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Social Security Disability Insurance: Eligibility and Benefits

Updated on April 1, 2015

If you are unsure whether you are disabled or not, or whether you may qualify for another Social Security benefit, use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool to find out which benefit program may be able to pay you benefits.

The BEST tool can be found at:

You don’t have anything to lose by filing if you are unsure, except your time and effort. Do not be dishonest about anything though!!

The Disability Website

Supplemental Security Income

For SSI or Supplemental Security Income, the information can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/ssi.htm

For information on Social Security Disability Insurance, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/index.htm

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A Brief Summary

You may be eligible for additional funds called SSI. However, this is not a lot of money. Upon the last time you had any income, you can apply for SSI. Then, it usually takes approximately four months to receive it if you qualify. This means for four months, you can have no income to qualify for SSI. Also, to apply for SSI, you must go into the SSA office and wait in line in order to file. You can schedule an appointment making the wait less than usual. To show you are out of income or out of unemployment, you must bring in proof of what was paid last month, proof of what was paid this month, and when it all stopped. This means requesting a letter from your previous source of income or directly from unemployment stating these facts. Keep in mind, SSI is not much money. Make sure you can afford to go this route before doing so.

Correct Information

With each correspondence the SSA sends you, ENSURE that ALL information is correct. If it is not, send them a letter, call them, or go to see them in person. The best approach if you have the time is to do all three. For example, if they begin sending you information with the wrong address, you must get it fixed as soon as possible. In my case, they began over time, sending me documentation with the wrong last name, and I had to go to a lot of trouble to get it straightened out, but it is very important to do so.

Surviving Financially

(1) While you are receiving another source of income or unemployment, you can still file for disability. However, unemployment runs out; even extensions run out.

(2) Between the time your unemployment runs out and the time it takes to get your disability payments (which can take up to two years), you may be making no money, so you will need to know how to survive.

(3) If you are able to work an at-home job or a small part-time job, you can do this provided you do not make too much money.

(4) A hypothetical example would be: You make $1,200 in unemployment per month. You run out so you have no money. You are applying for SSA Disability. You find out you can only make $800 a month in an at-home or part-time job. You applied in January of 2011. You do not receive your full disability benefits until July of 2012. This would mean you would have to be able to pay your bills in the gap areas. The typical amount you will receive with disability is approximately the same amount you received during unemployment. These exact figures can be analyzed best with an attorney.

Hiring an Attorney

There are many Disability attorneys that will work your case for free. To find out who they are check with your local SSA office, call a paid attorney for a referral, ask a friend or family member, check the Yellow Pages, or Google “Free Dallas Disability Attorney.” Read the paperwork you sign in the office of the attorney. Don’t just blindly sign a million sheets of paper.

The items that an Attorney will most likely ask for are:

(click column header to sort results)
   
Your Medication List
Disability Report Appeal Form
Your Conditions
Your Health Care Information
Work History Information

In detail:

  1. The Medication List – include the dosage, frequency, start date, doctor, reason for taking it, and any side effects you have.
  2. The Disability Report Appeal will ask for the following: changes since your last disability report (changes in illnesses, injuries, or conditions, changes in limitations, and any new illnesses, injuries, or conditions). The form will ask about your upcoming appointments or procedures and the details of them. You have to list your medications and any new tests you’ve had done since your Disability Report. It will ask if you have worked since you last filed. Also, the form needs to know how your disability affects your ability to care for your personal needs and if there are any changes in your daily activities recently. The final questions ask about additional education or job training. There is a large section for REMARKS. This is your opportunity to express the details you could not fill in elsewhere.
  3. Conditions – List your conditions (if there are many) and the side effects of those conditions, if those “side effects” are conditions.
  4. For Lab and Radiology Work, you can enter the name of the doctor/clinic, address, phone number, date of procedure, and the ID# (Your health insurance ID#).
  1. For the Summary of Your Health Care, follow the same format as you did in Lab and Radiology Work. Include the following for each doctor:

(click column header to sort results)
   
Clinic/Facility
Doctor
Address and Phone Number
Patient ID#
First and Last Visits
Medical Conditions
Treatments

Do the best you can. The SSA or the lawyer will pull your records, so it isn’t crucial if you cannot recall every single item.

6. Employment History – Beginning and ending dates, Name, Address, Phone Number, and Job Title.

Note: For new medications, procedures, doctor’s appointments, etc. contact your lawyer right away to keep them up to date.

Medical Source Statements

The lawyer or the SSA will probably give you medical source assessment forms for your main physical and/or mental doctors. You will need to take these forms to your doctors and have them fill the forms out. They can be quite tedious for the doctor, because the doctor has to write up an elaborate summary explaining how you are disabled.

Summary

  • Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool will help you decide what you qualify for.
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income) can provide you with additional income, but run the numbers first.
  • Make sure the SSA has all of your information correct or correct it as soon as possible.
  • Play with your budget to see whether you will need a part-time job or how you will get money between the time of your last unemployment check and the time of your first full disability check.
  • You can hire a free attorney to help you with everything. They will need to know what medications you are on, any upcoming changes, a complete summary of your health care, and a complete summary of your work history. The attorney will probably have you ask you main doctors to fill out medical source statements to verify you are in fact disabled.

Disclosure

I am not an attorney. The above information is just based on my experience in OKLAHOMA, whose laws may be different than that of other states. I am by far not an expert, but I have spent many hours with attorneys, at the SSA office, and online filing. I just want to share what I have learned in case something I know helps someone else. I'm giving the best information that I know of. I hope you find it helpful!

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