Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability: Getting & Keeping Your Benefits

Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability: Getting & Keeping Your Benefits

by David A. Morton III

Written both for first-time applicants and existing recipients of Social Security disability, this guide demystifies the program and tells you everything you need to know about qualifying and applying for benefits, maintaining your benefits, and appealing the denial of a claim. Learn about:
 what Social Security disability is


Written both for first-time applicants and existing recipients of Social Security disability, this guide demystifies the program and tells you everything you need to know about qualifying and applying for benefits, maintaining your benefits, and appealing the denial of a claim. Learn about:
 what Social Security disability is
. what benefits are available to disabled children
. how to prove a disability
. how age, education and work experience affect benefits
. whether or not one can work while receiving benefits
. how to appeal a denial of benefits
. how to respond to a Continuing Disability Review
. in-depth medical listings to help you determine whether a condition will qualify 
This edition is completely updated with the latest rules, information and medical listings, including updated descriptions of SSA regulations governing immune and digestive system disorders; updated information on the "ticket-to-work" program, which provides new training and opportunities for disabled workers; the latest forms and instructions for filling them out; plus updated figures, fees, and contact information.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

" A thorough analysis and discussion of the requirements to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The author is a physician who was formerly a chief medical consultant for the Social Security Administration. " The Wall Street Journal

Washington Post
Nolo people simply through the how, when, where and why of the law.
Time Magazine
The most prominent US publisher of self-help legal aids.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sixth Edition
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

What is Social Security Disability?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) decides who is eligible for disability payments under rules established in the Social Security Act by the U.S. Congress. In this chapter we describe the two main SSA programs that administer disability payments. We briefly explain the requirements that any claimant must meet to receive benefits. We also provide a number of tips on how to deal with the SSA bureaucracy, including answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Social Security Disability.

A. Two Different Programs
Once you qualify as disabled under the Social Security Act, the SSA makes disability payments under one of two programs:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), for workers who have paid into the Social Security trust fund (and their dependents), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for disabled individuals with limited incomes and assets (and their dependents).

SSDI claims are also referred to as Title 2 claims because they are authorized under Title 2 of the Social Security Act. SSI claims may be referred to as Title 16 claims because they are authorized under Title 16 of the Social Security Act. A person claiming a disability is called a claimant. Some claimants apply under both Title 2 and Title 16; these are known as concurrent claims.

When the SSA receives your application, it will determine whether you are eligible for disability benefits under SSDI or SSI, even if you have not specifically requested both. This means that if you apply only for SSDI benefits, the SSA will automatically process your claim for any SSI disability benefits to which you might be entitled. If your SSDI claim is turned down, you don't have to file another claim for possible SSI benefits.

1. Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI provides payments to workers who have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund through the Social Security tax on their earnings. SSDI is also available to certain dependents of workers. If you are found eligible for SSDI, you might be entitled to retroactive (past) benefits if you can show that you were disabled before the date of your application. (See Chapter 10 for more details on when benefits begin.)
Comparing SSDI and SSI

Social Security tax to qualify?
for children?
disabled before age 22
benefits begin?
Children: None

Medicaid starts immediately in most states before actual approval of benefits? before decision. Claimant does not have to return payments if found not disabled. months months (blind claimants are exempt from duration requirement) financial factors may prevent eligibility for benefits? Gainful Activity: Work earning more than $860/month ($1,450/month if blind) as of year 2006 b. Nonwork income and other resources equivalent to income. to noncitizens in U.S.? exceptions
("closed period"), even if not currently disabled?
the work earnings of a relative or spouse? continued during a period of trial work? re-entitlement to benefits if work effort fails after termination of benefits U.S. citizens and noncitizens for noncitizens

To qualify for SSDI, you must fall into one of the following categories:
i. You are a disabled insured worker under age 65 You must have worked both long enough and recently enough to qualify. It may not be sufficient that you worked for many years and paid Social Security taxes. When you worked is also important. The law requires that you earn a certain number of work credits in a specified time before you are eligible for benefits. You can earn up to four credits per year, each credit representing three months. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise. The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Most people need at least 20 credits earned over ten years, ending with the year you become disabled. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

In effect, you count backwards from the year that you became disabled to see whether you have the appropriate number of credits. That means that credits from many years before you became disabled are automatically wiped out, or expire. This can lead to a dangerous situation for people who haven't worked for many years before becoming disabled. Their credits may dip below the required amount, and they can lose eligibility for SSDI. The date on which they lose their eligibility is called the "date last insured," or DLI-often a subject of dispute in Social Security cases. If you think your DLI is too far in the past to qualify you for SSDI, talk to your local SSA Field Office to make sure-in certain rare circumstances, you may still qualify.

The rules are as follows:
Before age 24. You'll need at least six credits earned in the three-year period ending when your disability started.

Age 24 to 31. Credit for having worked half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for three years of work (12 credits) during the six years between ages 21 and 27.

Age 31 or older. In general, you will need the number of work credits shown in the chart below. Unless you are blind (see Chapter 17 for definitions of legal blindness), at least 20 of the credits must have been earned in the ten years immediately before you became disabled.

Meet the Author

David A. Morton has degrees in psychology (B.A.) and medicine (M.D.). For 14 years, he was a disability determination consultant for the Social Security Administration, serving as Chief Medical Consultant for eight years. In his capacity as Chief Medical Consultant, Dr. Morton hired, trained, supervised and evaluated the work of medical doctors and clinical psychologists, and made thousands of disability determinations for both adults and children. Dr. Morton has authored several books on Social Security disability for attorneys and judges.

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