Many people face an uncertain future when – as a result of a debilitating disease, mental health issue or injury – they can no longer earn a living in the workforce. The United States government, specifically the Social Security Administration, has established a safety net for people unable to work. There are two main programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people with a significant work history, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is purely needs based and available for people without a significant work history.
According to the Social Security Administration, eligibility for either SSDI or SSI depends upon a claimant demonstrating an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
If you are unable to work as a result of a debilitating disease, mental health issue or injury, eligibility for SSDI or SSI depends on proving:
- A clinically diagnosed medical condition(s), physical or mental . . .
- That causes some degree of impairment . . .
- Which prohibits you from working for an extended period of time.
That explanation seems simple, but in reality the process of proving disability is much more complicated. For starters, just because you have a certain medical condition that causes you limitations, that doesn’t mean it’s severe enough to meet the Social Security Administration’s threshold requirements.
For instance, if you have spinal stenosis, you aren’t automatically eligible for disability benefits simply by providing a doctor’s report containing the diagnosis. You must also produce evidence demonstrating how the diagnosis actually impairs you. Then, that evidence must be evaluated to determine if the extent of your impairment prevents you from working in your chosen field of employment. But even then, eligibility for disability benefits is not guaranteed, because if you have certain transferrable skills, the Social Security Administration may determine you are still able to engage in gainful employment.
Likewise, your disability must be expected to last for more than 12 months. For instance, our office represents a lot of worker’s compensation clients. Frequently, clients will suffer a debilitating back, knee or shoulder injury that takes them off work while under a doctor’s care. Usually, that disability only lasts for a few weeks or months, while the client recovers from a surgery or receives physical therapy. In that situation, it might not be the best idea to waste time and resources filing for disability, only to return to work in a few months after the doctor releases you.
Filing for social security disability is simple and easy. You can either file online, or go to your local Social Security Disability office. Before you apply, be sure you know what information you need to gather up. That will make the application process simple, quick and easy. Furthermore, the Social Security website contains tons of good information that will help you decide whether to file, and when.
When performing your online research, be very careful about which websites you visit, particularly if you’re ready to apply. If you start an application process on any website that doesn’t end in “.gov”, you may be unwittingly committing yourself to sign up for a so-called “nationwide” disability law firm. The problem with doing that is you lose the personal touch that goes along with hiring a local law firm to help with your needs.
Salmon & Hewins frequently assists our personal injury and worker’s compensation clients in their Social Security Disability cases, but we also happily represent anyone in Southern Indiana, existing client or not. We have had frequent, recent success representing clients whose disability claim involves a mental disorder. More often than not, we establish representation after clients have already filed for disability, received their initial denial, and had their request for reconsideration denied. If you have been denied disability and are ready to appeal the denial in front of an Administrative Law Judge, contact Salmon & Hewins today. For our disability clients, the initial evaluation is always free!