The topic of social security disability insurance benefits (SSDI benefits) confuses many people in central Pennsylvania. They do not understands the eligibility requirements, the kind of evidence that is required to support an application and the amount of benefits that will be paid. Before anyone even files an application for SSDI benefits, they should understand the application process and the availability of an appeal if the application is denied.
SSDI benefits are part of a benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration. It is separate from pensions paid to workers under the Social Security Act, and it exists primarily to provide financial assistance to persons who are no longer able to work. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, a person must be totally and permanently disable. The applicant must also have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.
To obtain benefits, an applicant must demonstrate that he or she is totally and permanently disabled. To be totally disabled, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity, that is, to earn at least $1,260 per month. If a person earns more than $1,260 per month, the person is generally not considered to be totally disabled. Permanent disability is a condition that is expected to last for at least one year or to result in the applicant’s death.
The Social Security Administration also looks at whether a person is able to do other types of work. If the applicant is able to do other types of work, taking into consideration the applicant’s age, physical condition, education and any transferable skills the applicant may possess. The SSA also checks to ensure that the applicant has earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits before the disability begins.
Most first-time SSDI applications are denied, giving the applicant two choices. The applicant can re-apply using the same medical and employment information or the applicant can appeal the decision.
The first level of appeal is a request to the SSA to reconsider its opinion. The applicant can resubmit the original evidence and any additional evidence that may be relevant. If the request for reconsideration is denied, the applicant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. These hearings are usually held within 75 miles of the applicant’s home. If administrative law judge denies the application, the applicant can ask to have the application submitted to the SSA Appeals Council. If this last step results in a denial, the applicant commence a judicial appeal in the federal district court having jurisdiction over the claim.
The SSDI application process is designed to be completed without involving attorneys, but the length and complexity of the appeal process may make the assistance of an experienced lawyer very useful.