Following the onset of disability, thousands of Americans every year file for benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If approved, they receive monthly payments based on their contributions to the Social Security Disabiity Trust Fund.
Since there are so many diverse factors that can affect a disability application and/or benefit amount, there are some key things you should keep in mind when applying. By staying informed on the way the SSA makes benefit determinations, you can avoid the common mistakes thousands of Americans make every year when applying; mistakes that can cost you your benefits entirely.
How the SSA Classifies Disability
For one, you will not be eligible for the SSA’s disability benefit program if you’re not affected by a condition the administration officially classifies as disabling. You need a recognized disability to be eligible for disability benefits. Typically, the SSA provides benefits for conditions that inhibit or affect major bodily systems, with severity that limits one’s ability to work. This includes conditions that affect:
- Mental health
- The cardiovascular system
- Respiratory function
Also important to your application is the extent or perceived duration of your condition. To receive benefits through SSDI, your condition must last or be expected to last at least one year. Benefits are not provided for temporary illnesses or conditions, such as minor workplace injury or broken bones.
The best way to know for certain if your condition could qualify you for disability benefits is by contacting an experienced, compassionate disability expert in your state; that individual can help build your application and get you the benefits you need following a disability.
How Your Work History Affects SSDI
Another factor that can entirely change your application or benefit amount is your work history prior to disability. When reviewing your application, the SSA will use your Social Security Earnings Record to determine your insured status and the amount of your potential disability benefit.
Throughout your working life, you essentially fund your own future benefits through Social Security in the form of tax credits (the amount deducted from every paycheck for Social Security; generally shown as FICA tax). In doing so, you are essentially paying yourself forward in the unfortunate event of disability. To be eligible for these benefits, you will have typically (in general terms) had to work at least 50% of the time leading up to your condition.
The Time it Takes to Receive Benefits
The Social Security Administration receives millions of applications for SSDI benefits every year (over 2.5 million in 2013 alone). Benefit decisions do not happen overnight. The SSA has to carefully weigh each application on its own, and decide whether or not to provide benefits on a case-by-case basis; because of this, it may take upwards of several months to receive a decision on your application.
Once an application has been filed, there’s not much you can do but wait for the administration to contact you regarding your case and either award or deny benefits for your disability. This is why the sooner you apply for benefits, the better off you will be.
Applying and Appealing for SSDI
In almost all cases, you should apply for disability benefits the instant you are diagnosed with your condition. There is no real reason to wait to apply, especially if your condition renders you completely unable to work. Even if you can still partially perform in the workplace and earn wages, you should apply as soon as possible, to receive the maximum, necessary benefits for your condition.
When applying for SSDI, you should also keep in mind your application may be denied (in fiscal year 2013, 63% of applications were denied at the Initial Level). If this happens, don’t panic, since all is not lost. With the right professional guidance, making a successful disability appeal is rather simple. To learn more on appealing the SSA’s initial determination, read our article on the appeal process here.
Contacting an Expert Can Make All the Difference
Poor documentation, application building and falling short on legal requirements can all put your benefits in jeopardy. Fortunately, you can largely avoid these easy mistakes by hiring a skilled disability professional to guide you through the application process and to ensure that all documentation is submitted accurately and on a timely basis.
Disability experts help thousands of applicants every year receive their maximum benefit amount; in many cases, they have previously been denied benefits. Don’t hesitate to contact a consultant in your area, and improve your application for SSDI today.