SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
Social Security was created to provide a
monthly income for retired persons to reward them for a lifetime of working.
Created in 1935, it promised the working man and woman that after they put in
their 50 or so years of loyal work, they could retire in relative comfort, along
with the company pension.
If you have a physical or mental
disability that prevents you from working at any job paying $500 or more per
month for at least a year, or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you
may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI/SSD)
benefits. In other words, if you have a disability which, at the time you apply
for benefits, is not normally expected to be "permanent" in
nature (lasting longer than one year), you will in all
likelihood be turned down the first time. [Details
There are currently two Social Security
programs that pay benefits to disabled persons:
The amount you are paid per month will depend on our
wages during the quarters preceding your disability;
NOT, on your highest paid job!
Security Income (SSI): pays benefits based on financial need.
Eligibility for either programs also
requires that you meet Social
Security's definition of disability.
Some people qualify for both programs
and the SSA provides this handy Benefits
Eligibility Screening Tool to help you determine your program eligibility.
HOW TO APPLY
You must contact Social Security
directly to apply for disability benefits. You can call their toll-free number
1-800-722-1213 ("TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7
p.m. on Monday through Friday), send them regular mail, or visit the Social
Security office nearest you. [Contact
the SSA] [Social
Security Office Locator]
What You Will Need to Apply
Applying for disability benefits can be a complex, difficult process. You
will be required to provide medical information that fully documents your
condition and how it prevents you from working. Along with all of the
following, you will need, perhaps above all, persistence.
Documents proving your
identification, citizenship, and financial status
Names and address of all the
doctors who have examined or treated you and all of the hospitals to which
you have been admitted
Documentation of your medical
Documentation of your medical tests
Detailed information about your
work history for the last 15 years
Documentation of your education
A detailed account of your typical
approved, there is a REQUIRED 5 (five) month waiting period.
You will NOT be retroactively paid for that 5 month period. You will
continue to receive benefits as long as you are unable to work. Your case will
be reviewed periodically to determine if your physical condition and continued
eligibility. If you are receiving disability benefits when you reach age 65,
your benefits will be converted to retirement benefits.
DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?
a hard question for "lay people" to answer. As our
disclaimer states, this site is for informational purposes
only and YOU are responsible for seeking the appropriate,
professional assistance. Some of us were able to get
approval without the use of an attorney, others fought 3 or
4 times; even WITH an attorney, before they were approved
for benefits. As it is almost a foregone conclusion
that one will be turned down the first time (unless you have
a terminal disease, missing limbs, have renal failure that
requires dialysis, or are REALLY lucky), don't be
discouraged. My OWN PERSONAL opinion, based on my OWN
experience, is that it SEEMS having a "shrink"
constantly note that "patient feels if he only had access to
funds, some of his more immediate problems could be fixed;
thereby allowing him the opportunity to expend mental
energies concentrating on mending his physical self".
EVERY TIME I had a doctor's appointment that concerned my
disabling conditions (spinal, and knees were the major
problems then), I HAND CARRIED copies of the follow-up notes
to my appeal examiner. I also had the hospital mail
them to her. Additionally, I called every couple of
weeks just to see if there was "anything else she needed"!
FOR ME, it seemed that "the squeaky wheel" really did get
Having said that, however, I would truly be remiss if I did
NOT give you the GLF's majority, unofficial, biased, AND experienced opinion: if you are
denied benefits and have to appear before a judge: YES, YES, YES.
Like most systems dealing with obtaining
money, Social Security doesn't want to spend money. Their objective is to NOT
spend it. Their judges directive is to NOT spend it.
So when innocent, trusting you goes into
a hearing without an attorney, the answer is almost always NO, you don't
Like other systems involving money, this
one is also run by a network of good old boys. The local judges know the local
attorneys and they all know the local doctors.
By the time you get through the appeals
process and appear before a judge who has a doctor present who has supposedly
reviewed your records, you're going to find out:
a) The doctor is not in the field
regarding your injury.
b) He probably just spent a whole five
minutes (maybe) looking over your file and anyway his directive already was to
deny your claim.
c) They all play golf on weekends,
including your attorney.
So if you go in by yourself, the judge
is going to suggest jobs you can do, such as lying on your back and watching
security cameras all day long for minimum pay even though you have a doctorate
degree in psychology. If you're in constant pain and on medication, the most
likely thing that will happen if you lie down on a couch is that you will fall
asleep, especially watching such exciting programming as security cameras, but
the judge doesn't care. His job is to point out that there IS a job you can do.
The doctor's job is to agree with
whatever the judge says and add that he has found nothing in your files to
indicate you have any physical problem whatsoever that prevents you from gainful
employment. It won't matter if a ton of metal fell directly on your head. If
you're alive, there has to be a job you can do. They may not even go the extent
of pointing one out let alone how you find it or get it.
BUT if you have an attorney with you,
especially a member of the good old boys' network, he knows these guys. He knows
which judges are the good guys and which ones aren't and how to work with each
kind and you'll probably leave the hearing with benefits. After all, the
attorney doesn't get paid unless you do and so HE has a vested interest in
NO ONE, repeat, NO ONE, else in the
system does. Not workers compensation physicians, independent medical examiners,
their nurses, staffs, your caseworker, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
You may believe you have a steel-clad
case but if you have a back injury and sit still for five minutes, the judge
will point out that you've just sat still for five minutes so obviously your
claim that sitting is painful is invalid.
SOME "TIPS" FROM OUR STAFF/READERS:
- You must never drive yourself to these
hearings. They will always ask how you got there. If you were able to drive,
even if only two blocks, you are therefore able to drive a city bus.
- Have a friend take you and have the
friend in the waiting area so they may be called upon for verification. Have
anyone available as a witness who has seen you in your terrible
- It's ideal to have your doctor present,
but most doctors can't afford to take the time off to attend these hearings. One
would think their notes would count, but these notes won't even be READ, so they
don't count. If they are read, it will be by a specialist in another complete
- AGAIN BEWARE OF SURVEILLANCE. You may
have one good day that you don't use your cane, wheelchair, etc., but it will be
that very day that they catch you on tape. Once that happens, you're sunk. It
doesn't matter what counter-attack you offer. It doesn't matter if your doctor
swears in blood that you have an occasional good day. You're sunk.
You can thank all those people who
commit fraud for this, the ones who claim they have an injury and are caught
painting their house or riding horses or dirt bikes or running a business on the
side like conducting sky diving lessons.
If you have a neurological injury, the
doctor present will be a general practitioner or an orthopedist or a doctor of
osteopathy or a chiropractor.
This of course is what will determine
the quality of life you will be able to maintain once you have received SSDI/SDI
This is computed by going back to the
very first job you ever had and averaging your wages over your entire working
life. Social Security will provide this to you and it may be a shocking figure
if you started working 30 years ago when minimum wage was $1.00 an hour.
Social Security has provided
to assist you in determining the amount you will receive.
Your benefits will continue for the
period of your disability, even to the age of retirement, when Social Security
Retirement kicks in. NOTE: Social Security Retirement benefits WILL be affected
by the time you are on SSDI during which nothing is being paid into the system,
so your retirement benefits will be lower than if you had been able to continue
After two years on disability, you are
eligible for Medicare.
Until then, depending on your income, you may be eligible for
Hopefully your company had some sort of
disability plan where your health care benefits continued. If not, find out if
they are in the category of private employers who must legally transfer the
policy into COBRA for 18 months after termination from the company. Federal and
state employees have other options. You'll need to talk to your former employer
to see what benefits are available to you.
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The Guiding Light Foundation