not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, if you have a medical condition related to your addiction that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. For example, if you have liver disease due to alcoholism or chronic pain due to drug addiction, you may still qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on those conditions.
Receiving VA benefits does not affect your eligibility for SSDI or SSI, but your disability benefits may be reduced to account for your VA benefits. While the SSA does not consider VA benefits to be income, they are considered a form of disability compensation. If you are receiving both VA benefits and SSDI or SSI, your disability benefits may be reduced by the amount of your VA benefits. However, it's important to note that receiving VA benefits does not guarantee that you will be approved for SSDI or SSI Social Security disability benefits.
While receiving short-term disability benefits from your employer does not affect your eligibility for SSDI or SSI, your Social Security disability benefits may be reduced to account for your short-term disability benefits. Short-term disability benefits are designed to provide temporary financial assistance to individuals unable to work due to a medical condition. Social Security SSI or SSDI disability benefits, on the other hand, are designed to provide long-term financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability that has lasted more than a year or will result in death. If you are already receiving short-term disability benefits, you should apply for SSDI or SSI if you expect to be unable to work for a year or more.
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Trust Wettermark Keith for Exceptional Results
Wettermark Keith, with offices located throughout Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, has an excellent reputation as one of the most accomplished personal injury firms in the country. Our Social Security Department was recently designated a Top 100 law firm by the Social Security Disability Leadership for our successful appeal of thousands of disability cases. Our reach is not only regional but includes a diverse range of practice areas, including premises liability law, personal injury cases, auto wrecks, trucking wrecks, insurance dispute claims, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, on-the-job injuries, social security disability, and veterans’ disability claims, to name just a few.
At Wettermark Keith, we believe in taking cases personally. Our purpose is to advocate with care and compassion- to tell our clients’ stories and make their voices heard. Our lawyers do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication and an unwavering dedication to truth and trust. You should never wonder what’s going on with your case. Your social security lawyer will keep you in the loop and treat you like family- because to us, you are.
Face the Appeals Process With Confidence and Support - Call Us Today
We understand that without a stable source of income, you may be feeling intense financial strain. To ease this burden, our attorneys offer quality legal representation on a contingency fee basis. We guarantee that you will owe no out-of-pocket costs - and only pay if we win your case.
During your free consultation, your Montgomery lawyer will carefully review the details of your Social Security disability case to identify any issues or mistakes in your application. If you choose to hire one of our Social Security disability attorneys, they will gather evidence to strengthen your claim, collaborate with healthcare providers, guide you through the appeals process, represent you at hearings, and serve as a stable source of support and wise counsel. Don’t wait - contact Wettermark Keith at (877) 715-9300 or through our website chat or online form to schedule a complimentary consultation with our Montgomery legal team.