Social Security Disability is one of the most important financial resources for people who have become disabled and are unable to resume working — yet it has also developed a reputation as one of the most difficult benefits to obtain. As a result, eligible recipients often become discouraged and never obtain a penny from the same institution into which they have paid for so many years. Program administrators are extremely cautious about approving Social Security Disability claims, and often perfectly legitimate claims will be rejected.
However, if your claim was rejected, you have the right to appeal your rejection – although you have a limited time within which to file your appeal. If you expect to be out of work for more than a year, you may be eligible to file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits.
Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability?
How do you know whether you qualify? In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability, you must meet the following criteria:
- You are no longer capable of working or have been unable to work for a period lasting more than one year due to what Social Security deems a severe impairment;
- You have worked and paid taxes on your earnings for the minimum time period, generally that’s 5 years during the 10 years preceding your disability; and
- You have become unable to work before you reach your full retirement age, which could be 65 or older, depending on your birth date.
The Benefits of Social Security Disability
What are the benefits? If you qualify, the Social Security Disability program can provide valuable financial benefits including:
- Payment on a monthly basis to you;
- Auxiliary payments to your spouse and dependent children in some circumstances; and
- Full Medicare coverage at a low rate after 24 months of entitlement to disability payments.
What if My Claim is Denied?
Program administrators are extremely cautious about approving Social Security Disability claims, and often perfectly legitimate claims will be rejected for very minor reasons, such as incomplete paperwork or confusing medical statements. You have the right to appeal your rejection – but you have a limited time within which to file your appeal.
If your Social Security Disability claim has been denied, you and your representative may want to take the following measures:
- Make sure your disability is described using the wording most commonly recognized by the Social Security Administration
- Review all forms to ensure your paperwork is properly completed
- Review your medical treatment to ensure your care is consistent with your claim
- Gather all medical records in your claim and submit records in an organized and efficient manner for approval of your claim
- Obtain your doctors’ opinions about your functional limitations – the more specific the better
- Prepare to tell your story at a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge