Ten Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Social Security's definition of disability?
2. How does SSDI differ from worker's compensation, state DI, and private DI?
3. How does one apply for SSDI?
4. How much can one earn through disability benefits?
5. Can people over 65 years of age qualify for SSDI?
6. If I have been self-employed, can I file for SSDI if I become disabled?
7. Can I file for SSDI if I am collecting worker's compensation or do I need to wait until the compensation discontinues?
8. Will my spouse's income affect my SSDI?
9. Can several health problems combined qualify someone for SSDI, even if one by itself is not considered disabling?
10. Can mental illness serve as the basis for a SSDI claim?

1. What is Social Security's definition of disability?
Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

2. How does SSDI differ from worker's compensation, state DI, and private DI?
WORKERS' COMPENSATION: Workers' compensation statutes typically require that your illness or injury is work-related before you can receive workers' compensation benefits; but Social Security Disability Insurance does not require a causal connection between your medical condition and your work. You may receive workers' compensation benefits for partial incapacity; but Social Security Disability Insurance requires that you be totally incapacitated from substantial gainful work. Workers' compensation may pay benefits for periods of disability shorter than a year; but Social Security Disability Insurance requires that your disability persist at least a year.

STATE DISABILITY INSURANCE: Five states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico reportedly have disability benefit programs for illnesses and injuries not caused by work. The states are California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. These state benefits help many people meet expenses until Social Security Disability Insurance benefits become payable.

PRIVATE DISABILITY INSURANCE: Many people purchase private disability insurance policies to assure that they continue to have income in the event of disability. Employers sometimes purchase the policies for their employees. Private policies often start paying more quickly than Social Security Disability Insurance. Some private policies do not reduce their monthly checks if a person receives disability benefits from SSA. Other private policies do reduce their monthly checks in an amount equal to any benefit that SSA pays; they also require their insured to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance and to make a reasonable effort to win Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Some private policies may have definitions of "disability" more lenient than the SSA definition.

3. How does one apply for SSDI?
The best, surest way to file a claim is to go to the nearest Social Security office in person. In the alternative, a person may contact Social Security by telephone and arrange for a telephone interview to file the claim.

4. How much can one earn through disability benefits?
The law provides that the receipt of certain types of other benefits will result in a reduction of Social Security benefits. Taking into account other benefits which a claimant may be receiving, such as workers' compensation or federal, state or local government disability, a claimant's total combined payments cannot exceed 80% of his/her average current earnings.

5. Can people over 65 years of age qualify for SSDI?
SSDI benefits cut off at age 65, and ordinary Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits take over. See the Social Security Handbook, 2005, section 501, available in many public libraries.

6. If I have been self-employed, can I file for SSDI if I become disabled?
Self-employed people who become disabled can get SSDI if they have paid the government enough self-employment tax and/or FICA tax to qualify for SSDI coverage. However, many self-employed people neglect to pay the tax and do not qualify.

7. I am drawing worker's compensation benefits. Can I still file for SSDI or do I need to wait until the worker's comp discontinues?
You do not have to wait until the worker's compensation ends and you should not wait that long. If you delay, there may be a gap between when your worker's compensation ends and your SSDI begins.

8. Will my spouse's income affect my SSDI?
Your spouse's income will not affect your SSDI. Your savings and investments also will not affect your eligibility. However, a spouse's income could disqualify you from SSI or reduce your SSI coverage. SSI is not insurance like SSDI; it is a welfare type program limited to people with very little income and resources.

9. Can several health problems combined qualify someone for SSDI, even if one by itself is not considered disabling?
Social Security is supposed to consider the combination of impairments that an individual suffers in determining disability. Many, perhaps most claimants for SSDI have more than one health problem and the combined effects must be considered.

10. Can mental illness serve as the basis for a SSDI claim?
Yes, mental illness is a frequent basis for awarding SSDI benefits.

Still looking for an answer? Contact the office of Thomas Hardy today with your question.

 

 

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