When Should You Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?

by May 31, 2017

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You should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as soon as you are eligible. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the SSDI program, can take about three to five months to make a decision after they receive your medical records.  

At the Disability Advantage Group, we can help you decide when it is time to apply for disability. We can also help you file your application to ensure you get the benefits you need to support yourself and your family. Call 865-566-0800 today to speak with one of our attorneys.

How do you qualify for SSDI benefits?

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough to accumulate the required number of work credits. The required number will depend on your age at the time you became disabled. If you have not yet earned the required number of work credits, you will not qualify for SSDI, but you might qualify for other benefit programs from the SSA.

In addition to accumulating work credits, you must have a medical condition severe enough that the SSA considers it disabling. The SSA uses the Blue Book, also called the Listing of Impairments, to evaluate medical conditions. The SSA considers most of the conditions contained in the Blue Book either permanent or likely to result in death. If that is not the case in your situation, you must prove that you have had the condition for at least 12 months or that you expect it to last at least 12 months by presenting medical documentation that supports your claim.

If your condition does not appear in the Blue Book, you can present medical records that show your condition is as severe as those listed and that it prevents you from being able to work.

You must be completely unable to work in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. Merely having difficulty working is not sufficient. You must be unable to do your former type of work with or without reasonable modifications or accommodations. You must also be unable to do a related type of work or a different type of work, based on your work experience, training, education, skills, and age.

The SSA will not award SSDI benefits to anyone capable of substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you earn $1,170 a month or more—$1,950 if you are legally blind—you will not qualify for benefits in 2017.

Our disability attorneys can help you gather the medical evidence you need to win your claim. We can also assist in presenting evidence that your condition leaves you unable to work.

What if you do not yet meet all of the qualifications for SSDI benefits?

If you have not yet earned enough work credits but you are close to the required amount, you may be able to keep working until you earn the number of credits you need. We can help you decide on a strategy for staying employed long enough to earn the credits necessary to draw disability benefits.

If you are approaching retirement age, you should keep in mind that any disability benefits you are receiving will automatically convert into retirement benefits, but their amount will not change. Our disability attorneys can help you decide whether you should file an application for disability benefits or wait until you reach full retirement age and draw retirement benefits instead.

When should you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

If you do not qualify for SSDI and you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for SSI benefits instead. The SSI program provides financial assistance for disabled people who lack the required number of work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you think you may qualify for SSI benefits, you should apply immediately.

In addition to lacking the required number of work credits to qualify for SSDI, the SSA will examine other factors to determine your eligibility for SSI benefits. They may award you SSI benefits if:

  • You meet the medical disability requirements of the Blue Book;
  • You have low income; and
  • You own few assets. You will need less than $2,000 in resources for an individual and less than $3,000 for a couple.

As is the case with SSDI, you must satisfy the medical requirements to qualify for SSI by offering medical evidence that documents your condition. Your medical condition must also appear in the Blue Book. If it does not, you must prove it is as severe as the conditions listed in the book and show that it prevents you from being able to work.

When should I contact a lawyer about my disability claim?

If you are unsure which program you qualify for or if you need help gathering proof of your medical condition, you should contact a disability lawyer immediately. The attorneys the Disability Advantage Group will help you determine which benefits program is right for you and help you apply for disability. Call us today at 865-566-0800 for your free consultation.