None of us plan to become disabled. On the contrary, most people fail to plan for even the possibility of becoming disabled at some point in their lifetime. The reality is, however, that disability can strike anyone at any time. While your odds of becoming disabled do increase as you age, a surprising number of people in their working years (21 to 65) are disabled. If you find yourself unable to work because of a long-term disability one of your first concerns will undoubtedly be providing for your family in lieu of your inability to work. The good news is that in the United States there are two programs that may be able to help – Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Getting approved for SSI and/or SSDI can be challenging which is why you should consult with a Missouri disability lawyer before applying or if you have been denied benefits.
What Qualifies as “Disabled?”
Both the SSI and SSDI program provide monthly monetary benefits to people who are disabled. You may also qualify for SSI if you are considered aged (65 or older) or blind. If you are applying as “disabled”, you must meet the government’s definition of “disabled” which defines the term as follows:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Eligibility for SSI and SSDI
Both SSI and SSDI are federal programs that provide benefits to people who are unable to work due to disability. The primary difference between the two programs is found in the income and work history eligibility requirements.
SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is strictly a need based program and is intended to be used by people who are aged, blind, or disabled but that have never worked. The eligibility process for SSI has nothing to do with prior work history. Instead, it is based entirely on need. Because SSI is intended for low income individuals, any income you do have will impact your eligibility or the amount of your benefit each month. In addition, you cannot have countable resources of more than $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple. SSI benefits are funded through the general fund taxes. SSI recipients also qualify for Medicaid through their state of residence and may also qualify for food stamps. To qualify for SSI your application must be reviewed by a Disability Determination Specialist. A DDS will review your medical records and consult with Disability Determination Physicians. It may take several months for a disability determination. If you are approved, your benefit amount for SSI will typically be less than if you qualified for SSDI. For 2016, the maximum SSI amount is $733 for an individual and $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.
SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is funded through payroll taxes. Recipients are considered “insured” because they have paid into the fund through payroll FICA tax deductions for a certain number of years. Persons who apply for SSDI must be younger than sixty-five years of age and earned a certain number of “work credits.” If you are receiving SSDI when you reach retirement age your SSDI will convert to Social Security retirement income at the same benefit rate each month. Along with meeting the disability requirement, eligibility for SSDI depends on your work history. Each year that you work you earn “work credits.” To qualify for SSDI you must have built up enough “work credits.” The number of “work credits” you will need to qualify for SSDI depends on your age at the time you apply for benefits. As of 2016, you must earn $1,260 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit, up to a maximum of four credits a year. As a general rule, you must have 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI, 20 of which must have been earned in the last ten years ending in the year in which you become disabled. If you apply for SSDI before age 30, however, you may qualify with fewer work credits. If you are approved, your benefit amount will depend on how much you paid into the system over your working years. For 2016, the average SSDI monthly benefit amount is $1,116; however, you could earn as much as $2,639 per month if you paid in enough to warrant such a high monthly benefit.
How Can a Missouri Disability Lawyer Help Me?
Although both SSI and SSDI are intended to help disabled individuals cover basic living expenses, getting approved for either program can be difficult because of all the “red tape.” In fact, as many as 70 percent of all initial applications are denied, often because the applicant didn’t understand the application requirements or failed to provide requested documentation. If you need help with your disability application, consult with an experienced Missouri disability lawyer.
If you have additional questions or concerns about disability benefits, contact the experienced Missouri disability lawyers at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.