Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Benefits are based on your Social Security earnings and some of your family members or dependents might also receive payments. SSDI is paid from the Social Security Fund.
Applications are available online and from the Social Security office. Approvals can take a long time, and they are known for turning down qualified applicants for paperwork errors and omissions. Under most conditions though, benefits are paid retroactive to the application date, so if you are turned down, it’s worth your while to appeal, rather than start over with a new application and lose the retroactive benefits.
Attorneys that handle Social Security Disability cases usually work on contingency and get paid only if you win your case. Their fee can be hefty. Do some research when selecting an attorney. There are several websites and referral services that can give you several contacts to interview. It can be a long process, so find one that you are comfortable working with. There are also non-lawyer representatives that understand the system and can handle your appeal, some working for aid groups that offer low or no cost assistance. Use your judgement here. If they charge near as much as the attorney, you’re better off having the attorney.
The amount of your benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings, and is included in the Social Security Statement that is mailed to you each year. Eligibility is based only on your ability to work and is not affected by your spouse’s income, savings, or assets.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program and covers people with low-incomes, never worked, or haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD. SSI is based on need and is funded from the general fund.
The Social Security Administration administers both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The same standards apply for disability.