About Social Security Disability: What You Should Know Before Filing for Disability Benefits
Most people think of retirement when they hear Social Security, however Social Security provides benefits to people who are disabled as well.
The list of requirements that must be met for Social Security disability benefits is pretty long, and many people don’t meet those
requirements. In fact, the Social Security Administration says over 60% of applicants are denied each year because they don’t meet the strict definition of disability.
Before filing for disability – tests you must meet to determine if you are eligible for benefits:
First, you must be fully insured, which means you have earned 40 credits over 10 years in covered employment. In 2011, you must earn at least $1,120 to earn one credit and $4,480 to earn four credits (you can only earn four credits in a year). If you have less than 10 years of work history, there is an alternative test based on your age to determine if you meet the duration of work test.
The second test is the recent work test, which basically says that you must have earned at least 20 credits in the last five out of ten years that ends with the calendar quarter you became disabled. In general, you must have recent work history in order to qualify for disability benefits. Again, alternative tests apply for people who become disabled before age 31, since they haven’t had time to build the work history that older workers have.
Definition of Disability – Read this before Filing for Disability (Note: most people do not meet this strict definition of disability)
Social Security has a very strict definition of disability, so make sure you qualify before filing for disability benefits. It’s important to note that Social Security does not pay benefits based on partial disabilities, you must be totally and permanently disabled to received benefits. According to Social Security a person is disabled when he or she is unable to work because of a medical problem or condition that lasted or can be expected to last for at least one year (continuously), or that will result in the person’s death. Also, the person must not be able to engage in any “substantial gainful activity”.
If you meet the strict definition of disability above, then you should apply for Social Security benefits as soon as possible. First, the time to process your application is very lengthy; second, there is a mandatory five-month waiting period, so you will not receive benefits right away when filing for disability.
What happens after you apply for Social Security disability benefits?
There are five main questions that Social Security looks at when reviewing a disability application:
1. Is the person filing for disability currently working? If yes, is the person earning more than $1,000 per month? If so, then the person is considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity and their claim is most likely going to be denied.
2. How severe is the medical problem? The illness or injury must severely limit the person’s ability to do basic tasks, such as sitting or walking. In other words, it must limit the person’s ability to do work.
3. Is the illness or condition on the List of Impairments? Social Security has a list of impairments which is a list of medical problems that are so severe that any person who suffers from them is automatically considered to be disabled.
4. Can the person do the job he or she did before she became disabled? If so, their claim for disability benefits will probably be denied. Disability is intended for people who are so severely disabled that they cannot do the work they did before they become ill or injured.
5. Can the worker filing for disability benefits do any type of work? Again, if the answer is yes, the person’s claim will probably be denied if they can do work that is considered “substantial gainful activity”.
About your Social Security disability benefits:
If you do qualify for disability, your benefit will be based on your lifetime earnings record. Your benefit will continue until you recover and your disability ends or until you reach your normal retirement age, at which time your benefits will switch over to retirement benefits.
If you are receiving disability, your family may also qualify for benefits. Your spouse may receive a benefit of 50% of your benefit beginning at age 62 (divorced spouses may also qualify if you were married for at least 10 years). Any children you have that are under the age of 18 (or over age 18 and disabled before age 22), may also qualify for 50% of the amount you are receiving. The total benefits your family can receive is limited based on the maximum family benefit (updated each year).
Filing for disability can be a very lengthy and complicated process. To get started you can visit the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov and click on Apply for Disability Benefits.