Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits for approximately nine million American workers who are suffering from life-altering illnesses or disabilities. Funded by Social Security payroll tax contributions (like retirement benefits), qualifying disability beneficiaries must meet certain work history requirements in order to qualify.
Most of the program’s beneficiaries are 55 years or older, some of them suffering from extremely serious conditions, such as stage IV cancer, without the ability to return to the workplace. They are amongst the most severely impaired in the country, and are more than three times as likely to die in a year as others in their same age group.
And yet, only four in 10 people who apply to SSDI are approved, with the process taking anywhere from months to years, because of how difficult and complicated it is.
How It Works
You can file for SSDI immediately once you become ill or disabled if you predict that you will be out of work for at least a year due to the illness or disability. Alternatively, those who are suffering from a condition that could be fatal within a year can also apply for SSDI. It is also important to note that disabilities are not limited to physical conditions: many claimants receive benefits due to mental illness. Your benefits will last for as long as you are unable to return to work due to your disability.
While you are not required to work with an attorney when applying for SSDI, it is highly recommended that you do, as experienced SSDI counsel can help ensure that your application is complete and increase your chances of being successful with your claim.
SSDI Made Even More Difficult To Get
Stories of those who have been denied SSDI are heartbreaking – they involve people suffering from debilitating
conditions, often bedridden, unable to work, and who are still frequently denied SSDI benefits because the process is incredibly complicated and difficult. Currently, only 45 percent of those who apply are accepted, and just getting a hearing takes an average of 600 days. There are now more than a million people across the country simply waiting for a hearing.
As if the application process wasn’t already difficult enough, this spring, the Social Security Administration introduced changes which include the special consideration given to someone’s long-time doctor; a move that many are calling a mistake. It would effectively equate the opinion of a treating physician with that of a medical consultant who performs a one-time brief examination or even someone who simply reviews the paperwork associated with a case and never does an examination of the applicant.
There is no question that this will ultimately lead to more application denials for those who suffer from particularly complex conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or schizophrenia. In increasing denials, there will inevitably be more appeals, thus overall contributing to the overall work backlog.
Trump’s Proposed Budget Goes after SSDI
In addition, the current administration recently proposed $64 billion in cuts to SSDI, resulting in an estimated 946,000 SSDI beneficiaries being kicked off the program and/or being prevented from eligibility.
Although the average annual benefit hovers right above the poverty line, this is the largest proposed cut to any disability programs in the entire budget, designed to “increase labor force participation.” The administration has estimated that it will save them close to $50 billion dollars by making the cuts, however, the plan is lacking in the important details, such as how they will differentiate between those who should and should not receive SSDI.
The way SSDI works is that your payments come within six months of when your disability officially began. Applicants are also eligible to receive retroactive payments for the 12 months prior to the application date (minus the five-month waiting period). However, the proposed budget goes after retroactive disability insurance benefits from six to 12 months prior to the date of application, costing individuals an average of $7,000 in disability-related expenses.
The budget proposal arguably demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what SSDI is and what it does, as the program has never covered partial or short-term disabilities.
Injury Settlements Do Not Affect SSDI
Many clients ask us whether or not a personal injury settlement and/or other income or savings will affect their SSDI. In this regard, it is important to note that your settlement will not have any impact on your SSDI, as the program is entirely based on your long-standing, severe disability preventing you from engaging in employment. Your SSDI benefits are calculated based on the amount of time worked and past wages and are regularly adjusted each year based on cost-of-living. Conversely, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is affected by an applicant’s need; thus your settlement can affect your SSI benefits (if you participate in that program).
There are some other key differences between SSDI and SSI: SSDI is reserved for those who have worked for at least five of the last 10 years; however, if you have not had a job, you are more likely eligible for SSI. Some of our clients also ask us about how SSDI overlaps with workers’ compensation: you can receive both at the same time, although your SSDI benefits may be lowered to offset the workers’ comp benefits. Similarly, you can be receiving SSDI and also qualify for SSI.
Social Security Disability Lawyers in New Orleans, LA
SSDI is an important program that offers much-needed financial relief to millions of disabled Americans.
If you cannot work because of an illness or injury and expect to be unable to return to work, you may qualify for benefits. Our attorneys can help explain the application process to you, ensure that every detail is accounted for when you apply, and/or assist you if your application has been denied. Contact us today for a free consultation.