A Beginner's Guide to SSI & SSDI

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There are many individuals with disabilities, and they can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security. SSI & SSDI complete guide would help such individuals to cut through the red tape of the entire process. The following are some points that will clarify some common doubts related to the subject –

• Meaning of SSDI – SSDI means Social Security Disability Insurance. It is a federal insurance program that is tax funded. It is meant to provide income to those people who cannot work until their condition (because of their disability) improves. It also guarantees income to all such individuals in the unfortunate case that they are unable to work. This is a health program, instead of being a welfare program, where benefits can be received by those who pay.

• Qualification for SSDI – SSA lists out the qualification criteria for SSDI to be –

Ø Mental or physical condition that has stopped the applicant from engaging in work (or, to be precise, substantial gainful work);
Ø The condition must have lasted for the last 12 months, at least. Or, it should be expected to result in death;
Ø Should have worked in 5 years out of the last 10 years;
Ø Medical evidence of disability is necessary; and
Ø Age limit is under 65 years of age.

To improve chances of receiving benefits, regular visits to the doctor are encouraged. The doctor must meet SSA listing for the condition.

• Meaning of SSI – SSI means Supplemental Security Income. For people who have not worked for 5 years out of the last 10 years or have never worked in their life, SSI provides welfare benefits. The starting date for the benefits will be the date on the social security application. For calculation of the benefits, every household member's income will be combined.

• Application Time and Steps – There is no standard or fixed time for the application approval or rejection to come into effect. SSA states that it can take anything from 3 to 5 months for the first decision to come back on the disability claim from the social security. Overall, this pattern can be used for judging the process –

Ø Level 1 – 1 to 12 months for the initial application
Ø Level 2 – 1 to 12 months for the reconsideration of the application
Ø Level 3 – 9 to 30 months for the hearing
Ø Level 4 - 1 to 15 months for the Appeals council
Ø Level 5 - 12 to 36 months for the federal District Court

• Time Taken to Receive Benefits – It depends on how soon the application is processed. If it gets processed in a few months, then the benefits would start in several months. But, if it goes to the hearing level (level 3), then many years can be taken. There have cases that have taken even a decade for claims, like a case in Pennsylvania that took 14 years to be awarded.

• Whether to Hire an Attorney – It is always recommended to hire an attorney because statistics show that it improves success rates. People who have hired an attorney have a better chance of winning and getting their claims approved. It would save a lot of time and effort because the attorneys would make the process hassle free.

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