Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) helps millions of Americans every year achieve financial freedom while they are unable to work a full-time job. It is a federal program that helps temporarily or permanently disabled individuals continue to make ends meet. It can be a life-saving benefit for those in need, but only after the lengthy application process is complete. Signing up for disability benefits can be complicated, so let’s take a look at some of the required steps. After that, we’ll look at what you can do if your request is denied.
Who Is Eligible for SSDI?
The requirements for eligibility are pretty straightforward. First, you must be 18 years old or older. Second, you must be unable to work due to a medical condition expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. We will discuss what the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers an accepted medical condition in another section. Third, you need to have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for the program. The SSA measures this using work credits, which are based on your total income for the year.
Work credits are a way for the SSA to gauge whether you have worked long enough and recently enough to be eligible for disability benefits. Generally speaking, you need 40 work credits to qualify, 20 of which must have been earned in the past ten years. Most adults can earn a maximum of four work credits per year. The required income amount per credit changes from year to year, but in 2022, you earn one credit per $1,510 earned. Therefore, the maximum four credits are earned when an individual earns $6,040 in one year.
What Qualifies As A Disability?
The SSA has a comprehensive list of disabilities that it considers when processing disability applications. However, the presence of the impairment does not automatically qualify you for benefits. You must also prove the condition is severe enough to prevent you from working full-time. We will discuss what the SSA considers as proof of your condition in the following section. Here is a list of the disabilities that the SSA considers when processing applications:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (injuries or disorders relating to bones, especially the spine)
- Special senses and speech (blindness, deafness, or an inability to speak)
- Respiratory illnesses (e.g., chronic bronchitis or asthma)
- Cardiovascular disorders (coronary artery disease or other heart failures)
- Digestive system disorders (e.g., liver diseases and irritable bowel syndrome)
- Genitourinary disorders (kidney disease or renal failure)
- Hematological disorders (blood disorders such as anemia)
- Skin disorders (e.g., severe burns or skin infections)
- Endocrine disorders (illnesses related to the glands of the body)
- Congenital diseases that affect multiple body systems (e.g., Down Syndrome)
- Neurological disorders (e.g., epilepsy)
- Mental disorders (e.g., bipolar, anxiety, or depression)
- Immune system disorders (e.g., HIV, lupus, and inflammatory arthritis)
How To Apply
You should apply immediately if you believe you are disabled. The approval process can be lengthy, and there is no time to lose. Initially, the SSA can take three to six months to decide if your disability is severe enough to warrant benefits. You can apply online by visiting this website. Prepare yourself by collecting all the materials the SSA will require of you, including:
- Your social security number
- W-2 or tax forms
- Your direct deposit numbers from your bank
- Any and all documents that address your disability from the medical professionals treating you. This must include dates of diagnosis and treatments as well as the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical staff.
- A comprehensive work history from at least the last 15 years
- Any workers’ compensation information you may have, including case numbers, date of injury, and proof of payment.
What To Do If You Are Denied
In Oregon, only about 30% of applications are approved on the first try. More often than not, those seeking benefits must file for what’s called reconsideration. Reconsideration is the first step of the appeals process. Many clients make the mistake of filing a second application when they are initially denied, but this only ends up getting them denied again. With reconsideration, SSA assigns an entirely new application specialist to your case who looks at the information with fresh eyes. This is an excellent opportunity to track down more evidence for your claim. A Social Security attorney is highly recommended at this stage for a number of reasons. If your reconsideration is denied, your lawyer can help with the next steps in the appeals process, which involve a hearing with a judge, an appeals council review, and possibly even appealing to the federal court.
If you have questions about applying for social security disability benefits in Oregon, call Drew L. Johnson, P.C. Attorneys At Law, at (541) 434-6466.