When we first enter the workforce as young adults, most of us expect to work until we retire. Unfortunately, things don’t always happen according to plan. Health issues, accidents, and injuries can often force us out of the workplace before we are ready to retire.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two disability benefits programs for Americans who are unable to work due to a medical or mental health condition. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits provide a monthly check for people who cannot work because of one or more disabilities. To qualify, you must meet the SSA definition of disability and must have worked and paid taxes on your wages.
With offices throughout New Jersey, Bross & Frankel advocates for people with disabilities as they go through the Social Security disability process. We have significant experience with all aspects of the process, from initial applications to appeals. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Newark Social Security disability lawyer, give our law office a call today.
What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are disability programs offered by the SSA. For both SSDI and SSI, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled to qualify. However, SSDI requires a work history while SSI requires proof of limited assets and income.
Some people may be eligible for both SSDI and SSI benefits based on their disability, work history, and current financial situation. However, even if you don’t meet the qualifications for SSI, you may still be eligible for SSDI.
SSI is financed by general funds from the U.S. Treasury, while SSDI is funded by payroll taxes. Because SSDI is an “insurance” program, you have to pay into it in order to be covered. Broadly, you earn Social Security “credits” by working and paying taxes. If you have enough credits and are considered disabled, then you may be eligible for SSDI benefits.
If you are approved for SSDI, you will receive a monthly check plus a back pay award based on when the SSA decided your disability started. For this reason, it is important to apply for benefits as soon as you become disabled. The total amount of benefits that you receive each month will be based on your lifetime earnings but will average around $1,480 per month in 2023.
Can I Get SSDI Benefits?
There are two factors that the SSA evaluates to determine if a person is eligible for SSDI: (1) whether they have sufficient work credits and (2) if they are disabled. Generally, applicants need 40 credits to qualify for SSDI, although this number is lower for younger workers. If you have paid into the system sufficiently, then the SSA will determine whether you are disabled under their definition of disability.
The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to make this decision:
- 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 (also known as the 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.
This determination is made after evaluating the evidence you submitted and your application. Typically, an applicant may include evidence such as medical records, doctors’ reports, recent test results, pay stubs, and any determination made regarding workers’ compensation or similar benefits.
In some cases, evidence of a disability and inability to work is clear-cut. However, many cases are more challenging. For example, if you have been diagnosed with liver disease or cirrhosis, it isn’t enough to show that you have the diagnosis – you must also demonstrate that the symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working. An experienced Newark Social Security disability attorney can evaluate your medical records and other documentation to help you put together the strongest possible claim for benefits.
Do I Need to Hire a Newark Social Security Disability Attorney?
You are not required to have legal representation to file for Social Security disability. However, given that approximately 42% of people are approved for SSDI benefits, it makes sense to work with a lawyer. While an attorney cannot guarantee a particular outcome, they can work with you to develop evidence to support your claim.
SSDI lawyers know what evidence the SSA looks for, both in a review of an initial application and during the appeals process. They will ensure that your application has the right types of evidence to prove to the SSA that you are, in fact, disabled. If your claim has been denied, then your disability appeals lawyer will gather additional evidence – including expert reports and witnesses – to support an appeal.
Even if your initial application is rejected, you can still move forward with your claim. There are 4 levels of appeal with the SSA:
- 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.
You must file an appeal by the deadline set forth in the notice of denial and must comply with the technical rules for each level of appeal. A seasoned disability benefits lawyer can help you with the appeal process, from developing a strong record to making arguments before an ALJ at a hearing. If necessary, they will file a lawsuit in federal court to advocate on your behalf.
Thinking about Filing for SSDI? Give Our Law Firm a Call.
If you are unable to work because of a disability, you may be concerned about your financial stability. Fortunately, there are programs like SSDI that are designed to provide cash benefits to people who qualify. Our legal team can work with you to apply for benefits or appeal a denial.
Bross & Frankel has helped thousands of people throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania get the disability benefits that they are entitled to under the law. With decades of combined experience, we know how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a Newark Social Security disability attorney, call our law office at 866-864-3130 or fill out our online contact form.
What Disabilities Are Covered by SSDI?
Almost any physical or mental impairment could be the basis of a claim for SSDI benefits – as long as it is “medically determinable.” This means that the condition can be discovered and described by doctors. While the SSA maintains a listing of impairments, you may be approved for benefits even if your condition isn’t listed in the “Blue Book.”
Qualifying for SSDI can be more difficult if your condition isn’t in the Blue Book – but it is far from impossible. An experienced Newark Social Security disability lawyer can help you decide how to move forward with your case. Contact Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review with a member of our legal team.
How Does the SSA Decide If I Am Able to Work?
If your disability does not meet or exceed a condition on the Listing of Impairments, you will have to prove that you cannot engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The SSA will decide this by having a disability claims examiner complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment form. They will fill out this form based on your medical records and any reports from your doctor.
If you are considering filing an application for SSDI benefits, it is important to build a thorough medical record to support your claim. Our law firm can help with that process, including referring you to experts who can evaluate your condition, your abilities, and your limitations. Contact Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review with a Newark, New Jersey SSDI lawyer.