Should You Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Social Security disability benefits and SSI benefits are for those who have been disabled (or are likely to remain disabled) from undertaking gainful employment for a year or longer. Thus, one of the considerations which one should take into account when initially considering whether an application is appropriate is whether one is able to return to work at any job, working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, making approximately $1130.00 per month. Many individuals contacting us for the first time do not realize that they are expected to think about whether a return to work might be appropriate at a different job that would be less taxing physically or mentally.
A special set of rules (called Grid Rules) has been established for those who have reached the age of 50 to address how it becomes more difficult to transition from a physical job to one that is less physical the older one gets. These rules provide that in some circumstances it will be appropriate to find someone disabled who has worked their entire life in a very physically demanding profession and is now limited to a more sedentary or light type of work and would have difficulty transitioning to such a profession. The Grid Rules address a certain set of rules for those who are between the age of 50 and 54 (who are deemed to be "closely approaching advanced age") and an even more understanding set of rules for those who have reached the age of 55 (who are deemed to be of "advanced age"). Thus, even in the circumstance where you might feel you could physically work a job that would allow you to sit during the day, the Social Security Administration might still find it appropriate to provide you with disability benefits given the difficulty they understand you will have with transitioning to such a job. In speaking with you initially, our office will obtain sufficient information so that we can evaluate and advise you whether such an argument would prove wise for you to pursue before the Social Security Administration. Thus, if you have reached the age of 50 and find yourself struggling to return to a job given your physical health, it would be wise to give us a call so that we can evaluate whether Social Security would be appropriate for you.
Separate from the Social Security Grid Rules is what is called Social Security's Listing of Impairments: this is a listing of medical conditions (both physical and mental) with a very specific set of criteria for each medical condition, which if met, will automatically entitle the individual to a finding of disability. Thus, whether it's a cardiac, respiratory, immune disorder, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, endocrine, vision, hearing or mental health disorder, etc., there is likely a listing which applies to your disorder which, if the criteria can be proven as met, would entitle you to disability benefits. As part of evaluating and representing you in your case, we take a look at these listings and will attempt to have your doctor address your condition in accordance with these listings, to see if we might be able to prove your entitlement to disability in this way. Thus, if you find that you are suffering from a serious medical condition (whether physical and/or mental), it would be wise to give our office a call to see if you meet one of these medical listings of impairments that might qualify you for benefits.
Assuming you do not meet a Grid rule or a medical listing of impairment, the question will remain as to whether, given all of your physical and/or mental health limitations, you can return to any form of work easy as pie, 8 hours per day, 5 days per week making $1130.00 per month on a regular and continuing basis. If you are collecting unemployment benefits or have collected unemployment benefits, you may have been informing the state that you are available for gainful employment (that is, that you are able to work regularly) and that you are actively looking for work and just can't find a job. Obviously, in today's economy, this is occurring rather regularly as unemployment rates remain at historically very high rates. Thus, if you are presently collecting unemployment benefits or have been collecting unemployment benefits, we may need to discuss how this could hinder a Social Security disability claim. We should discuss whether it is appropriate for you to discontinue your unemployment benefits if you have come to the realization that you are now unable to return to a job.
Likewise, please understand that the Social Security Administration is looking to see whether you remain totally disabled from gainful employment despite prescribed treatment: this means it will be important that you are exhausting treatment options to try and get better and return to work. Thus, if you are out of work and have lost your health insurance, it will be important that you are seeking out health insurance and/or free treatment options to ensure that you are remaining in treatment for two reasons: 1) to get better and go back to work if that is at all possible and 2) to ensure there is a doctor that is aware of your medical conditions who will be able to comment on the extent to which your condition disables you.
These are just a few of the considerations that go into whether one should be applying for Social Security disability benefits. As an experienced lawyer, who has been handling disability claims for thirty (30) years, I am happy to speak with you and evaluate, without cost to you, whether pursuing such a Social Security disability claim is right for you.