If you can’t work because of a disability, it can put a significant strain on your finances. Fortunately, there are several options for disability benefits, including filing for long-term disability if you have this type of insurance. You may also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
To qualify for SSDI, you must be unable to work for a period of 12 months or longer due to a disability, or have a condition that is expected to be terminal. If you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled and you have paid into the system by working and paying taxes, your claim for benefits may be approved. You will then receive a monthly check and a back pay award.
Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities who are seeking benefits through a government program like SSDI as well as from private insurance companies. We have significant experience navigating the Social Security disability system and have helped thousands of people like you get the benefits that they need. Whether you are filing an initial claim or appealing a denial of an SSDI application, we can help. Call our law firm today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Jersey City Social Security disability lawyer.
Understanding the Social Security Disability System
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one of two disability benefits programs offered by the SSA. The other program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is available to people who cannot work due to a disability and who also have limited assets and income. In some cases, an applicant may qualify for both SSDI and SSI.
Eligibility for SSDI is based on (1) whether you are disabled, as defined by the SSA; and (2) whether you have paid into the system sufficiently to be insured by it. SSDI is funded by payroll taxes, which individuals pay when they earn wages through employment, freelance work, or self-employment. When you pay these taxes, you earn credits (up to 4 annually). Your eligibility for SSDI benefits is based in part on the number of credits that you have earned.
The amount of money that you have earned – and that you have paid in taxes – also affects the amount of SSDI that you will receive if approved. While the average disability benefit in 2023 is just over $1,483 per month, the amount that you receive may be higher or lower depending on your lifetime earnings.
Do I Qualify for SSDI?
As noted above, there are two main factors that are used to determine SSDI eligibility: if you meet the definition of disabled per the SSA and if you have sufficient credits. The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine if an applicant is disabled:
- If you are working, you cannot earn more than an average of $1,470 (in 2023) per month (known as substantial gainful employment, or SGA). If you are not working, then the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will decide your condition;
- Your impairment or combination of impairments must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work, and must be expected to last for a year or longer or to result in death;
- Your impairment must meet or exceed all of the requirements on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments (“Blue Book”), or it must have other factors that equal a medical condition on the list;
- If your impairment does not meet this criterion, then it must prevent you from performing any of your past work; and
- You must not be able to do any other type of work, based on your impairment, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills.
The SSA will evaluate your medical records, vocational history, and other evidence to decide whether you qualify as disabled. They will also evaluate your credits to decide if you qualify for disability benefits. As a general rule, an applicant must have at least 40 credits to qualify, but this number may be lower for younger people.
Even if you are disabled, you may not be sure about your eligibility for SSDI benefits. After all, most of us aren’t intimately familiar with the Blue Book or the standards that the SSA uses to decide if someone is eligible for benefits. If you are considering filing for SSDI, a Jersey City disability benefits attorney can advise you of your options during a free claim review.
Do I Need a Jersey City Social Security Disability Attorney to File for SSDI?
You are not required to work with a lawyer to apply for SSDI benefits. If your case is clear-cut and you have sufficient supporting evidence, it may not be necessary to have legal representation. However, because the Social Security Administration is known for its high rates of denial for initial applications, it may be a good idea to hire a Jersey City SSDI lawyer from the start.
Disability claims can be more complicated than many people realize. Many claims are denied for basic reasons, like paperwork errors or missing documentation. Having a disability attorney on your team can reduce the likelihood of having your application for disability benefits denied.
Your lawyer will get started by listening to the story and evaluating your records. They will analyze these records based on their knowledge of how the SSA processes claims. If you need additional support for your application, such as an opinion that you are unable to perform your job duties from a vocational expert, your attorney will help you find the right professionals and build a strong case.
If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal with the help of a Social Security disability appeals lawyer. The SSA appeals process includes 4 levels:
- Request for Reconsideration;
- Request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ);
- Request review by the SSA Appeals Council; and
- File a lawsuit in federal court.
If your initial appeal is denied, then you can file an appeal at the next level – up to a federal court lawsuit. There are strict deadlines for filing an appeal, along with rules as to what evidence can be introduced. Even if you didn’t have legal representation when you filed your initial application, a Jersey City disability lawyer could represent you on appeal.
Filing for Disability? We Can Help.
SSDI benefits can provide financial stability to Americans who cannot work because of a disability. However, it can often be difficult to have a disability claim approved, particularly without the assistance of a Jersey City disability lawyer. Our law office will work with you to put together the strongest possible claim for Social Security disability benefits.
At Bross & Frankel, our lawyers have experience working within the SSA as well as in the private sector. Our extensive knowledge of the SSDI process allows us to help our clients get the benefits that they are entitled to under the law. If you are considering filing a claim for disability benefits, we can help. Call our law firm at 866-864-3130 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free claim review with a Jersey City Social Security disability attorney.
When Should I Apply for SSDI Benefits?
You may be eligible for SSDI benefits if you are unable to work for 12 months or longer, or if your condition is expected to be terminal. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to wait until you have been out of work for a year to file a claim. According to the SSA, you should file for SSDI as soon as you become disabled.
Once your claim is approved, then you will receive retroactive benefits to the date that the SSA determines you first became disabled (subject to a 5-month waiting period). This means that if you are approved for benefits, you will receive back pay for the period of time while your application is pending. If you have questions about applying for SSDI, contact Bross & Frankel to talk to a Jersey City, NJ disability lawyer.
Can I Get SSDI for a Mental Health Condition?
Mental illness, such as depression, can be considered a disability for purposes of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA’s Blue Book contains a section for mental health disorders. If your mental health condition meets or exceeds a Blue Book listing – or if it prevents you from performing past work or other work – then you may be eligible for SSDI benefits.
Getting approved for Social Security disability for a mental health issue can be challenging. A Jersey City Social Security disability attorney can work with you to put together evidence of your diagnosis and symptoms, and how they prevent you from working. Contact Bross & Frankel to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.