The Social Security Administration offers two forms of financial assistance to people with medical, psychological, or psychiatric disabilities that prevent them from working or limit the amount of work they can perform. The Social Security Disability (SSD) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) programs have different eligibility requirements. Both involve a lengthy application process.
Assess Your Eligibility for SSD First
To qualify for SSD payments, you must suffer from a disability that prevents you from working for more than one year, or a disability that will result in your death.
Other Requirements for SSD
To receive SSD benefits, you must pass both the "recent work" and "duration of work" tests. To satisfy the recent work test, you must have worked a certain amount of time. The amount of time varies by the age at which you became disabled. If you become disabled at 50, for example, you must have worked for five of the last 10 years to pass the recent work test. The duration test requires a minimum number of total working years during your lifetime. Using the previous example, a person disabled at age 50 must have worked a total of seven years during his or her lifetime. If you entered the workforce for the first time at age 45, the duration test would prevent you from qualifying for SSD benefits.
You Can Still Work While Collecting SSI
Unlike SSD benefits, your application for SSDI needs to demonstrate financial need. You can still work and receive SSDI, such as when your disability precludes you from working full-time or prevents you from working at a job that provides enough income to meet your basic living expenses. There's no requirement that you worked for a minimum number of years. In addition to proving your disability to the Social Security Administration, you'll also need to fully disclose all of your financial resources, including your wages, your bank accounts, investments, insurances policies, and most other assets you own.
You Have Rights if Your Claim Is Rejected
Not every application for SSI or SSDI will be approved. However, this doesn't mean that you're ineligible for the benefits. You have the right to appeal a rejected application. You also have the right to have a lawyer represent you during the appeals process.
A Social Security or Insurance Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding Social Security Disability benefits is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an insurance lawyer.