Social Security Disability Insurance: What It is and How to Get It

The Social Security Administration helps 69.1 million people.
One of the biggest ways the SSA helps is by providing social security disability insurance. As of 2019, about 55% of all Social Security benefits go to disabled workers. If you think you might qualify for benefits, then this article is for you.
By understanding who’s eligible, and what it takes to apply, you can finally start taking steps towards building a brighter future. Instead of worrying about finances every month, you could focus your attention on doing the things you love, with the people you love.
Read on to learn the truth about getting disability payments.

How Does Social Security Disability Insurance Work?

Let’s start by looking at how social security disability insurance, or SSDI, operates. SSDI exists to financially assist individuals who have medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from working.
If someone never had a job and then became disabled, they wouldn’t be eligible for SSDI benefits. Instead, workers have to earn SSDI work credits throughout their working life.
The benefits from SSDI only apply if the disability or medical condition is long term. So, if someone broke their leg and temporarily couldn’t work, they wouldn’t qualify for SSDI benefits. However, when someone has a qualifying disability, and their SSDI claim’s approved, they can start receiving monthly payments.
It’s important to note that SSDI and supplemental security income are 2 completely different things. If you’re applying for supplemental security income or SSI, your eligibility will be based on your available resources, age, and type of disability.
Whereas SSDI doesn’t take into account your available resources and instead focuses on your work credits and type of disability. If you’ve never had a job before, you’d want to apply for SSI instead of SSDI benefits.

What Are the Payments Like?

Unfortunately, the monthly payments SSDI offers aren’t very high, and instead will just help you meet your basic needs. For instance, it’s common for SSDI payments to be so low that recipients are barely able to stay above the poverty level. If your sole income is going to rely on SSDI payments, you should consider relocating to a state that offers inexpensive housing.
The average cost of rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in the United States is $1,192 a month. However, your rent can be significantly lower if you’re living in the right area. For instance, that same 2 bedroom apartment in Mississippi will only cost $746 a month, which is much more manageable.
Arkansaw, Oklahoma, Missouri, and New Mexico are also popular for their affordable housing options. However, California and New York have notoriously high rent rates that can cost you $3,500 or more for a 2 bedroom apartment.

Determine if You’re Eligible for SSDI Benefits

What qualifies as a disability for SSDI benefits? Legally, the disability has to prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity or SGA.
Let’s say for instance a construction worker becomes disabled and can no longer walk. If the construction worker were to get a sedentary desk job, they wouldn’t qualify for SSDI benefits. Even if you have to adjust the type of work you were doing, as long as you can earn a reasonable income, SSDI benefits won’t apply.
Next, the disability either has to result in death, such as a life-threatening medical condition, or it has to last for a continuous period. The continuous period, or length of time you have the disability, has to be at least 12 months long. In most cases, SSDI benefits are only approved when someone has a life long disability, such as being paralyzed from the waist down.

Fraud Prevention

The Office of the Inspector General and the Social Security department works around the clock to catch fraudulent SSDI claims. There’s zero tolerance for fraud, and anyone caught lying about the extent of their disability can face serious fines, as well as jail time.
One of the ways the department of Social Security identifies fraud is by investigating suspicious claims before awarding any benefits. If you ever suspect that SSDI fraud is taking place, you can help out by contacting the Office of the Inspector General and submitting a report.

How Work Credits Operate

Earlier we mentioned that you have to have work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. However, you’re probably wondering exactly how many works credits you need to qualify. Your Social Security work credits are calculated using your yearly income, whether you’re an employee or self-employed individual.
In total, you can earn as many as 4 work credits each year. For example, let’s say you have to earn $1500 to qualify for a work credit. If you earn $6,000 in a year, you’d be eligible for 4 work credits. The amount of income needed to qualify for work credit changes from year to year.
The number of work credits you need to qualify for benefits will depend on your age when you became disabled. Typically, you’ll need to have at least 40 work credits. However, the credits can’t be from decades ago. Instead, you’d need at least 20 of your 40 credits to have come from the past 10 years.
Keep in mind that the number of work credits you have doesn’t correlate with the number of benefits you’ll receive every month. Instead, your work credits are simply there to determine whether or not you’re eligible to receive benefits.
For instance, if someone had 60 work credits, they’re not going to receive more benefits than someone who only has 40 credits. If you’re having trouble submitting your claim, or you don’t have enough credits, don’t worry.

Work Credit Loop Holes

There are exceptions to the work credit requirements. By getting the help of a social security attorney like Heard and Smith LLP, you can see if you qualify for benefits, even when you have less than 40 work credits. For instance, if you’re under the age of 40 and you experience a disability, you may be able to receive benefits as long as you have 20 work credits.
In the event of a death, there are even more exceptions regarding SSDI benefits. Surviving children and spouses caring for children can receive your SSDI benefits, even if you have as little as 6 work credits before your death.

Where You Can Apply for SSDI Benefits

You can apply for SSDI over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213, which is a toll-free number. You can also apply online or in-person at your local Social Security office.
You don’t have to make an appointment with your local Social Security office. However, if you want to make an appointment it can help expedite your application process. Simply call your local office, and find out when their next available appointment is.

What Documents Do You Need To Apply?

The more prepared you are when applying for SSDI benefits, the easier it’ll be to breeze through the application process. Here’s a shortlist of document you’ll need to prove your eligibility:

  • Proof you’re a lawful alien or citizen
  • Proof of birth
  • W-2 forms
  • Self-employment tax returns
  • Adult Disability Report
  • Medical records
  • Pay stubs

The Social Security office will accept photocopies of documents such as your W-2 forms, and medical documents. However, you’ll have to present an original copy of our birth certificate. Don’t worry, you’ll get all of your original copies back as soon as you’re done applying.

Questions To Expect

Moving on, it’s helpful to know what questions you’ll be expected to answer during the application process. Here’s a shortlist of questions you can prepare for:

  • Your name at birth
  • Social security number
  • Citizenship status
  • Past military experience
  • Past railroad industry employment
  • Disclose annuities and pensions
  • Marital status
  • Spouses name and date of birth
  • Name of dependents
  • Arrest record
  • Date of disability
  • Other benefits you’re receiving

If you’re receiving payments from things like workers’ compensation, you’ll need to disclose this information when you apply for SSDI.

Mistakes To Avoid When Applying for SSDI

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to SSDI is assuming they can’t collect unemployment. While you’re waiting for SSDI benefits to come through, you can still legally collect unemployment.
Next, make sure you’ve fully quit your job before applying for SSDI. Finally, if you have an unsupportive doctor, find a different health care provider.
For instance, if it’s always a hassle to get medical records from your doctor’s office, don’t put yourself through that type of mental torture. There are plenty of well-staffed doctor offices out there who can make living life with SSDI benefits much easier.

Improve Your Quality of Life

Understanding the ins and outs of social security disability insurance can make a world of difference in your life. Start filling out your SSDI application today, and remember to answer each question truthfully.
If you’re afraid you don’t qualify for benefits, or you’re confused about the application process, reach out to a social security attorney. After all, the sooner you start getting disability payments, the easier it’ll be for you to improve your quality of life. For more ways to get ahead, read another one of our articles!