Social Security is a federal program that provides financial benefits to retired or disabled individuals. This program was set up by the federal government and is required for all workers earning an income. The purpose of the program is to provide financial assistance for an individual when they reach retirement age or if they become disabled prior to retirement age.
The Social Security Disability program is available for those individuals who are not of retirement age, but are unable to work due to a physical and/or mental condition. There are two types of Social Security Disability programs. One is based off of your work history and the other is based on your current financial resources. Both programs share the same medical requirements but differ in terms of their technical qualifications.
The first program would be for disability insurance. This is based on your work history. The Social Security Disability Insurance program is just like how the name sounds. It is an insurance program run by the federal government meant to provide you financial assistance if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to work due to a medical condition. This program is similar to car insurance in that you pay a premium and have disability coverage for a certain time period. You pay your “premium” by working and paying taxes into the social security system. To qualify for this insurance, you must have worked long enough and contributed enough in taxes to have this disability coverage. You must also prove your disability began prior to your disability insurance expiring. Unlike retirement benefits, you only have disability insurance coverage for approximately 5 years from when you stop working. If you are approved for disability benefits, you would be eligible to receive a monthly monetary benefit which is determined to how much money you have contributed to the program. The other benefits is Medicare health insurance, which would apply two years from the date you are eligible to receive disability benefits. For example, if you are found disabled as of January 1, 2014, you would be eligible to first receive disability benefits 5 months from that date, being June 1, 2014. The 5 months where you are not able to receive benefits is seen as a processing fee the social security administration collects for processing your claim. So if you are eligible to first receive benefits as of June 2014, Medicare health insurance would go into effect two years from that date, being June 2016. If you are confused by this do not worry. These requirements are complicated and best explained by an experienced social security disability attorney.
The other type of application is for supplemental security income. This program does not require you to have worked and paid taxes into the social security system to qualify. The qualification requirements for this program look at your current financial situation while also determine your medical eligibility. To qualify for SSI, you must meet both financial requirements along with certain medical requirements. SSI looks at both your income and assets when determining if you meet the financial requirements. The asset limit for individuals is $2,000 while for a couple it is $3,000. Excluded from assets are one home and one vehicle, all other possessions will be counted towards your assets. The income limits for an individual are $733 and for a couple are $1,100.
One benefit of the SSI program is if you are found financially and medically eligible, you will be able to obtain health coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid is a state run health insurance program that is available for low income individuals who are either disabled, single parents, or elderly.
If you plan to apply for the disability insurance program it is important to also apply for the SSI program, even if you do not believe you would meet the financial requirements. The reason to apply for SSI in conjunction with the SSDI application is based on when you would be eligible to start receiving benefits. If you are found disabled, under the SSDI program there is a five month wait period before you may begin receiving benefits. For example, if you are found disabled as of January 1, 2017 you would not be eligible to begin receiving benefits until July, 2017, which is five full calendar months from your disability date. These regulations are different for the SSI program, which you can begin receiving benefits at any point after your initial filing date. So if you file for disability benefits January 1, 2017 with a disability date of October 1, 2016, you will only be eligible to receive benefits from your filing date of January 1, 2017.
Both programs require the same medical determination to see if your conditions meet the definition of disability. If you are covered by the disability insurance program, the next step is to prove your medical eligibility. Meaning, your medical conditions must meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Social Security Disability is defined as inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. Because of the 12-month durational requirement that is built into the Social Security disability definition, you can tell this program is not meant to be a short-term type of benefit. If you believe you will only be out of work for a short period of time, less than 12 months then there is no point applying for the program. Social Security is very strict on the 12-month durational requirement.
To show you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment you must show you are unable to not only perform your past relevant work as well as being unable to perform any other jobs in the national economy. One exception to this rule is if your medical condition meets a social security listing. These Listings are impairments which SSA has determined automatically qualify you for benefits.