Social Security Disability Benefits: The Basics

Navigating federally-funded programs can be a challenge; many people feel discouraged when they find out that in order to receive federal disability benefits they need to navigate a complicated bureaucracy. If you feel overwhelmed, never fear! Different and Able is here to help. Today we're going to cover the basics of federal disability benefits.

The Basics

Social Security Disability is a Federal-funded program, managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), to provide income and services for those with specified differences. There are two types of benefits for those who meet the criteria of disability as defined by the Social Security Administration: 

  • Social Security  Disability Insurance (SSDI) for those who have worked and their dependents
  • Supplementary Security Income (SSI) for those with limited assets and incomes.

SSDI provides monthly payments to workers who have paid the Social Security tax on their earnings and are younger than 66 when they have acquired a disability. Usually, it is necessary to have worked for approximately 10 years to build up enough credit to be eligible.  Often, payments are made to dependent children or young adults if their parents have paid into Social Security.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or be able to show that they are lawfully living in the U.S. A major benefit of receiving SSDI is that once approved for SSDI, the recipient will receive Medicare, the government health care provider that provides comprehensive medical and drug coverage at a reasonable cost. Medicare is automatically offered two years after the date of entitlement for disability benefits. In addition, once awarded SSDI or SSI, there is automatic eligibility for vocational services offered by our federal government in each state.  Note: In the past decade, it is not uncommon for the initial application for SSDI to be denied by SSA; in this case the applicant will have to appeal in order to acquire benefits. There are specialized attorneys who process appeals; the federal guidelines stipulate that no money has to be paid to the attorney up front. Instead, they will take a specified percentage of the award if the appeal is successful.

The SSA also offers SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Medicaid for those with limited income.  There is no waiting period for Medicaid once it is determined that the applicant’s income is below the established limit.  SSI is also available for people over the age of 65 without disabilities who have limited incomes. Eligibility and application information is provided in the section entitled “Supplemental Security Income Home Page -- 2018 Edition” on the ssa.gov website.

Need help accessing your benefits? You can call your local Social Security office to file an application. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Remember, no lawyer or counselor should require you to pay them before advocating for you in court.

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