Published on: June 24, 2014
When you are considering applying for SSDI benefits because you have been stricken with a disabling condition that prevents you from working, it is important to be prepared. The SSA is under ever-increasing pressure to make sure that aid is being given to only the right people.
Who are the right people? Those who are ligitimatelly disabled and have paid enough into the program to be considered insured under the Social Security Act.
With the ever increasing backlog of SSDI applications and more stringent application requirements, getting access to the benefits to which you may be entitled could be difficult and time-consuming. To help you be better prepared for your SSDI application, the Disability Experts of Florida have assembled a list of questions that you should ask yourself before you start your application for benefits.
Question #1: Can I Still Work?
This is perhaps the single most important question you should ask yourself before you begin your disability application. When you answer this question, it is vitally important that you are perfectly honest with yourself.
If you cannot do the work you once did, and cannot enter a new field of work, you shouldn’t force yourself to continue working to the point of worsening your condition. If you are still able to work your old job at a reduced capacity or can find new work because of training that you’ve undergone in the past, that’s something you’ll have to consider before making an SSDI application.
The SSA will check if you have skills and training that may allow you to work in a field other than your old job, so it is important that you assess your credentials beforehand.
Question #2: Do I Need SSDI?
This is usually a simple question for many people. If you are unable to keep working because of your condition, do you have the resources to pursue treatment and take care of yourself or your family without the income your work once provided?
The SSA awards SSDI benefits based on whether or not the applicant is unable to work and is insured; financial need is not considered in a determination of SSDI eligibility.
Question #3: Is My Condition Disabling?
The answer to this question may be deceptively difficult for some. A person who loses the use of their legs and/or arms is obviously disabled; but what about the person who suffers from fibromyalgia or an extreme mental condition?
Not every condition that can cause a disability is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, which can make finding out if your condition qualifies frustrating at times. However, the Blue Book does list what the criteria are for qualifying for disability, regardless of your specific condition. If your condition meets or exceeds the criteria listed in the Blue Book, then you may have a strong case for acquiring SSDI benefits.
Question #4: Will My Work History Qualify for SSDI?
In order to qualify for SSDI benefits in Florida or any other state, you must be able to pass both the duration of work test and the recent work test (there are exceptions for certain blind workers).
For the recent work test, you will need to have worked for a certain amount of time in the years prior to becoming disabled. For the duration of work test, you have to have worked for a certain amount of time in total, not just the past few years. In most cases, if you can pass the recent work test, you will pass the duration of work test. Generally, you will need 5 years of work under Social Security in the 10-year period prior to becoming disabled to meet the recent work test (also known as "Disability Insured Status").
Question #5: How Long Will I be Disabled?
In order to qualify for disability, your condition must be expected to last at least one year or already have lasted one year or result in death. If your condition is temporary in nature, such as a broken bone, then you are not very likely to qualify for SSDI benefits.
However, there are other programs that can provide temporary, short-term assistance while you’re unable to work if you suffer from a disability that is not expected to last a year.
Question #6: When Should I File?
The answer to this is easy: as soon as you know you’re disabled. While it can take months for a disability claim to go through the SSA, and no benefits can be paid until six months after the date in which you became disabled, it is still important to file for benefits ASAP. In addition, SSI benefits do not have the 6-month waiting period and can be payable while you are waiting for your SSDI to start.
If you’re approved for benefits before the end of the six-month waiting period, you’ll be able to start collecting benefits at the earliest possible date. There’s really no reason to avoid filing once you know you’re disabled.
Question #7: What Paperwork Do I Need?
To file for disability, you’ll need to prove that you’re eligible for benefits by providing the SSA with:
- A birth certificate (or equivalent documentation).
- Proof of status as a current U.S. citizen or legal alien if not born in the U.S.A.
- W-2 forms (or equivalent tax documents if self-employed) for the previous year.
- Information on your medical treatment sources (Name; address; telephone and FAX number; approximate treatment dates)
- Records of any and all workers’ compensation or other compensatory benefits you’ve received (both permanent and temporary ones).
The SSA typically requires originals of any and all documents. However, they will accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns and medical documents. If you don’t have the original documents required by the SSA, they can and will help you retrieve them.
Question #8: Do I Need Help?
With an extensive amount of evidence for your condition and some careful preparation, you should be ready to face the SSA. However, keep in mind that the majority of cases are denied at the first two levels.
You don’t have to face the SSA alone. There are many resources that you can use to improve your odds of being approved for SSDI benefits. If you feel that you have a strong case for receiving disability benefits, go ahead and file.
If your initial application is rejected, though, don’t give up. Get a second opinion from Disability Experts of Florida to help you assess your case and get a better chance of getting the benefits to which you’re entitled.