Frequently Asked Questions
- What are Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income?
- How do I determine if I am eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?
- How do I apply for Social Security Disability?
- What information do I need to provide?
- What will I receive if I am awarded benefits?
- What if I am receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits?
- What are my average current earnings?
- How is the Workers’ Compensation offset / reduction calculated?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal insurance program by the United States government that is funded through our payroll taxes. The program is managed by the Social Security Administration and is designed to provide supplemental income to people who become physically restricted from working. SSDI is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in that it does not depend on the income of the disabled individual receiving it.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either 65 or older, blind, or disabled. As mentioned previously, one of the requirements to be approved for SSI is that your income and resources are within certain limits.
The Social Security administration only pays benefits when you are are totally disabled, meaning that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. In order to prove that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity, you must: not be able to do the work that you did before; not be able to do other kinds of work because of your medical condition(s); and have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Social Security has a Compassionate Allowances program that allows the Social Security Administration make quick decisions and pay benefits on claims that automatically meet the disability standards of serious diseases and medical conditions.
There are several ways to start your application process. If you have access to a computer, we recommend first visiting the Social Security Website at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability. (Please note that Social Security may change the website address. If this link does not work go to www.ssa.gov and search “apply for disability”).
Social Security will walk you through the initial application process through the website. It is helpful to have certain information available ahead of time. You will likely need:
- The date and reason that you became disabled;
- Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;
- The name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse;
- The dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if applicable);
- Names and dates of birth of your minor children;
- Your bank or other financial institution’s Routing Transit Number and account number, if you want your benefits electronically deposited.
It is also helpful to have information regarding your medical conditions available. Including the names, addresses, phones number, patient ID numbers, and dates of treatment for all doctors, hospitals and clinics. The names of current medications and who prescribed them. The names of medical tests performed (eg X-ray, MRI, EMG) and the doctor that ordered them.
Social Security will also require information regarding your work history. If you worked recently you will need to provide your income for the last several years. Social Security will also ask for a list of the last five jobs that you had in the 15 years prior to becoming disabled.
Social Security occasionally sends out a pamphlet that lists your benefit rates if you were to become disabled or retire at certain ages. While this number is frequently changing, the amount that you would receive if you became disabled provides an approximate monthly figure for your Social Security Disability benefits. You can also create an account at www.SSA.gov and receive more detailed information regarding your potential benefits.
If you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits, you will begin receiving a monthly payment according to your disability benefit amount. The date that you became disabled is known as your Alleged Onset Date (AOD). When you are awarded benefits you are paid a back-payment in the amount that you would have received during the time period from the AOD and the date you are approved for disability benefits. However, there is always a 5 full month waiting period before you accrue benefits.
If your AOD is more than one year prior to the date that you apply for benefits then you may only be entitled to one year of retroactive benefits. Basically, Social Security limits the amount of your back-payment and effectively punishes you for not applying within one year of the beginning of your disability. If you have questions regarding when your benefits will begin you should gather all the information available to you and contact an attorney who practices before the Social Security Administration.
If your disability is the result of a work accident, you may be entitled to receive both SSDI benefits and workers’ compensation temporary or permanent disability benefits. It is recommended that you have an attorney who practices in both of these areas of law to maximize your benefits. These two areas of the law affect each other, and an attorney can assist you in receiving the most benefits for you and your family.
For example, your Social Security Disability benefits may be reduced to offset your workers’ compensation benefits. Your benefits could be reduced if the total benefits payable to you and your dependents under Social Security, plus your workers’ compensation payments exceed:
– 80 percent of your “average current earnings” before you became disabled; or
– Your family’s total Social Security benefit
An experienced attorney can work to minimize the amount that your Social Security Disability benefits are offset by workers’ compensation benefits received through a settlement.
Your average current earnings are the highest of:
- Your average monthly wage that your disability insurance is based;
- Your average monthly earnings during the highest five years in a row; or
- Your average monthly earnings based on the single calendar year of highest earnings. This single year can be the year that your disability began or any of the five years before your disability began.
Social Security will look at the first month that you receive both Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation benefits. Social Security will calculate your “applicable limit,” which is the higher of either: 80% of your “average current earnings” before your disability began; or the total amount of SSDI benefits you and your family receive. If your SSDI benefits and workers’ compensation benefits combined exceed your “applicable limit” then your SSDI benefits are reduced by that amount.