December 14, 2018

Social Security Disability

Social Security taxes are split into two parts for two separate trust funds.  It is important to understand the differences to determine what support is available to you.  There is the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund.  While the OASI is not accessible until an individual amasses 40 “credits” and reaches age 62, the DI trust fund is available for individuals who worked and become disabled.

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are only payable “to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death.”   It is not available for partial or short-term disabilities.

Work Requirements

In order to receive SSD benefits, an individual is required to show that they have been working recently and they have to have worked for a minimal amount of time depending on their age.  These requirements are known as the recent work test and the duration of work test.  To see a table of how these tests are broken down by age, the Social Security Administration sets them out in their Disability Benefits booklet.

Application Process

An individual must provide a number of pieces of information when applying for disability benefits.  The necessary information includes:

  • The applicant’s Social Security Number;
  • The applicant’s birth or baptismal certificate;
  • Names, address, and phone number of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics that aided the applicant and the dates of all visits;
  • Names and dosage of all the medications the applicant takes;
  • Medical records from the applicant’s doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers that are in the applicant’s possession;
  • Laboratory and test results;
  • A summary of the where the applicant worked and the kind of work the applicant did; and
  • A copy of the applicant’s most recent W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) or, if the applicant is self-employed, the applicant’s federal tax return for the past year.

(This information comes from the Social Security Administration’s Disability Benefits booklet)

The Social Security Administration also requires information about the applicant’s medical condition and how it affects their ability to work.  If the applicant meets the work requirements, then the application is forwarded to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in the applicant’s state of residence.  The DDS office will have a group of doctors and disability specialists review all submitted information, as well as question the applicant’s doctors, hospitals, and clinics for more information if needed.

Decision Making Process

The SSD determination process is broken into five steps

  1. Is the applicant working?  If the applicant is working and earning a specific amount each month, then the applicant will not be considered disabled.  If the applicant is not working or is earning less than the specific amount, then the DDS will look at the applicant’s medical condition.
  2. Is the applicant’s medical condition “severe”?  The applicant’s “medical condition must significantly limit their ability to do basic work activities – such as walking, sitting and remembering – for at least one year.”  If the condition is considered severe, then the DDS goes to the next step in the process.
  3. Is the applicant’s medical condition on the SSA’s List of Impairments?  If the applicant’s medical condition, or combination of medical conditions, is on the List of Impairments, then the applicant will be considered disabled.  If the applicant’s medical condition is not on the list, then the DDS will determine if it is as severe as a listed condition and if not, then go onto the next determination.
  4. Can the applicant do the work they did before?  If an applicant can still do their previous job, then they will not be considered disabled.  If the applicant cannot continue with their previous job, then the DDS goes onto the next determination.
  5. Can the applicant do any other type of work?  The DDS will evaluate the applicant’s medical condition, age, education, past work experience and any other skills to determine if the applicant can work at a different job.  If the DDS finds the applicant can do other work, the applicant is not considered disabled.  If the applicant cannot do other work, the applicant is considered disabled.

(More information can be found in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Benefits booklet.)

The Social Security Disability application process is time consuming and requires detailed submissions.  If you have questions about the process or need help with your application, contact our knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorneys. We have offices in Broward County- Fort Lauderdale; Miami-Dade County- North Miami Beach; Monroe County- Key West and Islamorada. Call 800-803-5555.