If you or a loved one suffers from certain medical conditions, you’re aware of the extensive financial implications. Under the circumstances, it’s essential that you understand all options available to help support your family and household. Disabled individuals and their parents may be eligible to obtain monetary benefits through two key federal Social Security Disability programs.
Our team at Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates can provide the essential advice you need as you’re working through Social Security disability proceedings, including applications, reconsideration, and other hearings. We bring more than 50 years of combined legal experience to our clients throughout Georgia and Florida, so contact our office today to discuss your case with a Social Security disability attorney.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
This federal program closely resembles its terminology: An insurance policy. Employees pay premiums in the form of mandatory deductions from their paychecks under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. If you’re unable to work because of a disability and you meet other eligibility rules, you may be able to obtain monetary SSDI benefits. The key is qualifying under SSA regulations, which requires an understanding of some of the basic terminology.
SSDI Eligibility Rules: In general, you qualify for SSDI benefits if you suffer from a disabling medical condition that is expected to last longer than one year or be terminal. The injury or illness must prevent you or severely limit you from doing your job. Plus, you must have a minimum number of work credits, which is how you pay into the Social Security system. Your work credits are akin to the premiums you pay for other insurance policies, like home and auto.
Important Terms in the Evaluation Process: Besides your work history, there are other important qualification concepts that you need to review with your Social Security disability lawyer. Learning the terminology may also be helpful.
- Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): Your SGA is a measurement of the earnings you make through working in your chosen profession. In 2019, the threshold is $1,220 per month or $2,040 for blind applicants. If you make the equivalent or more, your disability isn’t considered severe enough to allow SSDI benefits. Your application will likely be denied unless you can overcome the assessment with solid evidence.
- Listing of Impairments: Often called the “Blue Book” for purposes of Social Security disability claims, this is a directory of thousands of illnesses and injuries that affect the human body. There are 14 categories covering cardiovascular, skin, skeletal, respiratory, mental, and other ailments for adults. To meet or equal a listing in the Blue Book, you must provide comprehensive medical records and other information as part of your application.
- Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): If your medical condition doesn’t exactly match up to an item on the Listing of Impairments, you may qualify for SSDI benefits through your RFC. This evaluation refers to how your injury or ailment leads to limitations in your job-related tasks. SSA may not approve your claim if you can still do other work, either in your current occupation or some other job you can be trained to do. The measurement goes back to your SGA and what you’re able to earn up to the monthly threshold amount.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
This federal program is also intended to provide financial support to individuals suffering from disabling conditions, but the eligibility rules are very different. As a needs-based program, the focus is on people who have limited means. The threshold consideration is income from various sources and the value of the assets held by the applicant. If the associated dollar values are too high, you cannot obtain SSI benefits regardless of your medical condition. Because work history is not a consideration, many disabled children under the age of 18 may qualify, but parents are usually in the position to apply on their behalf.
How to Qualify for SSI: There are three requirements that you or your child must meet to be eligible for SSI benefits:
- You must suffer from a disability or be over 65 years old;
- You must have a monthly income below a minimum threshold, some of which may be earned through a job; and,
- You cannot own property in excess of $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a spouse, subject to some exceptions like your home, car, and other essential assets.
Benefits Available for Eligible Claimants: If SSA approves your application for SSI benefits, you may receive payments up to $771 per person or $1,157 per couple in 2019. These amounts may be reduced by your income, and they’re subject to annual adjustments for cost of living (COLA).
Special Considerations Involving Children: If you’re the parent of a child that has developmental issues or physical ailments, SSI can help you cover some of the costs involved with medical treatment and long-term care. The assessment of disability is slightly different as compared to adults, though it still starts with reference to SSA’s Listing of Impairments; there’s a separate Blue Book of impairments for children under age 18.
The amount of SSI benefits will depend on many factors, as part of the analysis involves the income that’s available to the child through parents and other sources. The concept of “deeming” income applies, since SSI is still a needs-based program – even for children. Because of the technical nature of SSA’s eligibility rules for minors, it’s crucial for parents to work with knowledgeable legal counsel.
Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers Serving Georgia and Florida
As you can see, the process for obtaining monetary benefits under Social Security disability programs is challenging if you don’t have a legal background. Mistakes and omissions in applying can lead to significant delays, making your life very difficult when you’re dealing with financial hardship. If you’re an applicant or parent, you have a better chance of getting approval when you have legal assistance from a skilled SSDI/SSI attorney. To learn more about these programs, please contact the Law Offices of Julie A. Rice to set up a free consultation.