Social Security Disability FAQ

Individuals who cannot work because of a disability may receive disability income from the federal government. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews and grants applications for disability income under the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) programs. If your long-term physical or mental disability prevents you from working, you might qualify for disability benefits. 

The application process for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing. It may be difficult to get answers to questions about SSDI and SSI from your local Social Security Office. It’s not always easy to find clear information about eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. 

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Social Security disability (SSD). We encourage you to contact an experienced Social Security disability lawyer if you have additional questions or need help with a Social Security disability claim. 

What is the Definition of Being Disabled for SSDI or SSI Benefits?

What is the Definition of Being Disabled for SSDI or SSI Benefits?

The definition of disability used for Social Security disability benefits is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as:

  • Being unable to perform a substantial gainful activity (work) 
  • Because of a medically determinable impairment caused by a physical or mental condition 
  • That will result in death or last for at least one year

Your disability must be severe enough to prevent you from performing any tasks that could earn enough money for you to meet your basic living needs. “Medically determinable” means that you must have sufficient medical evidence to prove that your medical condition meets the SSA’s definition of disabled. 

What Types of Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The SSA has a list of medical conditions that could qualify for disability benefits. The list is often referred to as the “Blue Book.” 

Each condition in the Blue Book includes a detailed description of the medical evidence required for the condition to meet the definition of a disability.

Examples of conditions often considered serious enough to qualify for disability benefits include:

  • Blindness
  • Immune system disorders
  • Kidney failure (dialysis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Some mental disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Severe forms of cancer
  • Seizures 
  • Neurological disorders
  • Severe respiratory diseases, including COPD
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severe cardiovascular diseases

Merely having a medical condition listed in the Blue Book does not guarantee your application for disability benefits will be approved. The condition or the effects of the condition must prevent you from holding a job.

Furthermore, it is possible to qualify for Social Security disability if your condition is not listed in the Blue Book. The SSA considers the medical evidence and other circumstances when determining eligibility for SSDI and SSI benefits.

How Do I Apply for SSDI and SSI Benefits?

You can apply for Social Security disability benefits by completing an online application or visiting a Social Security Administration office. 

Before applying for SSD benefits, you should gather the necessary information to complete the application forms.

Information you need includes, but is not limited to:

  • Personal identification information 
  • Work history
  • Medical information, including names of medical providers and their contact information
  • Social Security statement 
  • List of household members and their Social Security numbers
  • Tax returns, W-2s, and other income information
  • Asset and resource information, such as bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, etc.

You must complete the Social Security Adult Disability Report as part of the application process. This multi-section report asks about your medical condition, physical activities, medical treatments, education, daily activities, and work history.

What Are Work Credits?

You must have earned a specific number of work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Work credits are based on your earnings. You can earn up to four work credits per year. 

SSDI is for workers who become disabled and can no longer work. They have paid into the Social Security system through their earnings. SSI payments are a disability program for low-income individuals who have not worked enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. 

For 2022, you receive one work credit for each $1,510 of earnings up to the maximum of four work credits. Generally, a person must have earned at least 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. However, the number of work credits is adjusted based on a person’s age and when their disability began. 

How Long Should I Wait to File for Social Security Disability Benefits?

You should file your SSDI or SSI application as soon as you cannot work because of a long-term disability. Obtaining Social Security disability benefits could take six or more months. Furthermore, waiting to apply for disability benefits may result in the loss of back pay.

Can My Spouse or Children Receive Benefits If I Am Disabled?

If you receive SSDI benefits, your dependent children 18 years old or younger (19 years old if in high school) can receive benefits. In addition, adult children over the age of 18 who became disabled before the age of 22 can also receive disability benefits from their parents’ SSDI. 

Disability benefits for spouses are generally limited to spouses who are 62 years old or older unless they are caring for your child who is under age 16 or who was disabled before the age of 22 and is entitled to benefits.

How Much Will My Social Security Disability Payments Be if I Am Approved?

SSDI payments depend on how much income you earned during your work history. Therefore, the more income you earn and the longer you work, the more your disability benefits will be if you become disabled. However, there is a maximum SSDI benefit that is adjusted for inflation each year.

SSI payments are based on specific needs, such as housing, food, and utilities. The maximum monthly SSI payment for 2022 is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for an individual for an eligible spouse. Your monthly SSI payments are reduced by countable income you or your eligible spouse earns or receives. 

Does Workers’ Compensation Affect My Social Security Disability?

You could still receive SSDI benefits if you receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, your SSDI benefits could be reduced or “offset” by your weekly workers’ compensation benefits. 

What Are the Common Reasons Why the SSA Denies Social Security Disability Applications?

The SSA denies many disability applications because of incomplete information. The applicant fails to complete the disability application form or submit the required documentation.

Other reasons the SSA may deny your SS disability application include:

  • Failing to respond to the SSA 
  • Lack of medical evidence 
  • Failing to submit additional documents by the deadline
  • Not seeking medical care or failing to follow your doctor’s treatment plan
  • Income and assets exceed the allowable limits 
  • Failing to cooperate with the SSA
  • Refusal to submit to an independent medical examination 
  • Your disability is not expected to last over a year or result in death

If the SSA denies your Social Security disability application, you can appeal the decision. Unfortunately, the SSA denies about a fifth of disability applications on the first review.

What is the Deadline to File an Appeal of a Social Security Disability Decision?

You have 60 days to appeal the denial of a Social Security disability application.

There are four levels of appeals for Social Security disability claims:

  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
  • Review by the Appeals Council
  • File a lawsuit in federal court

You are not required to hire an attorney to file an appeal. However, it is strongly suggested that you consult a Harrisburg Social Security disability lawyer as soon as you receive your denial letter.

Appealing a Social Security disability claim can be complicated. Having an attorney handle the appeal can give you a better chance of winning your disability claim. 

Our legal team is always here for you if you have questions about disability benefits. Please contact our office for a free consultation with one of our experienced Harrisburg Social Security Disability lawyers.