How You Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

For those who have recently become disabled, finding out how you qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits can become a pressing matter. SSDI benefits are designed to help those that qualify to pay for their everyday expenses and household bills. In many cases, Social Security Disability Benefits can make all the difference on making ends meet for those who are disabled for a year or more.

“Disability” Defined

The Social Security Disability Administration defines “disability” as an injury or condition that:

  • Prevents you from performing work required by your current profession
  • You cannot successfully adjust to other types of work because of your condition
  • Your disability will last at least one year or will result in death

Work History

The first qualification depends on whether or not you have ever had a job in which you paid into SSDI. Each pay period, your check stub will state your deductions and how much of your pay was deducted for SSDI. The percentage deducted is referred to as SSDI credits. For each $1200 you earn each year, you are given one credit toward SSDI. The law states that in order to qualify for SSDI, you must have 40 credits, 20 of which must have been earned in the last 10 years. The number of credits is subject to change depending on the age of the applicant.  If you do not meet the above criteria, you may still qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. [Read more…]

HUD Provides Funding For Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Federal housing officials are putting $120 million on the table to help thousands of people with disabilities access rental assistance.Through the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, HUD provides funding to develop and subsidize rental housing with the availability of supportive services for very low- and extremely low-income adults with disabilities.

The Section 811 program allows persons with disabilities to live as independently as possible in the community by subsidizing rental housing opportunities which provide access to appropriate supportive services.  To participate, state housing agencies must work with local Medicaid and health and human services agencies to identify and assist individuals with disabilities who require long-term services and supports to live independently in the community.

See HERE for more information.

Congress Increases Funding For Special Education and Mental Health Programs

Congress overwhelmingly passed a spending package to include increases in funding for mental health and special education programs.

Federal funding for programs benefiting students with disabilities will increase by about $500 million this year.  This should add about 6,000 special education staff across the country.  Of concern, however, is that funding for other programs, including the IDEA preschool program, will remain flat.

Mental health programs will see an increase in funding for behavioral health workforce training and a $47 million increase to state mental health block grants to be used for identification and treatment of early psychosis.

Racial Disparity In School Discipline

The Obama Administration recently issues new guidelines on discipling children in the classroom.  These recommendations were made in an attempt to protect the civil rights of students and address the school discipline policies that appeared to target minorities.  The Justice Department issues a news release stating that significant numbers of students miss class due to suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions, and that student of color and with disabilities were disproportionately impacted.  Attorney General Eric Holder stated that many students were suspended, expelled or arrested for minor infractions such as school uniform violations and schoolyard fights.  He added that students of color and those with disabilities often received more severe punishment than others.  Students with disabilities, despite making up about 12 percent of students in the United States, also make up almost 20 percent of those suspended and almost 25 percent of those arrested for a school-related infraction.  The new guidelines were aimed at providing information on what districts can do to improve student engagement and student-teacher relations to reduce disparity in punishment.

Boost In Disability Hiring

Federal hiring for workers with disabilities is on the rise and looks to be the highest in three decades.  The Office of Personnel Management reports that the Federal Government added more than 16,000 new employees with disabilities in 2012.  This increase is the result of an executive order signed by President Obama to add 100,000 new employees with disabilities by 2015.  See HERE for a copy of the News Release and link to the OPM report.

How does SSA determine disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step evaluation process to determine if you are disabled:

1. Are you currently working?
If your earnings are above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, you may be disqualified for benefits.

2. Is you condition severe?
Your condition must prevent you from performing basic work activities for at least twelve (12) months to qualify for benefits. [Read more…]

Medical Source Statements In Disability Cases

Medical Source Statements are very important in your disability case.  A Medical Source Statement is a statement or opinion by a physician or other medical provider detailing the functional capacity of a disability claimant.  While your medical records will document diagnoses, tests, medications and communication or statements between you and your doctor, most likely your medical records will be lacking as to how your disability affects your ability to work on a sustained basis.  These statements are most effective if they are carefully drafted to meet or satisfy the applicable regulation specific to your medical condition.  Even persons with the same condition/disability may need different medical source statements edited to their specific needs.  This should be done on a case-by-case basis.   Please contact my office to discuss medical source statements in further detail.

Can I have family or a friend testify at my disability hearing?

I was asked by a client recently if they could bring someone to their disability hearing to testify on their behalf. The answer is yes and this type of witness is often called a “lay witness”.

The most appropriate person to testify would be someone that sees you regularly and can testify as to your limitations and what you are going through on a daily basis. It is critical that this witness testify as to observations made of you, not just what you tell them. In addition, your lay witness must be able to describe the pain you experience, if any, and any other limitations you have that prevent you from working.

Your lay witness should have a basic understanding of the disability hearing. Your lawyer will discuss and let you and your witness know what to expect. Testimony during the hearing should not be prepared or memorized. There is nothing that can hurt your case more than testimony that is exaggerated or that is not considered credible by the Administrative Law Judge.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your case further, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Am I Eligible For Social Security Disability – Part 5

In our final part of our 5 part series, we are discussing the process you must go through to be approved for social security disability benefits.  We’ve already discussed the first four steps, which address working, the severity of your impairment, if your medical condition meets or equals a listed impairment by the Social Security Administration, and whether you can perform your past work.  In this series, we will discuss step 5 of the sequential evaluation process which addresses if you can perform any other type of work.  The 5 step sequential evaluation process is noted below for reference:

  1. Are you currently working?  Does your impairment prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity?
  2. Is your condition severe?
  3. Does your medical condition meet or equal a listed impairment?
  4. Can you perform your past work?
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

Step 5

Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process analyzes whether you are able to adjust to other types of work.  The work must be of the type that exists in significant number in the national economy.  The analysis will factor in your past work, your age, remaining work capacity and education level.  If the SSA finds that you cannot adjust and take on other types of work, the SSA will likely find that you are disabled.  If you were denied at any step, please contact Sharry Law Office for a free case evaluation and discuss your appeal.

Evaluating Functional Equivalence In Childhood Disability

In children’s disability cases, if the child’s impairment is not severe enough to meet a Social Security “listing”, meaning an approval for disability benefits, then an assessment must be done to determine if the impairment functionally equals a listing.  For functional equivalence, the child must have one “extreme” or two “marked” limitations in the six domains of functioning. 

The six domains of functioning are:

  1. Acquiring and using information
  2. Attending and completing tasks
  3. Interacting and relating with others
  4. Moving about and manipulating objects
  5. Caring for oneself, and
  6. Health and physical well-being.

The evaluation of how functioning is affected will be done during all of the child’s activities; meaning activities done at home, at school, and in the community.   First, Social Security will identify which of the child’s activities are limited, and which domains are involved in those activities.  They will then determine whether the child’s impairment(s) could affect those domains and account for the limitations.  Second, Social Security will then rate the severity of the limitations in each affected domain(s).  If SSA finds one extreme limitation, or two marked limitations, the child will be approved for disability benefits.