Applying for Social Security Disability benefits may seem like an intimidating task, but there are many decisions you can make to ease the process and obtain the benefits to which you are entitled. Here, Social Security attorney Jeffrey Scholnick breaks down crucial tips to consider when applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Apply for Disability Benefits as Soon as Possible
One of the most common concerns those applying for Social Security Disability benefits have is the amount of time it often takes to receive an answer from the Social Security Administration (SSA). While there is no exact time frame for a claim to be approved or denied, you should file for benefits as soon as you—and your doctor(s)—have reasonable cause to believe that your condition is expected to last twelve months or longer.
Because the claims process can often take many months, depending on the circumstances, it is vital to begin the process as soon as possible to ensure you are receiving the benefits due to you. You can apply for benefits online, at a local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213. However, my recommendation is to file in-person at the local Social Security Office. This way, all of the documents are immediately entered into the SSA’s system and you can obtain proof that you have filed your claim.
During the application process, the SSA will require several essential pieces of information about you and your work history. This includes, but is not limited to, your Social Security number, name and Social Security number of your current spouse, names and dates of birth of any minor children, account and routing numbers of your bank or financial institution, information about your medical condition and more. Be sure to have all necessary information available to help expedite the process.
Understand How the SSA Defines Disability
It is important to note that the SSA defines disability differently than other government programs and only pays benefits for “total” disability, not partial or short-term disability. In order for the SSA to consider you to be totally disabled under Social Security, you must meet the following criteria:
- You can no longer perform the work that you previously did,
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last one year, or result in death, and
- You cannot adjust to other work due to your medical condition(s)
Social Security also has a full list of medical conditions deemed to be severe enough that a claimant will automatically be considered disabled.
Obtain Updated Medical Records
One of the most common reasons Social Security Disability benefits are denied is the lack of concrete medical records. For your claim to be approved, you must provide substantial evidence to show that your medical condition hinders your ability to work your current job and will keep you from working in a similar role for at least one year. Having medical records from your physician—indicating that your condition has affected your ability to work—is a requirement for the application process and should be given careful consideration by the SSA during the claim evaluation.
Make Sure You Have Enough Work Credits
In addition to having a qualifying, disabling condition, you also must have worked long enough—and recently enough—to qualify for disability benefits. When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn up to a maximum of four credits for each year. In 2018, you will earn one credit for each $1,320 of wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,280, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. If you do not have enough work credits, you still may be entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The number of credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. If you are disabled before the age of 24, for example, you may qualify if you have earned 6 credits in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts. Visit the SSA’s online resource regarding work credits to learn more and see if you potentially have enough work credits to qualify.
Consult an Experienced Attorney
Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is often a lengthy and complicated process, and you have a right to maintain legal representation whether you are applying for the first time, issuing an appeal or are already receiving benefits. Jeff Scholnick has vast experience with Social Security Law and is prepared to advocate for you throughout the entire process. For more information and assistance with your unique situation, contact us today.