SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY: AN OVERVIEW PART 1
As people reach adulthood and find jobs, few stop to think about what might happen if they were to suffer an injury or illness that might prevent them from being able to work. And, thankfully, most people are never faced with this scenario. However, those who find themselves in this situation can be overwhelmed with anxiety when they are no longer able to financially support themselves and their families through their work. For those who qualify, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide a lifeline of income during extended periods of disability. At PSRB, our attorneys have been representing Social Security Disability applicants for decades. Before beginning the application process, it is important to understand the basic law, procedures and processes involved.
QUALIFYING FOR BENEFITS- ECONOMIC CRITERIA
There are two basic types of benefits available for those who are incapable of working full-time due to injury or illness: SSDI, which is calculated based on your past earnings, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is an alternative benefit available for those who are found to be disabled but have not earned enough income to qualify for SSDI. While your past earnings are used to determine the amount of your monthly SSDI benefit, SSI is a set monthly amount for anyone who receives it. SSI is also needs-based, which means that the value of any assets you own, such as a car, house or bank account, may be subtracted from the monthly benefit amount.
In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough “work credits” while you were employed. Each year that you earn income and pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system, you are earning work credits. You can earn up to four work credits in a year, depending on the amount of your income. In 2021, workers received one work credit for each $1,510 earned. The amount of work credits needed to qualify for SSDI varies based on the age that you became disabled.
QUALIFYING FOR BENEFITS- DISABILITY CRITERIA
Whether you have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI or you are applying for SSI, the criteria for proving that you are disabled from working remain the same. Generally, you must prove that you have been disabled from “substantial gainful activity” for a year or, at the very least, that you suffer from an injury or illness that is expected to disable you from substantial gainful activity for at least a year. In a general sense, substantial gainful activity refers to any full-time work. You are also presumed capable of substantial gainful activity if you earn a certain amount of money each month. This limit changes every year, but in 2022 you are presumed capable of substantial gainful activity if you earn over $1,350/month.