WV Social Security Article of the Week
Social Security Disability Benefits – Part I
Most people, in their younger years rarely think of disability. The fact is, according to the Social Security Administration, a 20 year old worker has a 30% chance of becoming disabled before retirement age. In addition, many of us help our parents, grandparents, siblings, etc., with their affairs, but don’t have time to read page after page of legalese in order to help them obtain benefits. The purpose of this article is to provide basic information in order to help the public understand Social Security benefits and how to apply for them when needed.
How many Social Security disability programs are there?
Social Security pays benefits through two programs, the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Insurance program (SSI). It is possible for a person to qualify to receive benefits from both programs at the same time. Spouses and minor children may also receive benefits from these programs.
Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits based upon the claimants work history and taxable wages. There are two earnings tests that a claimant must meet in order to qualify to receive SSDI benefits. The tests are the “recent work test” and the “duration test.” The requirements for these tests will depend upon the age of the claimant at the onset of the disability.
SSI is a program that pays benefits to a person who meets the criteria for disability, but does not meet the earnings tests for SSDI, or the person does meet the earnings tests, but the benefit amount would be very low. A person can receive both SSI and SSDI provided the sum of these benefits does not total $694 per month or more when combined.
To clarify, if a claimant’s SSDI benefit is $400 per month, that claimant may also be eligible to receive up to $294 per month in SSI benefits. If the claimant is deemed disabled but does not meet the earnings tests to receive SSDI, that claimant may be eligible to receive an SSI benefit of as much as $674 per month. Remember, spouses and minor children may also be able to receive benefits in addition to the claimant.
How does Social Security define disability?
For Social Security purposes, a person is disabled when that person has a condition that prevents him/her from participating in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This condition must be a condition that will last for 1 year or longer, or be expected to cause the death of the claimant.
Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is the person’s ability to work and earn a certain amount each month. For the years 2010 and 2011, that amount is $1000 per month. If an individual is blind, SGA earnings could be as high as $1640 per month. Also certain work related expenses can be deducted from gross earnings for the purpose of meeting SGA.
Are there percentages of disability or partial disability awards?
Many programs, like the VA or Workers Compensation – in some states, make a determination of partial disability, or award certain payments that are based upon a person’s percentage of disability. The Social Security Administration has no such program. For the purposes of Social Security Disability Benefits, a person is either disabled, or not disabled.
When to apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
A claimant should file for benefits ASAP! It can take a very long time for the Social Security Administration to process an application for disability benefits – often 5 to 18 months! Additionally, a disabled persons benefits will be calculated from the date they file. In other words, a claimant loses money every day he or she delays in filing his or her claim. Apply Now!