About Social Security Disability
If you suffer from a disability that prevents you from working, then you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.This includes people who have serious back injuries, cancer, strokes, and psychiatric disorders. To qualify, you must have a medically determinable impairment that is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Also, your disability must be so severe that it prevent you from being able to return to your past work and prevents you from being able to work at any other job in the national economy.
Two Different Types of Disability
There are two different types of Social Security Disability. The first is called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), also known as Title 2 because it is authorized under Title 2 of the Social Security Act. To qualify, you must have worked and paid into the system for at least 5 out of the past 10 years. Once this is achieved, you will then have an “insured status” that allows you to file for disability for up to 5 years from the date that you last worked. There are no income or asset restrictions to qualify. You simply must have an insured status, not be working, and meet the disability criteria. If you are approved, there is a mandatory 5 month waiting period before you get your first check. The average monthly benefit amount is about $1200, plus an additional amount if you have dependent children living with you.
The second type is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI), also known as Title 16 because it is authorized under Title 16 of the Social Security Act. This is for people that have not worked and paid into the system. SSI is a type of federal safety net designed to protect the most vulnerable segment of our society. To qualify, you must meet the disability criteria and have less than $2,000 worth of assets for a single person and $3,000 for a married person. The maximum monthly benefit is approximately $898 per month. There is an exemption for your own home that you are living in, and one vehicle.
70% Get Denied
Statistically the Social Security Administration denies approximately 70% of all initial applications for disability benefits. As a large federal bureaucracy, the Social Security Administration has a lengthy administrative appeals process that often leaves disabled claimants feeling overwhelmed and confused. Arguably half of these denied applications deserved to be denied. However, the other half of these people are genuinely disabled and have worked and paid into the system their whole life, only to be turned down in their time of greatest need.
The Appeals Process
Your first appeal is called Reconsideration. This is when a different person takes a look at your application and medical records and makes a decision about whether the initial denial was an error. This appeal is decided by a Social Security employee that has no medical or legal training. They are not nurses, doctors, or trained lawyers. Appeals for Reconsideration only have an 11% statistical chance of approval. They usually take 90 days to make a decision.
Your next appeal is for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (known as an ALJ). The hearing is your first real opportunity to have a trained judge look carefully at the merit of their case and personally listen to your testimony.This is significant, because the ALJ is supposed to be a neutral arbiter, and does not work for Social Security per se, but rather works for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), a federal administrative judge agency that only reviews disability appeals. In Sacramento, ODAR approves 50% of all hearings on average, but it can vary widely from one judge to the next. From the date that the hearing is requested to the date that the hearing is actually held is typically 9 to 12 months. They usually take 60-90 days to decide.