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Social Security 101

April 11, 2016

According to the Social Security Administration, a 20-year old worker has a one in four chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age. Most people who are young and able-bodied are not familiar with the benefits that would be available to them should they become injured, but this surprising statistic demonstrates that it is wise to be prepared.

The two most common forms of assistance offer cash benefits for disabled individuals, but the financial eligibility requirements are very different. Whether you will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, is largely dependent upon your work history and various assets you may have at the time of the injury or illness.

To be deemed “disabled” under the Social Security Act, you must:

  • Prove you lack the ability to engage in any substantial gainful employment.
  • Have one or more medically-determinable physical or mental impairments.
  • Provide proof that your inability to work will last or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months or can be expected to result in death.

When you meet the legal definition of “disabled,” then you must determine whether you quality for SSD or SSI. The main difference is that SSD is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD.

Getting benefits is not a simple matter. A comprehensive set of guidelines and other factors are considered in determining whether to grant or deny an application for social security benefits. A mistake many applicants make is not providing sufficient evidence, medical and otherwise, to the Social Security Administration, generally resulting in an unfavorable decision. It is also important to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits as early as possible after a debilitating injury; processing an application for these benefits can take three to five months. Knowing the facts and knowing your rights can help navigate the system and get you the help that you need if you become injured.

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