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SSDI Benefits: Common Mistakes and Misconceptions

If you are disabled but are not collecting all the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits you are entitled to, perhaps it’s because you are making one or more of the common mistakes listed below. If you are not disabled, please read and save this guide anyway, because you or a member of your family could become disabled at […]

If you are disabled but are not collecting all the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits you are entitled to, perhaps it’s because you are making one or more of the common mistakes listed below.

If you are not disabled, please read and save this guide anyway, because you or a member of your family could become disabled at any time due to an accident or illness. You will then need to know about, and avoid, these common mistakes. As noted in The New York Times, “50 million people in the U.S. have some form of physical or mental disability. Nineteen percent of those between ages 16 and 64 are disabled, according to census data.”

9 Common Mistakes Made In Regard to Social Security Disability Benefits

Mistake #1

You don’t put away any emergency cash to live on because you believe that Social Security Disability Insurance will pay monthly benefits if you become disabled and are unable to work for a short period.

FACT: SSDI pays benefits only to those with a physical and/or mental disability that is severe enough to keep them from performing substantial work for at least 12 months (or is expected to result in death). The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not pay benefits for short-term. Additionally, no benefits are paid for the first 5 full calendar months of disability. You’re on your own.

Mistake #2

You believe that SSDI benefits will be paid to anyone who becomes disabled and is unable to work for 12 months or longer.

FACT: That’s just one of the requirements. In addition, in order to qualify for SSDI benefits, your work history has to show that you’ve paid into the Social Security system—via payroll deductions or payment of self-employment tax―for a specified number of years. If you didn’t, then you’re not eligible for benefits, even if your disability is severe and long-lasting. (If your income is low, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Mistake #3

You applied for SSDI benefits without doing your “homework” and were turned down. You are really disabled, but you’ve given up on re-applying.

SUGGESTION: Do some research and try again. The SSA offers explanatory booklets for claimants, online information complete with Frequently-Asked Questions, and one-on-one consultations at their local offices, all free of charge. You’ll find out what you need to know in order to fill out claim or appeal forms accurately and completely and what additional information is required. However, it may be easier and more effective to consult a qualified law firm that has a track record of winning SSDI claims. They will be able to present your claim in a manner that clearly shows why you qualify.

Mistake #4

English is not your native language, and it’s very difficult for you to understand all the information provided by the SSA. So, you don’t even try to file a claim or to appeal a denial.

THE FACTS: Most of the information provided by the SSA is also available in Spanish and some correspondence is available in other languages. In addition, the SSA has interpreters (translators) available—usually via three-way phone conferences—to help applicants who speak Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

Mistake #5

You decided you needed help in filing a claim or appealing a claim denial, so you plan to call your family lawyer.

A BETTER IDEA: Contact a law firm that has a proven track record in handling Social Security cases. Very few attorneys have the special training and years of hands-on experience needed to properly and successfully handle SSDI claims and appeals. It’s certainly no job for a jack-of-all-trades lawyer who handles everything from divorces to real estate transactions. There are certain aspects of SSDI that can be attended to only once and if handled incorrectly or too late you won’t get a second chance. So choose carefully.

Mistake #6

You assume that hiring an attorney who is experienced in Social Security disability will be too expensive.

THE FACTS: In most cases, SSDI attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that if your claim is denied, the attorney receives no fee whatsoever. Your only cost is a minimal amount for any related expenses the attorney incurred, such as charges for medical records or photocopying.

When your claim or appeal is successful—thanks to your attorney’s expert advice and work—he or she receives (usually directly from the SSA) one-fourth of your back benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. To put this fee in perspective, after the initial fee is taken from your back pay, you will receive 100% of all future benefits. Since the average family benefit for a disabled worker is currently $2,011—over $24,000 a year—this would add up to $240,000 or more over 10 years if you continue to be disabled and unable to work. Your attorney’s fee is a good investment!

Mistake #7

You’ve been receiving SSDI benefits. But then the SSA suddenly informs you that your benefits will stop because you’re no longer considered disabled. So you take their word for it and do nothing about it.

FACT: The SSA’s decisions are not always correct. But they’re willing to be corrected—if you can convince them that an error has been made. Here’s where an attorney with SSDI expertise can be especially helpful in finding out what caused the SSA to decide to stop your benefits and what’s needed to prove that you are still disabled and unable to return to work. Your attorney may have to appear at a hearing or in federal court on your behalf, so it’s vitally important to have qualified representation. Note, however, if you request payment continuation during your appeal, you will have no back benefits due if you win. This means that you would have to pay a normal retainer to an attorney for him or her to take your case.

Mistake #8

Your young child is disabled, but you don’t apply for benefits.

ACT NOW: Not having worked and paid SSDI taxes, your minor child won’t qualify for Social Security disabled worker’s benefits, but he or she may qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. If your family’s income and assets fall below the allowable limit and your child meets the SSA’s definition of childhood disability, he or she may qualify for SSI benefits. Your child is disabled if

1) He or she has a physical and/or mental condition that results in marked and severe functional limitations that seriously limit activities; and

2) The condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or is expected to result in death.

Mistake #9

Your family has too many assets for your 17-year-old disabled child to get SSI so you give up on getting financial help for him.

APPLY LATER: Once your child turns 18, his or her parents’ income and assets are not considered in determining his or her eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can help your child file an SSI application two months before his or her eighteenth birthday. You should also gather and keep a copy of your child’s medical records that show disability began prior to age twenty-two. That way when you retire or become disabled and draw Social Security benefits, your unmarried child who became disabled before age 22 may be able to draw benefits on your account.

Regardless of which of the above mistakes apply to you, it makes sense to apply—or reapply or appeal—for all the disability benefits you’re entitled to.

7 Common Misconceptions about Social Security Disability Benefits

Disability, whether physical or mental and regardless of cause, can affect anyone.

In fact, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), nearly 3 out of every 10 of today’s 20-year-olds—even those in perfect health—will become disabled before they reach age 67, which will be their Social Security Normal Retirement Age. Currently, some 50 million people in the U.S. have some form of physical or mental disability, according to census data. The longer you live, the greater the chances are that, on or off the job, you will become disabled, too.

If you are already disabled, are too young to qualify for retirement Social Security benefits, and have earned enough work credits under the Social Security system while self-employed or working for others, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Whether or not you collect all the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits you’re entitled to—which could add up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years—may depend on how well you understand the SSDI system and on how you go about applying for your benefits.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about Social Security Disability benefits and what you should know to start collecting if you’re eligible.

Misconception #1

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is too complicated. So I’m not even going to apply, although I’m truly disabled.

Fact: Social Security Disability law is not complicated, but it is foreign to anyone who does not work with it frequently so it can be overwhelming. There are certain law firms that focus on representing people in their SSDI claims. These firms, which have handled a lot of SSDI claims, bring you expertise that an attorney can’t learn just by reading a book or two; so when you hire an attorney, be sure to get legal representation with an SSDI track record. One of these SSDI-experienced attorneys can explain everything and shepherd your claim or appeal through the whole process.

Misconception #2

The SSDI benefit payments aren’t very big. So why bother to apply for them?

Fact: In 2018, the average monthly SSDI benefit for a disabled worker with a spouse and at least one child was $2,051. That’s $24,612 a year! That adds up to more than $246,000 over a 10-year period—a life-saver if the disability continues and there’s little or no other money coming in. All disabled workers including those with and without families averaged a $1,197 monthly benefit for themselves. That’s over $143,000 in a ten-year period. Neither of these figures includes cost-of-living increases given in many years. But regardless of the payment amount you may receive, if it’s money you’re entitled to, why not claim it?

Misconception #3

All I need to apply for benefits is a note from my doctor saying that I’m disabled.

False! It’s wise to get your doctor’s opinion, of course; but you’ll need a lot more than that to qualify for any SSDI benefits. Evidence needed for your claim includes your work history and your medical records pertaining to your disability including test results and medications. After these are submitted, your claim will then undergo a thorough review by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) of your state.

Misconception #4

It won’t take long to get approved since I’m obviously disabled. I’ll apply as soon as I get around to it.

Bad idea! Typically, it will take from three to five months to get a decision on your claim (except for some extremely severe disabilities such as spinal cord injuries or terminal cancer, which are fast-tracked). Then, when your claim is approved, figure another month or two until you actually receive your first benefit payment. Of course, if your claim is turned down and you apply again or file an appeal, it will take even longer. In addition, if you wait longer to file than 17 months after you became disabled, you will lose some benefits.

Misconception #5

In order to save money, the system is rigged to disqualify as many people as possible from collecting benefits.

False. The government is looking for ways to keep Social Security funded, but this does not affect how claims are processed. People who are truly disabled according to Social Security’s rules will be approved if they present their cases clearly. Of course, some people are denied either by mistake and get approved on appeal or are denied because they do not meet the disability requirements. That said, at the beginning of the second quarter of 2018, more than 12 million disabled workers were receiving Social Security Disability benefits and more than 4 million were receiving Supplemental Security Income only (based on disability).

Misconception #6

Even if I’m approved, I won’t receive any benefits in the years ahead because the Social Security system is practically broke.

Fact: Several solutions are being sought by the President and Congress, and it’s likely that additional funding will be found long before then. Therefore, if you’re eligible, apply for benefits now and see how we can help!

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Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing and overwhelming. Hiring a Social Security disability attorney can make the process easier and much less stressful. An attorney guides you through the process and helps you avoid mistakes that could result in denials and unnecessary delays in receiving your Social Security disability benefits. 

What Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Do?

  • Conduct Initial Review of Your Disability Claim
  • Explain the Steps Involved in a Social Security Disability Claim
  • Review Your Disability Application
  • Collect and Organize Medical Evidence
  • Collect and Organize Other Evidence
  • Communicate with the Social Security Administration
  • File Social Security Disability Appeals
  • Help Prepare You for Disability Hearings
  • Represent You at Disability Hearings

Hiring a Social Security disability lawyer has many benefits. You have access to experienced legal advice. You also have someone to provide support and guidance when you become frustrated or overwhelmed by the process of obtaining SSI benefits or SSDI benefits. If your disability insurance benefits are denied, you have someone in your corner who is familiar with your disability case to handle the appeal process.

How Much Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Get Paid?

Paying to hire a Social Security disability lawyer may prevent some people from seeking legal advice from an attorney specializing in Social Security disability. However, once people learn about how an attorney for Social Security disability is paid, they realize that they can afford to hire a Social Security disability attorney to help them with their claim for disability benefits. 

In most cases, your Social Security disability lawyer is paid by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Typically, people who hire an attorney for Social Security disability do not pay any money out of pocket for Social Security disability attorney fees.

When you hire an attorney for Social Security disability benefits, you sign a retainer agreement with the lawyer. The retainer agreement gives the SSA permission to pay your attorney for representing you regarding a Social Security disability claim from your SSDI benefits back pay.

Back pay is the amount of SSI or SSDI benefits that you are entitled to receive from the date you became disabled through the date your disability benefits were approved. In most cases, the date for your back pay begins on the date you filed your initial claim for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance.

What Is the Maximum Attorney Fee For Social Security Disability?

The SSA must approve retainer agreements. The SSA sets attorney fee limits. The retainer agreements must also be based on a contingency fee. If you do not receive any money for your disability claim, you do not owe any attorney fee.

The maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability claims is 25 percent of your back pay up to a maximum of $6,000. 

When Does My Social Security Disability Attorney Receive Payment for Fees?

In most cases, the SSA deducts the entire Social Security disability attorney fee from your first disability check. Your first SSI or SSDI check is your back pay, so the check is generally large enough to cover the attorney fee owed to your Social Security disability lawyer. Your Social Security Award Letter breaks down how back pay is calculated and how the attorney fee for your Social Security disability lawyer was calculated.

How Long After Your Attorney Is Paid Do You Get Your Back Pay For Social Security Disability?

The SSA usually sends your SSDI back pay at the same time it sends your Social Security disability attorney his portion of your back pay for his attorney fee. The payments may be made the same day or within just a few days of each other. Unless there is an issue with your case, there should not be a delay in receiving your disability benefits once they are approved.

Can My Disability Lawyer Request More Money For Attorney Fees?

In some cases, the SSA permits a Social Security disability attorney to petition for additional attorney fees if your case required a lot of extra work or involved an appeal. However, in most cases, it is rare for an attorney to receive more than the maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability claims.

How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

There are many things that a Social Security disability lawyer does when representing a client who is applying for benefits through the Social Security system. Some of the things that your attorney may do include, but are not limited to:

Conduct Initial Review of Your Disability Claim

During your initial consultation with a Social Security disability attorney, the attorney performs an initial assessment of your disability claim. The lawyer may review your work history, a summary of your medical evidence, and your initial application if you have already filed a disability claim for SSDI or SSI benefits. The attorney may ask you numerous questions about your disability, previous jobs, and your daily activities. 

The lawyer needs to learn more about you and your case during the initial conference so that he can determine the best strategy moving forward. An experienced attorney understands that he needs to know as much about a disabled individual to provide sound legal advice about a disability case.

Explain the Steps Involved in a Social Security Disability Claim

After learning about you and your Social Security disability case, a Social Security attorney explains important issues such as:

  • Filing a Social Security Disability Claim
  • Social Security Disability Law
  • Social Security Disability Lawyer Fees
  • SSD Benefits
  • Appeals Process
  • Disability Insurance
  • Qualifying Disability
  • Medical Evidence
  • Substantial Gainful Activity
  • Monthly Benefit
  • Back Pay
  • Disability Hearing
  • Insurance Benefits

A skilled attorney explains all of the various issues related to applying for disability insurance benefits in terms that are easy for the general public to understand. The lawyer answers your questions and addresses your concerns to help you decide if you need to hire a Social Security disability lawyer to help you with a disability case. 

Review Your Disability Application

Filing a disability application that contains mistakes or is incomplete can result in a denial of your disability claim or unnecessary delays in the claims process. A Social Security disability attorney reviews your disability application to identify any mistakes or errors that could hurt your case. Many people are denied disability benefits during the initial phase of the application process. The denials may be based on incomplete information, errors on the application, or insufficient documentation. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you avoid this problem.

Collect and Organize Medical Evidence

Medical evidence is one of the crucial elements of a disability claim. Your qualifying disability must be verifiable through medical evidence. Your disability attorney gathers medical evidence and organizes that evidence for the SSA. Even though the SSA may request additional information from your doctors, having the medical evidence available and organized can ensure that you are ready if you must petition for reconsideration if your initial claim is denied. 

Collect and Organize Other Evidence

You may present other evidence to the SSA that supports your claim for Supplemental Security Income or SSDI benefits. Other evidence may include statements from previous employers, friends, family, and social workers. A skilled attorney familiar with the Social Security claims process understands the value of this type of evidence and how to arrange the evidence in a way that presents a strong case for disability benefits. 

Communicate with the Social Security Administration

There are many stages during the process of applying for Social Security benefits that you may worry that the Social Security office is not doing anything regarding your claim. Your SSDI attorney communicates with the Social Security office to ensure that the SSA agent has everything he or she needs to process your claim. If there is a problem, your Social Security lawyer takes care of the problem immediately to avoid delays in your case. 

Throughout your Social Security disability case, your Social Security attorney monitors deadlines. Missing deadlines could hurt your claim. Therefore, disability lawyers pay close attention to these deadlines and submit the required information before the deadline expires.

File Social Security Disability Appeals

Sadly, a large percent of disability claims are denied during the initial application phase. Once a disability claim is denied, you have a very short window to file a request for reconsideration of the initial determination.

There are four levels in the appeals process. If you disagree with the reconsideration determination, you may request a hearing from an administrative law judge (ALJ). The next step would be to request a review by the Appeals Council. Your last step in the appeals process would be to file a lawsuit in federal court.

If you did not hire a Social Security disability attorney for the initial claim, you might want to consider hiring a Social Security disability appeal lawyer. The appeals process for a Social Security benefit can be challenging without an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. You need a disability attorney who understands the appeals process to fight for your right to disability insurance benefits. 

Help Prepare You for Disability Hearings

During some phases of an appeal of a disability case, you may be required to appear at a hearing. The first hearing will likely be before the administrative law judge. Your Social Security disability attorney prepares you for the hearing by:

  • Explaining what to expect at the hearing with an administrative law judge;
  • Reviewing potential questions that the judge may answer;
  • Giving you advice about what to wear in court; 
  • Giving you directions to the hearing location; and,
  • Answering any questions or concerns you might have about the hearing for disability insurance benefits. 

Represent You At Disability Hearings

The hearing is critical. At a hearing, you can present additional medical evidence and witness testimony. Because the hearing is a legal proceeding, it is generally best to have a lawyer for Social Security disability appeal cases to represent you. A skilled attorney familiar with Social Security law understands how to present the evidence in the best possible way to strengthen your claim for SSD benefits.

When Should I Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

You can talk to a Social Security disability lawyer at any stage of your disability claim. 

You may want to consult an attorney for Social Security disability before you file your initial claim. Some people have questions about the information that is requested on the disability application. Other people may feel uneasy about completing the initial claim without legal advice from an attorney specializing in Social Security disability. 

Other people complete and file their application for disability benefits without help from a Social Security disability lawyer. If their claim for SSI or SSDI benefits is denied, they contact a disability lawyer for help.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Social Security Disability Claim?

Social Security disability law does not require you to hire a lawyer for a Social Security disability claim. However, you are free to do so at any time during the process. You can hire a disability attorney to help you apply for Social Security disability, or you can hire a Social Security disability appeal lawyer. The choice is up to you.

Regardless of when you hire an attorney to help with your disability benefits claim, the attorney fee charged for services is the same. A Social Security attorney can only charge 25 percent of your back pay up to $6,000 whether the attorney takes your case from the initial claim or during an appeal.

When Should I Hire an Attorney for Social Security Disability?

There are some elements of a disability case that can make the case more complicated and difficult to win. In those instances, it may be a wise idea to hire an attorney for Social Security disability at the beginning of your case. 

Indications that an applicant or claimant for disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income may need a Social Security lawyer include, but are not limited to:

  • You receive a denial of claim letter from the Social Security Administration;
  • Your disability case involves a disabling condition related to a mental health or emotional disorder;
  • You have been denied disability benefits in the past;
  • You may need a Functional Capacity Evaluation to support your disability claim;
  • The SSA requests an Independent Medical Examination (IME);
  • You may need a vocational, psychological, or neuropsychological examination to support your claim;
  • Your disability condition is not listed in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments; or,
  • You need to appeal your disability benefits determination. 

Your disability lawyer offers legal advice regarding information requested on the disability application or by the Social Security Administration. Also, your Social Security disability lawyer can provide guidance when you come up against issues or problems that could hurt your chance of success if not handled in a specific manner. An experienced attorney knows how to handle matters before they become problems that could derail your Social Security disability claim.

How to Choose a Social Security Disability Attorney

If you want to hire a Social Security disability attorney to help you with your disability benefits claim, there are several things to consider:

  • Online Reviews
  • Questions to Ask an Attorney
  • Case Management Load
  • Social Security Disability Attorney Success Rate
  • Social Security Disability Attorney’s Fees
  • Services Included in the Retainer Agreement

Online Reviews for Social Security Disability Lawyers

You may want to begin your search for a disability lawyer with an internet search for “Social Security disability attorney & advocacy services near me.” The search should produce a list of disability lawyers. Carefully read the online reviews for each law firm or attorney you consider. You may also want to check attorney review sites such as Avvo or Lawyers.com. However, do not rely on online reviews only. 

Contact the Better Business Bureau and the state bar association to ask about pending and past complaints against the attorney or law firm. You can also check Social Media websites for reviews and ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. 

Questions to Ask an Attorney

When you meet with a Social Security disability attorney, there are several questions you need to ask:

  • How much experience do you have handling Social Security cases involving my disabling condition?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Will you prepare and file all paperwork in my case?
  • Do you contact my doctors and health care providers for records?
  • Do
    you attend all appointments and hearings with me at the Social Security Administration?
  • When do I receive updates about my case?
  • Can I call with questions or concerns?
  • Do you have clients that can provide recommendations? 

Experience is one of the most important qualities to look for when hiring a disability lawyer. However, you also want to ensure that you feel comfortable with the attorney, and the attorney has excellent communication skills.

Case Management Load

Avoid law firms that are “disability mills.” These law firms handle thousands of cases each year. Many times, you never meet directly with a disability attorney. Make sure that you question any prospective attorney closely about who will handle your case. How many people are on the legal team that manages your case? Can you talk to the attorney directly if you have concerns about your disability case?

Social Security Disability Attorney Success Rate

Ask the attorney about his or her success rate for Social Security disability cases. You should try to hire an attorney who has a high success rate. Do not forget to ask about the success rate for appeals. In many cases, the disability attorney you hire may also need to handle a Social Security disability appeal.

Attorneys’ Fees for Social Security Lawyers

Confirm with your lawyer that your disability case is handled on a contingency fee basis. The fee should be no more than 25% of your back pay, with a maximum fee of $6,000. However, you should also ask the attorney how often the attorney petitions the court for additional attorneys’ fees and how often he files those petitions.

When discussing the attorney fees, ask about the costs of the costs. The costs of the case include, but are not limited to:

  • Copy fees
  • Postage
  • Travel expenses
  • Medical record fees
  • Expert witness fees

Some disability lawyers request a small payment up front for costs throughout the case. Make sure that you discuss costs in addition to attorneys’ fees for a disability attorney. 

Services Included in the Retainer Agreement

Your retainer agreement with a Social Security disability attorney should clearly explain the services that are included and the services that are not included in the fee agreement. It may be a lengthy document, but you need to read the entire document to ensure that you will receive the services you need from the law firm and the legal team.

Should You Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer or Go It Alone?

The answer to that question depends on the unique circumstances of your case. One thing to consider is that having a legal team or law office to help you apply for disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income can reduce the stress many people experience when dealing with the Social Security system. The Social Security system can be overwhelming and frustrating when you go it alone.

Furthermore, even though you have a qualifying disability, that does not ensure that your Social Security disability application will be approved. Hiring a skilled attorney for your Social Security disability claim could help you successfully navigate the appeals process.

Keep these key points in mind when deciding whether you need to hire a Social Security disability attorney: 

  • The SSA sets a maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability lawyers.
  • An attorney reviews your disability claim and assists in preparing your disability application and other documents. 
  • An experienced attorney helps you understand Social Security law and the Social Security system.
  • Your disability attorney can help you gather medical evidence and other evidence to support your claim.
  • Disability attorneys handle all communications with the SSA and monitor deadlines in your disability case.
  • Your disability lawyer files the appeals and prepares you for disability hearings.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to an attorney. Most disability lawyers offer free consultations, so it does not cost you anything to talk to a lawyer about your disability claim.

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With expertise spanning local, state, and federal benefit programs, our team is dedicated to guiding individuals towards the perfect program tailored to their unique circumstances.

Rise to the top with Peak Benefits!

Join our Peak Benefits Newsletter for the latest news, resources, and offers on all things government benefits.

How to approach nutritional research findings on various foods as they apply to your particular need and tips for how to decide which are right for you.

Medicine, therapy, treatments, and surgery are all traditional methods to alleviate the physical and mental symptoms of illness, disease, and many disabilities. However, an area that has been overlooked by many as part of the strategy for improvement of health issues for people with disabilities is nutrition. The modern scientific research of nutrition has contributed critical information about the effects of different foods and diet on people’s health. Understanding and applying recent research on diet and nutrition, especially as it relates to health and disability, can be one of the best ways you can improve the quality of your life, prevent additional health issues, and even advance your physical well being.

Two main areas around nutrition that most apply to people with disabilities include interpreting scientific research as it applies to your particular health needs and understanding the financial implications of incorporating improved nutrition into your life. You don’t have to be a scientist or an economist to understand these two areas. You do have to be selective and careful in knowing the value of what you read. But armed with the best information from experts in nutrition and money management you can develop a plan that includes nutrition to improve living with a disability.

The Science of Nutrition

First, let’s look at the information available to you about the science of nutrition. There is no shortage of nutrition information in books, magazines, social media or websites. But are all of these science-based or reliable sources for you to incorporate in making decisions about your health? Unless you have a background in nutrition, access to a comprehensive library of medical and scientific journals and the time to read through and process the research findings, it is almost impossible on your own to tackle the mountain of facts available. And relying on friends, social media, or even traditional media resources to provide you with comprehensive and understandable nutrition news will not necessarily provide the depth or accuracy of information you might need related to your specific conditions. Fortunately, there are many trustworthy sources that review scientific and professional literature readily available on the Internet. Some examples to get you started will be explained in a moment.

Another complication is the time-consuming process of developing a thorough understanding of the effects of nutrition and food science on your body and your particular disability. As you know, disabilities can occur as a result of many different factors including accidents, genetic disorders, childhood through adult diseases, age or other conditions, among many other causes. What a person eats will not be the cure-all for every individual or disabling condition. However, a basic understanding of how to interpret nutrition information as it applies particularly to you can be a powerful tool to improve your overall health. Of course, any changes you make to your diet should be discussed with your doctor and other health professionals who are treating you for your disability.

So where do you begin? First, you need to know how to evaluate information that has been substantiated by scientific research or expertise. Scientific research is usually reported in professional journals, and in the case of nutrition, it is research conducted by nutritionists, dietitians, scientists, physicians, or others with credentials in a field. Many journals are published by universities (particularly those with medical schools or schools of public health) or non-profit organizations that specialize in nutrition science. Some examples include the Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science, the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, the New England Medical Journal and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Experts also may publish reports that include analysis and interpretation of research in popular magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs. The important element is for you to know whether or not the author of any material has the expertise to review or explain the information.

For example, there are many websites devoted to nutrition information based on scientific research including ones from the Center for Nutrition Studies (nutritionstudies.org), the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org/health), NutritionFacts.org, www.eatright.org produced by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and ScienceDaily.com, plus dozens of blogs about nutrition and health. Again, as an educated reader, always review the credentials of the contributors of the information. If the writers are not professionals in health and nutrition, they can still be experts if they have experience reviewing, analyzing and interpreting scientific research or advanced education in these and related fields. If professional information is not available with the information, you can always Google the writer’s name to learn more about their expertise.

If you are overwhelmed by the amount of information available and determining whether or not it is reliable (and you will be), there is one final rule of thumb to follow: If you read something that is science-based about nutrition, it should be easy to find plenty of additional information from reliable sources in support of or similar to it. If only one source claims that eating clams daily will add years to your life, for example, you can determine that the community of experts does not agree with that claim. Pay attention to the sources of the nutrition information you find and never hesitate to check it out by asking your doctor, dietitian or other nutrition expert. Also, if websites provide contact information, a Q and A section, Ask Questions, or discussion area, you can easily learn more about the sources of information.

Once you understand how to evaluate information, you can refine your search to aspects of nutrition directly related to your disability or your interests. For example, if you have a heart disease-related disability, you can search for nutrition information specifically related to heart health. In addition, there are many scientific studies that have been conducted about nutrition related to cancer treatment and recovery, diabetes, lung and breathing disorders, age-related disabilities and other debilitating diseases. In addition there are reliable resources on nutrition for children with disabilities, including the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

A technique that may be helpful as you read information is to jot down the websites or sources you think are good ones, or bookmark them to review again. Some people like to print information so that they can re-read it away from their computer. If you keep a notebook or bookmark the articles you are reading it is easier to build a body of knowledge about your specific interests. This technique also allows you to cross check the resources to verify the information and note any questions you have for further investigation. Making nutrition decisions based on information you are reading about and studying in depth can have huge pay-offs in helping you to feel better despite your disabilities.

The benefits of healthy diets to prevent disease and disability along with poor nutrition as a cause of or contributor to disease and disability are well documented in the scientific literature. But there are also disabilities that affect individuals’ malnutrition. People with long-term conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), liver disease, and mental illness may experience loss of appetite or digestive stress. When nothing sounds appetizing or a person craves only food that has little nutritional value, it can negatively affect the person’s overall health as well as the progression of their disability. People with back injuries or mobility issues find it difficult to get up and fix food for themselves let alone to shop for fresh food to have on hand. Some chronic and developmental conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy, make it difficult for individuals to physically chew and swallow food. These considerations are important in planning how to incorporate nutrition information into practical eating situations.

Investing your time to learn about specific foods and their nutritional value or effect can make you an active participant in improving your life with a disability. Share your interest and newfound knowledge about nutrition with your family and friends. The research and information available can be life changing—in a good way! And now let’s tackle another piece of the nutritional puzzle and that is, how can people with disabilities on a fixed income afford to pay for healthy food? Isn’t it much more expensive to pay for high-quality nutrition?

The Cost of Good Nutrition

It is not surprising that most people have definite beliefs about food and the costs associated with it. Look at some of these statements related to these beliefs and consider what you think of them:

  • Fast food isn’t healthy but it is cheaper and tastier than cooking at home
  • Since organic food is more expensive it costs more to eat healthy
  • You get what you pay for (you don’t get what you don’t pay for)
  • Food that is good for you automatically costs more
  • If I had more money I would eat healthier food
  • If a food has special health benefits it costs more

If you agree these statements sound reasonable or familiar, then you are like most consumers who believe that the higher the quality of food (nutritious), the more expensive it must be. The relationship between healthy food and high prices is complicated, however, and understanding the cost of nutrition requires thoughtful investigation.

Let’s consider the variety of prices at the grocery store for fruit salad, for example. Buying a fruit salad ready to put on the table with a variety of cut-up fresh fruit would probably be the most expensive option. The middle option might include a selection of one type of in-season fruit, peeled and cut up for salad. The least expensive option might be a couple of cans of fruit salad. The choices here are based on the type and variety of fruit used, the method of packaging or processing, whether the fruit is local or is shipped from someplace else, special sales events and even the season of the year. Many people believe that fresh is always better (both tastes better and is more nutritious) than canned or frozen. However, when you look at the nutritional information about each, barring additives such as sodium or extra sugar to the canned or frozen varieties (and that is very easy to check on the label), there is not a major difference in health benefits. So taste, convenience and price should be considerations in deciding which to purchase for nutritional value.

There is also a lot of confusion about organic versus regular products. Organic is a farming and food processing designation. The organic label has more to do with how food is grown, fertilized, and irrigated rather than about the nutritional value for human consumption. If it is important to you to support organic food production, than realize you are paying more in some cases but not necessarily for better nutrition. Also note that there is a wide range of requirements for food to be labeled organic. Some people claim that organic food tastes better to them. There are research studies that have shown that there are potential benefits to organic food production in slightly higher levels of nutrients, healthier fatty acids, and lower toxic chemical levels. Once you are familiar with various aspects of organic food, you can better make a personal decision about it. As with all food, safety practices in washing, cooking, and even selecting all food must be observed.

Making nutritional and budget decisions about using resources to their maximum benefit are not always simple. Consider what usually drives you in making food selections, such as variety, convenience, calories or value. Do you feel confident that you have sufficient knowledge to purchase and prepare nutritious food within your budget? How will you educate yourself to become a better consumer by maximizing your dollars in buying the best food for you and your family?

It doesn’t have to cost more to improve your nutrition. It does involve taking the time to learn more about both nutritional content and budget decisions related to the food you purchase, prepare and eat. Abundant resources are available on nutrition and stretching your food budget. The time you invest educating yourself about these two factors can provide great returns for your health and well-being. Take the first steps today to get started!

By Jackie Booth, Ph.D.

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SSDI benefits can help Connecticut residents who have a long-term disability that prevents them from working for at least 12 months. 

Typically, an SSDI application will only be approved if the claimant has paid a significant amount of Social Security taxes through employee payroll deductions.

Facts About Connecticut

Approximately one in four adults across the US has a disability, according to the CDC. In the Constitution State, that ratio is lower, with one in every five. The Land of Steady Habits (as it’s also called) seems to be aptly named since disabled Connecticut residents are significantly less likely to be obese, smoke, inactive, or have high blood pressure than disabled Americans across the country.

But even though a disabled Connecticut resident is more likely to be healthy than the national average, disabilities can still make life financially challenging. Thankfully, SSDI benefits can help defray expenses like housing, food, and transportation.

How To Qualify for SSDI in Connecticut

If you hope to qualify for Connecticut Social Security disability, you will need to show the SSA that you are a qualified person medically and non-medically. The non-medical qualification relates to how many work credits you have attained through employment, where you paid Social Security taxes (also called FICA taxes).

$1,470 in net earnings gives you one work credit, and the most you can attain per year is four. You will need 40 to qualify for the disability program, and 20 of those credits must be from the past decade.

The medical component of your disability application must prove that you have a qualified disease or condition that debilitates you for at least 12 months or will eventually result in death. Sometimes, a disability claim will be fast-tracked if the disease is on the list of Compassionate Allowances, such as fast-moving cancers.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your disability application will need to contain sufficient proof of this condition such as medical records, letters from doctors, and hospital bills. Sometimes, it helps to seek out legal advice from a Social Security disability lawyer who can assist you in packaging your disability claim in the most convincing way.

As many as 70% of SSDI claims are turned away initially. In addition to improving your chances with your disability claim at the outset, an SSDI lawyer can help you see if another route like workers’ compensation would behoove you more, or if you should pursue a disability hearing.

How To Apply for SSDI in Connecticut

A Connecticut resident with an SSDI claim needs to show the Disability Determination Service that they are medically and non-medically qualified. Non-medical qualification means you have paid enough Social Security taxes. The medical qualification is determined if an eligible applicant has an SSA-approved condition like a particular developmental disability or mental illness.

There are hundreds of different disabilities listed in the SSA Blue Book, but even if you do not have a specific disability, you can show that your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is too low to retain any gainful employment.

If these two components are in place and you have your medical records in order, you can apply online right on the Social Security Administration website, or over the phone at 800-772-1213. You could also go into one of the 15 Social Security office locations around the Nutmeg State.

How To Appeal a Denial in Connecticut

If the SSA does not approve your SSDI application, you can go through the process of Disability Adjudication with Disability Determination Services. The first course of action is to request a reconsideration so you can provide more evidence, whether that is medical documentation to build a case for your disability, or documents relating to how much Social Security tax you paid throughout your employment or self-employment history.

If the reconsideration does not go as hoped, you can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, who may return your application to a different disability examiner.

The next level of appeal is the Appeals Council, which may return your case to a different ALJ or decide it themselves. Unfortunately, many SSDI applications need to go through disability adjudication. One way to reduce this likelihood is to get a disability lawyer in The Nutmeg State to assist with your claim.

More Connecticut Benefits

SSI

If someone does not have sufficient work history to qualify for SSDI, they may be able to obtain Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a similar program with some key differences in terms of eligibility and monthly benefit.

Supplemental Security Insurance is available for low-income earners who are disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. The maximum amount of SSI an individual can collect is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for an eligible couple – so note that separate SSI benefits do not necessarily combine into a larger total. However, there is no work credit requirement for SSI. 

Even if you do qualify for SSDI, you may be able to collect SSI as well, which not only can increase your income by $794, but can also make sure you have no gaps in medical coverage, because it takes two years for Medicare to kick in with SSDI, and SSI recipients get medical assistance right away.

Connecticut Medicaid

Husky Health is the Connecticut Medicaid program. Medicaid is a government program jointly funded and administered by the federal and state governments to provide low-income earners with health insurance. In Connecticut, Husky Health has different parts (A, B, C, and D), each one applicable to a different demographic. For example, Husky D is for low-income earners with dependents.

Connecticut Unemployment Insurance

There are also Connecticut Unemployment benefits, which are paid through the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. These unemployment benefits are available to those who are out of work through no fault of their own, available to work, and seeking unemployment. 

Note that “no fault” according to Connecticut Law does not necessarily preclude collecting unemployment if you were terminated against your will unless you engaged in willful misconduct.

Connecticut Social Security Offices

SSA Field Office Locations in Connecticut
Hartford SSA Office960 Main St 2nd Floor
Hartford, CT 6103
(877) 619-2851
Bridgeport SSA Office35 Courtland St 2nd Floor
Bridgeport, CT 6604
(866) 331-6399
Waterbury SSA Office51 North Elm St Suite 1
Waterbury, CT 6702
(877) 405-4874
Willimantic SSA Office1320 Main St Ste 19
Willimantic, CT 6226
(877) 405-0488
New London SSA Office2 Shaws Cove Rm 101
New London, CT 6320
(866) 643-3401
New Haven SSA Office150 Court St
Giaimo Fed Bldg 4th Fl
New Haven, CT 6510
(866) 331-5281
New Britain SSA Office233 Main Street 2nd Fl
New Britain, CT 6051
(866) 858-6086
Stamford SSA Office2 Landmark Square Suite 105
Stamford, CT 6901
(866) 770-1881
Meriden SSA Office321 Research Pkwy Suite 212
Meriden, CT 6450
(877) 409-8429
Torrington SSA Office147 Litchfield Street
Torrington, CT 6790
(877) 405-0486
Danbury SSA Office131 West St
Danbury, CT 6810
(866) 275-7821
Ansonia SSA Office475 Main Street
Ansonia, CT 6401
(866) 331-7096
East Hartford SSA Office478 Burnside Avenue
East Hartford, CT 6108
(866) 706-6759
Middletown SSA Office425 Main Street 3rd Floor
Middletown, CT 6457
(877) 692-3145
Norwich SSA Office55 Main St Suite 380
Norwich, CT 6360
(888) 482-3170

Connecticut Hearing and Appeal Offices

Connecticut is in Region 1 (Boston), which services Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Region 1 – SSA Office of Hearing Operations in Connecticut
SSA Hearing Office – Hartford135 High Street, Room 331
William R. Cotter Federal Building
Hartford, CT 06103-1193
(866) 931-2878
SSA Hearing Office – New Haven157 Church Street, 7th Floor
Connecticut Financial Center
New Haven, CT 6510
(866) 613-2750

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Social Security Disability Insurance is provided by the Social Security Administration for disabled individuals who can no longer work, or whose illness or disability will eventually result in death. However, in order to claim SSDI benefits, a potential SSDI recipient will need to fill out the Social Security Disability application.

11 Questions About the Social Security Disability Application

  • What forms are needed to apply for Social Security disability?
  • Where can I get a Social Security disability application?
  • How do I fill out Social Security disability forms?
  • How can I undo my Social Security disability application?
  • Where do I send my Social Security disability application?
  • How do I update a Social Security disability application?
  • How long does it take to process a Social Security disability application?
  • How do I submit an online Social Security disability application?
  • How do I fill out the medical conditions on my Social Security disability application?
  • How do I put mental health issues on my Social Security disability application?
  • Is the SSDI application the same as the SSI application?

The SSDI application is meant to screen SSDI benefit applicants and help the SSA determine who needs cash assistance. If you have a condition that has prevented you or will prevent you from working, you should fill out the forms and see if you can obtain SSDI benefits.

What forms are needed to apply for Social Security disability?

The base SSDI application form to apply to collect Social Security Disability (SSDI) is form SSA-16-BK. An SSDI applicant will also need to provide medical information with form SSA-3368, elaborate on their work history with form SSA-3369, and form SSA-827, which is essentially an authorization for the SSA to collect information. 

Keep in mind that in addition to these forms, you may need to provide documentation that proves your identity, such as a birth certificate and/or passport. You may also need to furnish proof of income statements such as W-2 forms from an employer or the form 1040 of your income tax returns. Of course, in filling out the SSDI application you will need identifying information, such as your Social Security Number.

Where can I get a Social Security disability application?

You can fill out the forms at your local Social Security Administration. You can also obtain the forms online, download them, and mail them in. It may be easiest to fill out the SSDI application on the SSA website. Keep in mind that even if you fill out your application online, the approval process for SSDI can still take 3-5 months and you will still have an in-person interview.

How do I fill out Social Security disability forms?

If you are filling out your SSDI application online, you will just need to type your answers into the online application. The Social Security Administration estimates that this process will most likely take 1-2 hours to complete. You can print the forms out, fill them out by hand, and mail them in. 

If you are not able to fill out the forms by hand, you can have someone assist you, or you can type the answers into an editable PDF document. There is a checkbox for indicating that you have received this assistance on your application. If these options are all too difficult, given your personal situation, you may call your local SSA and initiate an application over the phone.

How can I undo my Social Security disability application?

If you change your mind about receiving SSDI benefits for whatever reason, you can withdraw your application. You will need to fill out form SSA-521 and send it or bring it to your local Social Security Office. You can make a withdrawal once during your lifetime, and you can make this withdrawal up to 12 months after SSDI benefits start being issued. 

The SSA will review your request for a withdrawal and let you know if you need to make any benefits that need to be repaid. If you change your mind yet again and wish to reinstate your benefits, you will have just 60 days from receiving this notice to cancel your withdrawal, preferably by calling or going into your local Social Security Administration.

Where do I send my Social Security disability application?

You can mail your forms and application to your local Social Security Administration building. If you’re not sure where that is, you can conduct an online search, look it up on the SSA website, or give them a call. It will also be listed in your phone book under Social Security. If you would like to verify that your forms make it to the local SSA, you can visit the office yourself and obtain a receipt from the clerk on duty. 

Once your application for SSDI benefits has been given to the SSA, a disability examiner will review your application and make a disability determination. If they need any ancillary material to process your disability claim—such as medical evidence like records of medical treatment—the disability examiner will let you know, and let you know where to send that material.

How do I update a Social Security disability application?

Once you are approved for the monthly benefit offered by disability insurance, the SSA will conduct regular reviews of your SSDI benefits, at which point you can notify them of any changes to your situation. If your application is still in process, you can call or go into your local SSA office to discuss submitting those changes. 

You will also have an in-person interview for SSDI benefits, during which you can elaborate on any changes and provide evidence of these changes, such as medical records. The disability determination process may take several months, during which time the exact nature of your needs for a monthly disability benefit may have changed. 

How long does it take to process a Social Security disability application?

It’s best to initiate a Social Security disability claim as soon as possible since the review process can take at least 3-5 months. It may take longer, but the exact amount of time is a case-by-case basis. You can always create a my Social Security account online to track the status of your application. Thankfully, if your application takes longer than five months, you will be issued some SSDI back pay in the form of one lump sum to assist in defraying the cost of your living expenses while you wait for your SSDI Approval Letter. 

How do I submit an online Social Security disability application?

You can submit your application online, mail in your form, or have a disability attorney assist you. The SSA will accept in your application, where it will be reviewed for determining your eligibility for SSDI benefits.

Please note: Filling out the application online takes time. If you need to take a break for your application, you can simply save it wherever you are in the process and return to it later.

How do I fill out the medical conditions on my Social Security disability application?

You will list your medical conditions on form SSA-3368. This form will ask you to list your medical conditions and provide information about how they have impacted your income, such as whether your ability to work has been reduced or if you are no longer able to work entirely. You will also need to provide information about medicines that you take, the prescribing doctor, and the reason for those medications.

There will be various detailed questions about different medical tests you might have received or procedures you underwent, such as blood tests, MRI or CAT scans, an EKG, or biopsy. You will need to know the dates of these visits, along with information about the organization providing care, such as their name, phone number, address, and even your patient number while at that facility (if applicable).

This form gets very nuanced and detailed, so it’s a good idea to print out the forms or look at PDF versions of them to know what information you need to round up before filling out your form.

The more detailed and complete your form is, the quicker your application will be for the SSA to process. Any missing information will require them to reach out to a hospital, doctor, or healthcare provider to fill in the missing gaps or require them to contact you, either of which can delay the process. 

How do I put mental health issues on my Social Security disability application?

You may have certain questions about your medical eligibility, such as, “Is depression a disability?” You can put down mental health conditions on your application just like any other condition—but just like any other condition, you will need to provide medical evidence and contact information of treatment facilities or doctors. 

The disability determination service has a thorough process for examining every disability insurance claim that comes their way. In cases where a disabled worker is making a case for limited income due to depression, the SSA looks at factors like substantial gainful activity levels throughout your working life, medical evidence, and a checklist of definitions around mental health issues. Do not hesitate to contest the decisions of the SSA if you disagree with it. You can have your case reviewed before an administrative law judge and solicit the help of disability representation. 

Is the SSDI application the same as the SSI application?

No. The SSI application for SSI benefits entails a different process, although some elements are similar. SSI or supplemental security income is funded by tax revenues (though not by Social Security tax). SSI is a program that provides cash assistance benefits for American citizens or residents who have limited financial resources, are legally blind, or over the age of 65. 

Many applicants for SSI are elderly individuals applying for retirement benefits who will fill out form SSA-1-BK. However, receiving SSI benefits does not require a work history, whereas SSDI does. However, just like the SSDI application, applicants may need to furnish documentation that proves their identity, such as a birth certificate and/or passport. 

Understanding the Social Security Disability Application

The application for SSDI seems lengthy and burdensome, but when you receive your SSDI Award Letter, you’ll be happy you filled it out. It’s important to make sure that you have all the necessary information before filling out your SSDI application. This includes not only verifying pieces of information, but also medical records and information about medical providers for filling out the detailed forms that are unique to the SSDI application. Save this information in asafe place, and make copies that you also keep in a safe place, because you may need it when you have your in-person interview, or if the SSA requires follow-up information or documentation around your medical condition and work history.

SSA-3381 Medical and Job Worksheet—Adult Disability Claim

SSA-16-BK Application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(Social Security wage earner only)

SSA-16-BK-SP Solicitud para beneficios de seguro por incapacidad

SSA-8000-BK Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Application

SSA-827 Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration

SSA-546 Worker’s Compensation/Public Disability Questionnaire

SSA-3368-BK Disability Report – Adult
To be completed by a worker, widow(er), adult child or SSI adult

SSA-3369-BK Work History Report
To be completed by a worker, widow(er), adult child or SSI adult

SSA-3373-BK Function Report – Adult
To be completed by a worker, widow(er), adult child or SSI adult

SSA-3380-BK Function Report – Adult – Third Party Form
To be completed by a third party for a worker, widow(er), adult child or SSI adult

SSA-3033 Employee Work Activity Questionnaire
Employer statement regarding work accommodations and/or subsidy

Physical Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment Form (for physician)

Mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment Form (for physician)

SSA-4814 Medical Report on Adult with Allegation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection (for physician)

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Disabled South Carolina residents with special needs have access to a variety of federal and state services.

Federal assistance is available through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), both run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). These programs are federally funded but are administered through state agencies.

In South Carolina, Disability Determination Services (DDS) reviews applications and works with the SSA to determine eligibility.

In addition to Social Security disability benefits, a disabled resident may also qualify for Medicaid (Healthy Connections), unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, or income assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At this time, the state does not offer any short-term disability due to personal injury, though you may be eligible through your employer. Residents with disabilities may wish to contact the Center for Disability Resources for more help. This organization provides assistance and advocacy for those with developmental disabilities like autism and other developmental delays.

Facts About South Carolina

Around 30% of South Carolina’s population has a disability of one kind or another. The largest proportion of individuals have mobility or cognitive-related conditions. Out of these disabled individuals, 40% are more likely to be overweight and 27% are likely to smoke. The numbers are higher than the state averages of 33% and 15% respectively.

South Carolina pays $12 billion annually for disability-related healthcare costs, which is 36% of the state’s overall spending on healthcare.

How To Qualify for SSDI in South Carolina

South Carolina residents applying for SSDI benefits must meet the same criteria set forth by the SSA as the rest of the nation. Although these are federal requirements, your application will be forwarded to South Carolina DDS to review and determine if you meet all the standards.

Each state works under the framework that the SSA sets forth, but each state has different approval ratings based on its findings. South Carolina approves approximately 37% of all first time applications which is just above the national average of 35%.

There are two main benchmarks that your disability claim must meet to be considered for a monthly benefit.

First, you must show that you’ve worked long enough and have contributed to the Social Security tax. This typically means ten years of employment, though a waiver may be granted by the Social Security office if your disability is so severe you’ve never been able to work.

The second requirement is that your disability must be considered “severe.” It should be listed in the SSA Blue Book of approved disabilities. This is a comprehensive list of physical and mental impairments from autism spectrum disorder to asthma to chronic liver disease

The SSA must deem your disability to be severe enough to impact your ability to work for at least 12 months or end in death. It is possible to be approved if your condition is not on this list, but your chances are much more likely if it’s included.

How To Apply for SSDI in South Carolina

An applicant can send in their request for Social Security Disability benefits in one of three ways: online, by phone, or in person. The quickest way to apply is through the federal Social Security site, but you can also call the national number at 800-772-1213 for step-by-step instructions.

You can also apply in person at your local Social Security field office. In South Carolina, there are 17 offices to choose from, but you should call first to make an appointment.

Before you apply, take the time to gather all relevant information and supporting documents. This should include medical records as well as names and contact information of doctors and clinics. You will also need to supply basic personal information about you, your spouse, and your children – including date of birth, Social Security number, and employment history.

How To Appeal a Denial in South Carolina

South Carolina has steadily been increasing their initial approval rate over the last 10 years. However, even with a 37% acceptance rate, this still leaves the majority of applicants with no benefit.

Those preparing an SSDI claim should expect to go through at least one stage of the appeals process to complete their application. With each level, you have 60 days from the time you receive your denial to file your new claim.

Reconsideration

The reconsideration phase is usually fairly fast and does not require the assistance of an attorney. In this stage, you can request to have a new disability examiner look at your initial application to see if an error was made. Around 11% of applications receive approval at this stage.

Disability Hearing

In the second stage of appeals, many people choose to hire a disability lawyer for legal advice. When you request a hearing (called a disability adjudication) with an administrative law judge, it will be scheduled at one of three Hearing and Appeals offices in South Carolina: North Charleston, Columbia, or Mauldin.

You will likely be asked to bring additional supporting documentation or witnesses, and around 55% of cases are approved at this stage. Unfortunately, it can take over a year to receive an appointment.

Appeals Council

Most people will not have to employ the third level of appeal, but if you do you’ll apply for an appeal online with the Social Security Appeals Council. The purpose of this council is to review all lower determinations to see if a mistake was made.

Federal Court

The final level of appeal is to file a lawsuit at the district federal court in South Carolina. At this point, you will want to contact a law firm to retain a social security disability lawyer.

More South Carolina Benefits

SSI

Many people who receive SSDI may also receive SSI benefits. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another federal insurance program intended for those with low-income residents, and you don’t necessarily have to have a disability to qualify.

To be eligible you must be disabled, blind, or over age 65. All applicants must meet low income and limited resources requirements. When you apply for SSDI, your application will automatically be reviewed to see if you also qualify for SSI.

South Carolina Medicaid

If you already qualify for and receive SSI, you are automatically entitled to receive South Carolina Medicaid (Healthy Connections). Medicaid is a joint state and federal health insurance program for low-income individuals who could not afford coverage on their own.

Healthy Connections is run by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) and provides free or low-cost insurance to South Carolinians.

South Carolina Unemployment

A person who has become unemployed through no fault of their own may qualify for South Carolina Unemployment benefits. This program provides temporary financial help for up to 20 weeks and has a maximum weekly payout of $316.

South Carolina Social Security Offices

SSA Field Office Locations in South Carolina
Columbia SSA Office1835 Assembly St 11th Floor
Columbia, SC 29201
(866) 964-7594
Spartanburg SSA Office145 N Church St 3rd Floor
Spartanburg, SC 29306
(866) 701-6620
Charleston SSA Office1463 Tobias Gadson Blv
Charleston, SC 29407
(866) 495-0111
Greenville SSA Office319 Pelham Rd
Greenville, SC 29615
(877) 274-5423
Florence SSA Office181 Dozier Blvd
Florence, SC 29501
(888) 385-1173
Rock Hill SSA Office499 Lakeshore Pkwy
Rock Hill, SC 29730
(877) 626-9589
Greenwood SSA Office115 Enterprise Court Ste C
Greenwood, SC 29649
(866) 739-4803
Anderson SSA Office4 Civic Ctr Blvd Ext
Anderson, SC 29625
(877) 505-4549
Bennettsville SSA Office1028 Cheraw St
Bennettsville, SC 29512
(888) 810-7617
Myrtle Beach SSA Office611 Burroughs and Chapin Blvd
Ste 301
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
(888) 577-6601
Georgetown SSA Office413 King St
Georgetown, SC 29440
(866) 593-1584
Orangeburg SSA Office1379 Sims St
Orangeburg, SC 29115
(866) 716-8602
Sumter SSA Office240 Bultman Dr
Sumter, SC 29150
(877) 445-0840
Aiken SSA Office151 Corporate Pkwy
Aiken, SC 29803
(866) 275-8271
Beaufort SSA Office646 Robert Smalls Pkwy
Beaufort, SC 29906
(866) 254-3316
Clinton SSA Office292 Professional Park Rd
Clinton, SC 29325
(866) 526-9854
Walterboro SSA Office502 Robertson Blvd
Walterboro, SC 29488
(866) 708-2810

South Carolina Hearing and Appeal Offices

South Carolina is in Region 4 (Atlanta), which services Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Region 4 – SSA Office of Hearing Operations in South Carolina
SSA Hearing Office – North Charleston3875 Faber Place Drive
Suite 300
North Charleston, SC 29405
(877) 405-1467
SSA Hearing Office – Columbia101 Executive Center Drive
Suite 215
Columbia, SC 29210
(866) 399-6950
SSA Hearing Office – Mauldin475 North Main Street
Mauldin, SC 29662
(866) 827-6721

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The United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides various benefits to active-duty service members and veterans, including the potential to buy a home with a VA mortgage. The VA loan offers an eligible veteran the chance to buy a home with low closing costs and no down payment, making the overall purchase more affordable than a conventional loan. However, the property you consider for a VA loan must meet the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements for a mortgage.

VA Home Loans 2024

So what kind of home loans is the VA offering in 2024? The specific loan amount and interest rate will depend on the situation. The loan limit also depends on certain factors. If you have full entitlement, there is no limit on loans over $144,000. If you have remaining entitlement, then your loan limit is based on the loan limit of your county.

VA Minimum Property Requirements Homebuyers Should Know

  • Property is residential
  • Working electricity
  • No exposed wiring
  • Functional heating and cooling system
  • Adequate roofing
  • Structure is free from termites and other pests
  • Proper water and sanitation
  • Walls free from mold
  • Proper drainage and free from water damage
  • Accessible property year-round
  • Free from lead-based paint
  • Sufficient living space
  • Accessible attic and crawlspace

The VA loan process helps veterans afford a home using their VA eligibility for benefits. The VA mortgage loan goes through an approved VA lender, and the VA guarantees the loan. As the guarantor, the VA imposes minimum property standards that the home must meet for VA eligibility.

Your lender will order an appraisal some time during the loan application process. A VA approved appraiser will conduct the appraisal on your home and check that it meets property requirements the VA imposes on all potential VA-backed loans. If your home doesn’t meet the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements, you can pay to make repairs so it will pass, or you can walk away from the house.

What Are VA Minimum Property Requirements?

When you apply for VA home loans, your loan application is subject to meeting the requirements of a mortgage through the VA. The VA guarantees these loans, meaning that they back them to prevent risk to the lender if you are unable to or do not pay your mortgage. One of the most critical VA loan requirements is that the home buyer must have an appraisal completed by an approved VA appraiser before your loan officer can approve your loan.

Like an FHA loan, a VA loan appraisal will look for specific features of a home. The VA refers to these features as Minimum Property Requirements, or MPRs, for short. The VA appraisal is more than just an assessment of your home to determine its real estate value; it also acts as a basic inspection to ensure that the home is safe, sound, and sanitary. This is where the MPRs come into play. Minimum Property Requirements can help the VA and your VA approved lender decide if a VA home loan should help you pay for the house you’ve chosen.

The VA includes the VA appraisal requirement to protect both its and your investment. Some homebuyers confuse the VA appraisal with a home inspection, but the two aren’t the same. Although the appraisal does check that the home meets Minimum Property Requirements, the appraiser won’t conduct a thorough inspection. If you want a full inspection completed on the home before purchasing it, you’ll need to pay for one privately and separately.

VA Minimum Property Requirements Homebuyers Should Know

The VA’s MPRs might seem lengthy to you at first glance, but they actually cover the basic safety, soundness, and sanitary features you should look for in a home. From the roof down to the crawlspace, the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements partly determine VA loan eligibility to ensure that your home is likely a sound investment.

When your loan officer orders a VA home loan appraisal, you can expect the home inspection portion to look for the following Minimum Property Requirements:

Property is Residential

The home you’re considering must be a residential property rather than a commercial property. However, the VA does allow you to purchase a home that is partially used for business, but only if the property is primarily residential. Similarly, your property must be zoned for residential use and conform to current zoning policies for your area. Your property can be a single-family, modular, or mobile home, and it must be your primary residence.

The reason for this VA requirement is that VA home loans are designed to assist veterans with their home purchase. Veterans can utilize other loans and grants geared toward veterans to help them fund a business and location. 

Working Electricity

To meet VA approval MPR requirements, the home you’re considering needs to have safe and working electricity. The electric system in the home should be adequate to power necessary appliances and lighting. However, your appraiser is not required to turn on any appliances or lighting. Still, if wiring in an area of the home is known not to work or is deemed unsafe, you or the seller may need to repair it before the VA approves a loan.

No Exposed Wiring

Along similar lines, the VA won’t approve a home loan for a house that has exposed wiring or unsafe electrical system features. The house will need to fall in line with local building codes, too, which could mean that the VA requires test and reset buttons on all GFCI outlets or an upgraded circuit breaker from a fuse box. Frayed and visible wiring will need to be repaired no matter where your house is located.

Functional Heating and Cooling System

Your appraiser will look for adequate heating, especially in areas where plumbing exists. Your heating system must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 50 degrees in plumbing areas. The home’s cooling system must be in good working condition with no signs of unsafe or unsanitary features. The VA may also approve solar heating and cooling if the home has a backup heating and cooling system available.

Adequate Roofing

Most appraisers will consider the roof of a home one of its most important aspects. Any current or potential issues with a roof will likely be noted in an appraisal and a home inspection.

The VA considers the roof a crucial part of the VA MPR list. Specifically, your roof must not have any current leaks or problems that could lead to leaks, and it should have at least a few more reliable years of life left on it. The VA also requires the removal of old shingles if the home has at least three layers of old shingles that need repair.

Structure Is Free from Termites and Other Pests

There are two places in the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements in which termites and other damaging pests come into play for VA financing eligibility. The appraisal report will note any evidence of termites as a defective condition that affects the safety or sanitation of the property and in a section denoting wood-destroying insects, rot, or fungus.

Not all VA appraisals will require a wood-destroying inspection report. If an appraiser sees possible evidence of pests, the VA may require a separate inspection. Homes in areas with moderate to heavy termite infestation probability may also need a pest or termite inspection for VA approval.

Proper Water and Sanitation

Your home needs more than running water to get a VA loan approval. It must also have safe drinking water, hot water, and a continuous supply of running water available for toilets, sinks, baths and showers, and drinking. Your bathroom(s) must also be in a sanitary condition.

The VA also requires a safe method of sewage disposal. The appraiser may check to see if the home has an individual water supply and sewage system or that the utilities connect appropriately to your city’s water and sewage system.

Walls Free from Mold

Visible mold on walls, floors, or other areas of the home will be a significant concern for the VA when considering your home purchase loan. The appraiser will also check for leaks or potential water leaking into a home that could cause mold, including in your attic, basement, or crawlspace. Mold can rot the wood in a house, creating an unsafe structure, and it can be harmful to your health.

Proper Drainage and Free from Water Damage

Similarly, your home should have adequate drainage from gutters, downspouts, drain pipes, and other features of the home that help to move water away from its foundation. Pooling water in or around the house could result in a loan denial from the VA and VA lender.

Accessible Property Year-Round

Another VA MPR focuses on the accessibility of your property. The VA’s guidelines note that your property must have safe access for vehicles or people, like a driveway or sidewalk, from a road with an all-weather surface. In this case, a dirt road may not suffice. If your property has a backyard, you must also be able to access it without stepping on another property.

Free from Lead-Based Paint

Another VA loan requirement states that your property must not contain any lead-based paint. Paint no longer has lead because of the severe health risks it can impose, including memory loss, gastrointestinal problems, heart conditions, and kidney issues.

If the home you want to buy contains lead paint, the appraiser will note it in the appraisal report. The VA will require you to remove the paint and repaint the home unless it determines that the lead paint level is lower than the law-permitted level.

Sufficient Living Space

For VA home loan eligibility, your property must have sufficient living space, including places for sleeping, cooking, using the restroom, and living. The VA doesn’t specify a minimum area requirement for a home, but it does require that your home has adequate facilities and an area that’s suitable for safe living.

Accessible Attic and Crawlspace

A VA appraiser may not spend much time in an attic or crawlspace, but he or she does need to have access to it. Your attic and crawlspace should at least have a small access door for the appraiser to be able to take a quick look and snap some pictures. If the home doesn’t allow access to either space, the VA will likely require a fix before approving your mortgage.

What Are VA Minimum Property Requirements?

VA home purchase transactions can typically go smoothly when a home’s price matches its appraised value and the appraisal doesn’t note any serious conditions that go against the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements. Although snags in the process can happen when something needs to be prepared, try to remember that the MPRs the VA requires are designed to help you get the property to a safe, sanitary, and sound living standard.

You always have the option to walk away from a property if it requires more repairs than you or the seller are willing to deal with. Otherwise, a few fixes could help you purchase the home you love while benefiting from the many perks that come with a VA home loan.

Benefits.com is here to help you learn more about the options available to you.

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The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Service makes disability determinations for Kentucky state residents. 

Using federal guidelines for both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the Cabinet’s Disability Determination Services makes sure that those who technically and medically qualify for disability benefits receive the assistance they need. 

These programs play a large role in providing financial security for some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable residents.

Facts About Kentucky

Roughly 35% of Kentucky’s population reports living with a disability, compared to the national average of just over 25%. Connecting state of Kentucky residents with the resources and assistance they need is a priority for the state.

These disabilities add up to an estimated $5.8 billion in disability-related healthcare costs for the state each year – which isn’t too surprising considering that adults with disabilities are less likely to be active, more likely to be obese, more likely to smoke and more likely to have high blood pressure.

For all categories of disabilities – mobility-related, cognitive, inability to live independently, hearing, vision and disabilities affective self-care – Kentucky residents report higher incidences of disability than the U.S. at large. Programs like SSDI and SSI help these residents access the services and assistance they need.

How To Qualify for SSDI in Kentucky

SSDI is a federal program, so the eligibility requirements are the same across all U.S. states. A Social Security field office in the state of Kentucky will first determine technical eligibility for the SSDI program – meaning that a claimant has worked enough and earned enough SSDI credits to qualify for the program by having taxes taken out of their income to augment the Social Security Trust Fund.

The claimant must also be deemed disabled. According to the federal SSDI definition, an adult must be rendered unable to work by a physical or mental impairment(s) that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. It’s important to note that this stipulation includes any type of employment, not just the type of work that the claimant was previously engaged in.

Of the nearly 3 million residents of the state of Kentucky, roughly 7% receive Social Security disability benefits each month. Keep in mind that the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability is extremely narrow. The SSA will only support total disability rulings. If you choose to seek legal advice, a qualified disability attorney can help you decide whether your situation is likely to lead to a successful disability claim.

How To Apply for SSDI in Kentucky

In order to apply for SSDI benefits, a claimant should submit a Social Security disability claim at any one of Kentucky’s 27 Social Security offices across the state. You can also submit a claim over the phone at 800-772-1213 or online at www.ssa.org.

Once your claim is submitted, it will first be reviewed by a local Social Security office to determine if you meet non-disability requirements. If the answer is yes, then your claim is forwarded to the state of Kentucky’s Disability Determination Service for review.

DDS then will examine medical evidence and documentation related to your claim and may also ask you to participate in an independent medical evaluation. DDS eventually will issue a decision, based on the documentation presented, about whether your case meets the SSA definition of disability.

How To Appeal a Denial in Kentucky

If your initial claim for disability benefits is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision. You must ask for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving your denial notice. Please know that the denial of an initial claim is fairly common. In Kentucky, only 29% of benefit claims are approved on first submission.

Upon appeal, your claim and medical records will be reviewed by a different person, an examiner who did not participate in your original review. If this results in a second denial, you may request a disability hearing review by the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council.

If you remain dissatisfied with the determination at this stage, your final appeal is a federal court case filed in the district court for the judicial district in which you live. Decisions made at this level are considered final. At any point during the appeal process, you may decide to partner with a disability attorney for trusted counsel and advice on how best to proceed.

More Kentucky Benefits

In addition to SSDI benefits, the state of Kentucky administers other programs that help disabled Kentucky residents access both the financial aid and appropriate health care they need for independent living.

SSI

Supplemental Security Income is a federal program that helps provide financial assistance to those who have low levels of income and accrued assets, with a particular focus on those who are disabled, are blind, or are over age 65. A single adult can receive up to $794 per month in SSI benefits and also is granted Medicaid coverage without needing to file a separate application for that program. Unlike SSDI, applicants do not need to have worked previously or earned credits in order to qualify.

Kentucky Medicaid

Kentucky’s Medicaid program aims to help low-income Kentucky residents gain access to the vital health care they need. The two key eligibility requirements for Medicaid in Kentucky are you must be a Kentucky resident and you must be a U.S. citizen or legally authorized to live and work in the U.S.

Other criteria that may make residents eligible for Kentucky Medicaid include being pregnant, being responsible for a child under age 18, or having a disability or living with a family member who is disabled. Applicants must meet federal income standards for the Medicaid program, which are based on household income and total household size.

Kentucky Unemployment

Kentucky unemployment benefits help bridge the income gap for Kentucky residents who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

Unemployment benefits are issued on a weekly basis and help provide overall economic stability not only for individual households affected by unemployment, but also for local communities and for the comprehensive statewide economy.

To remain eligible for weekly benefits, Kentucky unemployed workers must show that they are physically and mentally able to work and available to accept suitable work when it is offered.

Kentucky Social Security Offices

SSA Field Office Locations in Kentucky
Maysville SSA Office509 Marketplace Dr
Maysville, KY 41056
(855) 807-8802
Louisville SSA Office601 W Broadway Room 101
Louisville, KY 40202
(866) 716-9671
Ashland SSA Office1405 Greenup Ave Room 132
Ashland, KY 41101
(866) 269-3993
Lexington SSA Office2241 Buena Vista Rd Suite 110
Lexington, KY 40505
(866) 530-7754
Paducah SSA Office125 Brett Chase
Paducah, KY 42003
(866) 614-7905
Frankfort SSA Office140 Flynn Ave
Frankfort, KY 40601
(866) 964-1724
Florence SSA Office7 Youell Street
Florence, KY 41042
(866) 504-4224
Bowling Green SSA Office2724 Chandler Drive
Bowling Green, KY 42104
(877) 801-0817
Owensboro SSA Office4532 Lucky Strike Loop
Owensboro, KY 42303
(866) 836-5834
Corbin SSA Office159 Future Dr
Corbin, KY 40701
(877) 405-0470
Hazard SSA Office122 Reynolds Lane
Hazard, KY 41701
(877) 405-0491
Hopkinsville SSA Office1650 Marie Drive
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
(877) 405-7656
Pikeville SSA Office333 Hambley Blvd
Pikeville, KY 41501
(888) 676-2942
Elizabethtown SSA Office591 Westport Road
Elizabethtown, KY 42701
(866) 596-7123
Campbellsville SSA Office101 Hiestand Farm Rd
Campbellsville, KY 42718
(877) 828-1695
Middlesboro SSA Office10 Tech Park Drive
Middlesboro, KY 40965
(877) 619-2853
Danville SSA Office103 Belinda Blvd
Danville, KY 40422
(877) 512-3850
Madisonville SSA Office4431 Hanson Rd
Madisonville, KY 42431
(877) 626-9912
Somerset SSA Office3975 S Highway 27
Somerset, KY 42501
(877) 714-0375
Louisville East SSA Office10503 Timberwood Cir Ste 50
Louisville, KY 40223
(888) 280-5851
Richmond SSA Office1060 Gibson Bay Drive
Richmond, KY 40475
(866) 838-8945
Henderson SSA Office2000 N Elm St Building 3
Henderson, KY 42420
(855) 628-1593
Prestonsburg SSA Office1897 KY Rt 321
Prestonsburg, KY 41653
(888) 450-4538
Mayfield SSA Office1526 Cuba Road
Mayfield, KY 42066
(866) 931-8366
Harlan SSA Office189 Village Center
Harlan, KY 40831
(888) 590-2707
Jackson SSA Office850 Hwy 15 N
Jackson, KY 41339
(866) 366-4920

Kentucky Hearing and Appeal Offices

Kentucky is in Region 4 (Atlanta), which services Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Region 4 – SSA Office of Hearing Operations in Kentucky
SSA Hearing Office – Lexington2241 Buena Vista Rd Suite 210
Lexington, KY 40505-9901
(866) 783-7301
SSA Hearing Office – Louisville601 W. Broadway, Suite 300
Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse
Louisville, KY 40202
(866) 755-0197
SSA Hearing Office – Louisville601 West Broadway Lower Level
Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse
Louisville, KY 40202
(866) 367-1224
SSA Hearing Office – Middlesboro12 Tech Park Drive
Middlesboro, KY 40965
(877) 600-2851
SSA Hearing Office – Paducah4730 Village Square Dr Ste 200
Paducah, KY 42001
(866) 964-2041

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When the Social Security Administration approves your application to receive Social Security Disability Benefit payments, you will receive a Social Security Benefits Award Letter, which usually arrives between 1-3 months after the decision. This benefit verification letter will provide some basic information about the terms of your SSDI or SSI payments.

Social Security Award Letter Information

  • Benefit amounts
  • Monthly payment dates
  • Back pay amounts
  • Back pay dates
  • Amounts owed to representatives
  • Taxability of your benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is sometimes confused with Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI). SSI provides cash assistance for basic needs like clothing, food, and shelter for individuals with little to no income. Usually, these individuals are impaired, disabled, or have reached full retirement age. Most Americans over the age of 65 do collect some form of Social Security, though some will choose to defer it to a later date in order to increase the size of their monthly benefit payment.

SSDI is a different program to help cover the cost of living for individuals who have a disabling medical condition that will eventually result in death or that will keep them out of work for at least one year…though it is also meant to cover basic expenses and medical expenses.

While SSI is funded by taxpayers collectively and individuals can collect it regardless of work history, SSDI operates along the lines of a complex credit system that factors in years of previous work experience. Whether you’re applying for SSI or SSDI, if your application is approved, you’ll get a letter in the mail from the Department of Social Security, otherwise known as the Social Security Administration (SSA).

What is a Social Security Award Letter?

If your eligibility to receive social security income has been confirmed, you will generally receive your benefit verification letter one to three months after a decision is made by the social security office. But according to the SSA itself, a decision takes 3-5 months. That said, you may not get a letter in the mail for as long as eight months after you’ve applied. Even if you get one sooner than that, the quickest you should expect your Social Security Award Letter is around four months. 

The good news is that you can cut that time in half by starting your application online, at least according to the SSA. Starting your application online will allow you to fill out both the benefits application and the disability worksheet (if you are applying for SSDI). You will still have an in-person or phone appointment which will generally last around one hour. If the SSA requests any documents to verify your identity or condition, you should be sure to bring those to the appointment, or your local social security office if you have a phone appointment, to avoid the risk of slowing down the process.

6 Things Included in a Social Security Award Letter

1. Benefit Amounts

Benefit amounts will be listed in your Social Security Award Letter. To determine this amount, the SSA will take into consideration your highest earning years in a 35-year time span, and divide those average annual earnings by 12 months to find the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings. The SSA will take 90% of your AIME under $960, 32% of everything earned over $960 and under $5,785, and 15% of anything beyond that. This gives the SSA a picture of your earning potential and allows them to calculate the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) that will be paid to you each month. Note that the SSA does adjust your AIME for inflation.

2. Monthly Payment Dates

Monthly payment dates will be listed on the letter that let you know when your benefits will be issued. At the time of your application, you would have been asked about your preferred method of receiving your benefits, which included options for Direct Deposit into a bank account, a Direct Express debit card issued by the SSA, or having them sent into an Electronic Transfer Account. Payment dates will be different for every person, so it’s a good idea to make note of when your payment date is so you can plan out paying your monthly bills, rent, or mortgage. Keep in mind that if you are applying for SSDI, it will take payments a mandatory five months to start being issued.

3. Back Pay Amounts

Back benefits owed to an SSI recipient or SSDI benefits recipient pay will be listed on their Social Security Award Letter as well. These past-due benefits will depend on how long your application took to process and the PIA calculated by the SSA, which again varies from person to person. While SSI recipients will generally not get their back payment in one lump sum, SSDI recipients will. You are required to have a bank account to receive these payments because the SSA only issues them through direct deposit.

4. Back Pay Dates

Back pay dates may be listed on your Social Security Award Letter if you applied for SSI because SSI back payments are issued as three separate payments separated by six-month increments. By contrast, SSDI back pay is usually issued as one lump sum within 60 days of approval. SSI back payment installations are split up because the first two cannot be larger than three times your monthly benefit amount, though there are no such limitations on the third back payment installment.

5. Amounts Owed to Representatives

Amounts owed to any representative payee will also be listed. You do not have to elect a representative to receive your benefits payments and manage them, but if you indicated that you would like that on your application, this individual carries the fiduciary responsibility for managing your benefit payments. 

Your representative will be required to fill out an annual report to track expenses and help the SSA make sure that benefit payments are being used for the care of the intended recipient. If you worked with a lawyer to file your application, the attorney will usually receive 25% of your back pay, but no more than $6,000.

6. Taxability of Your Benefits

The taxability of your benefits may also be listed. SSI benefit payments are never taxable. They were, after all, funded by social security taxes. SSDI benefits, by contrast, may be taxable, but in most cases, they will not be subject to that taxation. If your benefits are under $25,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a married couple filing jointly, your income is not taxable. If you are receiving more than that, roughly 50% of it will be taxable. Take note that lump sum back payments could drive up your income and make it subject to taxation.

7. How to Get a Copy of Your Social Security Award Letter

The social security award letter will be delivered to the applicant, so you will not need to go out of your way to specifically request a copy. However, it is a good idea to call and check on the status of your application. In checking, remember that the phone representative will most likely not be able to tell you any details about the decision, but they may be able to confirm for you that it has been mailed out. 

Remember that it will take some time (again, as long as up to four months) for your SSA benefits letter to be received. Keep in mind that this letter can only go to the address associated with your social security number, so you cannot appoint someone else to receive it. Should you require additional copies of your letter, you can request them online from the SSA via the “my Social Security” account portal.

This letter will alternatively be called a budget letter, benefits letter, proof of income letter, or proof of award letter. If you have specifically applied for a disability payment, you might refer to it as a disability award letter. Keep in mind that this benefit verification letter is not the same thing as the social security statement that reflects the estimated benefit your social security account will provide you upon retirement. Keep your letter in a safe but accessible place—perhaps in the same place you keep proof of your Medicare benefits and your social security card.

What If I Disagree with My Award Letter?

If you disagree with any part of your letter, you need to act quickly and file an appeal. These disagreements might be more common among those who have filed a disability claim, but even those waiting to get a social security retirement benefit can find something to contest, especially if they were expecting a higher benefit amount. 

You have 60 days to file this appeal online by filing a claim in writing or filling out Form SSA 561 (Request for Reconsideration) or a Form SSA-789 (Request for Reconsideration Disability Cessation). Those 60 days begin five days after the date of your letter. If you are receiving SSI, you should file these forms or write this letter within 10 days, so you can continue to receive any benefits that will be awarded to you as your appeal is pending.

The SSA will send you a written re-determination. Should you disagree with that, you can request a face-to-face hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) by writing to the SSA directly or by completing a Form HA–501 (a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge). Once again, you have 60 days to file such a request by sending it in writing, filling out the forms, or filing it online. You do not have to appear before an ALJ, but you can elect to have them review the case in your absence.

If you choose to have your case reviewed in person, you must appear before the judge for that meeting or cancel it five days in advance. On occasion, a judge will allow for teleconferencing or a phone call, but generally, the SSA will determine the means of meeting. The SSA may cover your travel expenses if you should need to travel more than 75 miles, so if that applies to your situation, be sure to look into it. The ALJ may ask you to complete medical examinations or tests to determine the validity of your claim, along with summoning witnesses and requesting written evidence such as medical records.

If you applied for SSDI, you may disagree with the date that the SSA believes you became disabled, also called the Established Onset Date or EOD. The default of this date is when you applied for benefits, which is one reason you do not want to wait around and see if an extant condition gets better before applying for SSDI. An attorney can help you challenge this date and obtain retroactive payments. 

Retroactive payments are different from back payments, as back payments are those payments calculated from the time of your application, whereas retroactive payments are calculated back to the time of the onset of your disability. But keep in mind that the SSA will only issue retroactive payments from 12 months prior to your application for Social Security Disability.

The Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Application can be daunting, and the wait time for your letters may seem particularly long. You can speed up the process by applying as soon as you can and providing all the necessary documentation to the SSA before they need to ask you for it twice. 

Make sure you show up to all your appointments, and if you feel the need to appeal the decision about your benefits, do so as quickly as possible. Once you receive your social security award letter, keep it in a safe place and do not throw it out, in case you need to reference it for any disputes about your disability payment or retirement benefits.

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Be prepared! Access and review the forms needed to file a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claim for a disabled adult or disabled child.

The base application form for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, whether the applicant is an adult or a child, is the SSA-8000-BK. Because the application asks for a lot of detailed information, it can be very helpful to prepare a rough draft of this form to refer to when you file the application.

In addition to the base application, adults complete the same medical and occupational forms as for a Social Security disability claim. But if you are applying for a disabled child, complete the SSA-3881-BK instead. For a child’s claim, it can be helpful to offer additional information on the function report below that corresponds to the child’s age and to have the child’s teacher complete the SSA-632-BK. And, of course, an SSA-827 is needed to allow Social Security to gather information.

Please click on the link below to open your desired form in a separate browser window. 

SSA-8000-BK Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Application

SSA-545-BK Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)

SSA-2855 Statement of Funds You Received

To prove a bona fide loan

SSA-4815 Medical Report on Child with Allegation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection

SSA-632-BK Teacher Questionnaire

To be completed by teacher regarding function of disabled child

SSA-3375-BK Function Report – Child Birth to 1st Birthday

(to be completed by applying adult)

SSA-3376-BK Function Report – Child Age 1 to 3rd Birthday

(to be completed by applying adult)

SSA-3377-BK Function Report – Child Age 3 to 6th Birthday

(to be completed by applying adult)

SSA-3378-BK Function Report – Child Age 6 to 12th Birthday

(to be completed by applying adult)

SSA-3379-BK Function Report – Child Age 12 to 18th Birthday

(to be completed by applying adult)

SSA-3881-BK Questionnaire for Children Claiming SSI Benefits

(for adult responsible for the child to submit additional information about child’s limitations)

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