Social Security Disability: Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

Accidents, illness and aging can cause significant disabilities that interfere with your ability to work. If you're disabled and have difficulty working or can't work at all, you likely wonder if there are disability benefits that could help you. The largest disability assistance program in the United States is offered in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).


What is Social Security Disability?

What is Social Security Disability?


Social Security Disability Insurance is designed for individuals who are disabled and who paid into the social security system. To meet SSDI eligibility criteria, you need to have earned enough work credits. The number of work credits required changes annually, so you'll need to check with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or your disability attorney. In general, at least 20 of your credits need to have been earned in the ten years before you became disabled.


However, there are different rules for younger workers who haven't had the time to earn a sufficient number of work credits.

The SSA also uses various criteria to determine if you're considered disabled and are eligible for benefits. To meet SSDI eligibility criteria, you

  • must not earn more than a set monthly amount,

  • have a condition that significantly interferes with your ability to complete work activities and that has affected you for at least 12 months, and

  • have a condition that is found on the SSA's list of disabling conditions.

If your medical condition isn't on the list, doctors who work with the SSA will determine if they believe it is as severe as other conditions on the list.

In many cases, the SSA will determine that your diagnosis is not severe regardless of what your medical doctors have explained to you. However, that doesn't mean that you might not be awarded benefits.


In order to determine if you still meet the criteria for disability benefits, the SSA will decide if

  • you are able to do the type of work that you did when you were employed and

  • if there is any other type of work you could do with your physical and/or mental limitations.


Once a determination has been made in your case, you'll be notified by mail.



Is There a Difference Between Social Security Disability and SSI Disability?


If you've already done some research on Social Security Disability, you might have noticed that there is another SSA program called supplemental security income (SSI).


This is an income-based program that provides benefits based on financial need. If you're eligible for SSDI but your payments are very low, you may be able to receive SSI at the same time.


However, many individuals who qualify for SSDI will not qualify for SSI.



How Long Does Social Security Disability Review Take?


Applying for Social Security Disability is the first step in securing regular income if you've become disabled and can't work.


However, the SSDI application process can take a significant amount of time. The system used to determine your SSDI eligibility is complicated and rife with bureaucratic obstacles.


You should be prepared to wait anywhere from three to seven months to receive an initial decision on your Social Security Disability application. The long wait time for benefits means that you should start the application process as soon as you are able.


Some serious, terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and acute leukemia qualify for compassionate allowances, which means that a disability claim is awarded as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed.


The SSA uses a computer screening system to identify individuals who have claimed such disabilities.





How Long Do Social Security Appeals Take?


If you've applied for SSDI, you're likely hopeful that you'll get an approval quickly. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that about 70 percent of all SSDI and SSI claims are initially rejected.


Thankfully, you can appeal an initial rejection by the SSA. This is how many individuals end up receiving these benefits.

The Social Security Disability application system is complicated, and fighting with the bureaucrats at the SSA can be extremely frustrating. Many individuals hire an attorney to help fight disability appeals.


Attorneys who specialize in SSDI know the ins and outs of the approval system and are often able to help their clients prove that they are eligible for benefits.


You may want to conduct a Google search for "social security lawyers near me" to find help. If you're in Pennsylvania, attorney Matthew Kelly will be happy to provide you with a free consultation and help you determine if you should go forward with the application process.



How Much Social Security Disability Am I Eligible For?


Many disabled workers have found themselves wondering, "how much Social Security Disability can I get?"


After all, you want to make sure that you have enough money to take care of your family and live comfortably.


The answer depends on how much you earned from jobs covered under Social Security.


In 2019, the average pay for individuals receiving SSDI is $1,197 monthly.


The maximum monthly payment limit is currently $2,788. Your attorney can help you calculate anticipated benefits using your annual Social Security statement.



How Far Does Social Security Disability Back Pay?


Once you receive a positive determination on your SSDI eligibility, you'll be notified about the monthly benefit amount you'll receive.


The SSA will also issue back pay.


The amount of back pay that you'll receive is determine using your original Social Security Disability application date. If it's found that you qualify for disability benefits, you'll likely be paid all the way back to the date of your initial application.


If you were disabled before you applied, the SSA may award you an additional 12 months of back pay.



Does Social Security Disability Change at Age 62?


Once you reach retirement age, which varies depending on your birthdate, your SSDI benefits will convert to regular Social Security retirement benefits.


Most individuals will receive the same amount of money once their SSDI benefits are converted to retirement benefits.


However, if you received both SSDI and workers' compensation or public disability benefits from certain government jobs, the amount of your Social Security benefit would likely increase once you reach retirement age.



When Does Social Security Disability Pay?


The date that you'll receive your monthly Social Security check or direct deposit depends on your birthdate. If you receive both SSDI and SSI, you'll be paid on the third of every month.


Why Was My Social Security Disability Check Reduced?


Once you've received a positive determination regarding your SSDI eligibility, you'll receive a set amount of money every month.


The amount you are paid may change annually if there is a cost-of-living increase. However, your check may also be reduced if

  • you complete substantial work that earns you more than a set amount of money per month,

  • you receive other state or federal disability benefits, or

  • you owe money to a state or federal agency that is authorized to garnish a portion of your payment.

The Social Security Disability application process can be confusing and disheartening.


You've likely wondered, "are there disability lawyers near me who could help?"


The answer is yes. Attorney Matthew Kelly has extensive experience helping clients in Pennsylvania with disability benefits.



If you need help, call our office today to schedule a complimentary consultation with Mr. Kelly.

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