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An Overview of Social Security Disability Insurance

For more than half of a century, since 1956, Social Security benefits have served as an economic lifeline to millions of Americans with special needs. In fact, Social Security has two distinctly separate disability benefit programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As practicing SSD lawyers in Philadelphia, we have extensive experience working with applicants for both of these programs.

Currently, each of these programs serves approximately 10 million Americans, with each one having a different purpose, eligibility requirements, and benefit levels. In distinguishing between the two programs, simply put, the SSDI program is based on earnings that individuals and their employers have paid into Social Security. Conversely, the SSI is based exclusively on need, which is based on an individual’s income, living arrangements, and personal financial resources.

While both provide vitally needed assistance to millions of Americans, in this article we will focus on the SSDI program.

Social Security Disability Insurance – Essential Facts

The SSDI program was created for individuals who have spent a significant amount of time in the workforce but are no longer able to work due to a disability. The following are some basic facts about the program to help you better understand how it functions.

  • To be eligible for SSDI, a person must have been employed for at least 10 years. And they are no longer able to perform any “substantial gainful activity” in the workforce as a result of a disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) typically defines “substantial gainful activity” in 2021, as being able to earn more than $1,276 monthly. The amount goes up to $2,153 for those who are blind.
  • The disability must be expected to last for more than one year or result in death.
  • In part, SSDI benefits are based on a person’s work history and previous earnings. Payments range on average between $800 to $1,800 per month, and the maximum benefit anyone could receive in 2020 was $3,011 a month.
  • Monthly benefit payments are modest, and usually replace half, or less, of pre-disability income. The program, nonetheless, is extremely important in preventing serious burdens, such as homelessness, brought on by bankruptcies, foreclosures and evictions.
  • In addition to monthly income, another key feature of SSDI is that the program allows recipients to automatically qualify for Medicare after being considered disabled for two years. This is not the case for SSI recipients, although most receiving SSI assistance will qualify for Medicaid because of their low-income status.
  • Finally, some adults may be eligible for SSDI benefits based on their parent’s employment history, provided the applicant’s disability was apparent before reaching the age of 22.

Mental Disability and SSDI

As SSDI lawyers, we are sometimes asked if the SSDI program approves mental health claims, in addition to claims based on physical disability or disabling physical illness.

The short answer to this question is, “Yes” – but the situation is truly much more complicated than that. The requirements for qualifying for a Social Security Disability mental health claim are somewhat stringent and can be extremely difficult to prove.

However, your chances of having your application approved increase significantly when you enlist the assistance of a dedicated SSDI legal team. At Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein, we are experienced SSD lawyers practicing in Philadelphia and in Delaware County. Our number one goal is to provide our clients with the positive outcomes they deserve.

The Social Security Administration uses the guidelines set forth in what is known as the Blue Book to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Section 12 of the Blue Book lists nine categories of mental disorders under which you might qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. These include:

  • Affective disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • utism and related disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Organic mental disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia, paranoia and psychotic disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Substance addiction

The Social Security Administration evaluates each disorder according to its own criteria, and to qualify for assistance, you must be able to show that you meet these criteria. Or, alternatively, you must establish that the sum total of all your disabling conditions meets the criteria and prevents you from engaging in any gainful activity.

Expert Legal Assistance Only a Phone Call Away

As you can see from this summation, the requirements for SSDI are stringent, and this is not a place where you want to be struggling alone. The simple fact is, almost 75% of those who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance have their initial claim rejected. This means that they will need to file an appeal in order to be reconsidered for benefits. This process can take months, even years, and there is no need to attempt this arduous task without legal assistance.

At the law offices of Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein, we have earned a reputation for excellence while working alongside our disabled clients who are often in desperate need of financial assistance. As you struggle to adjust to life with a physical or mental disability, you should not have to fight for the benefits you are entitled to as well. That is why we recommend working with our dedicated SSDI law firm in Philadelphia.

As practicing SSD lawyers in Delaware County, we’ve helped thousands of clients, and we are here to help you. Call us today at 215-357-3300 for your free consultation, and let us fight for your legal rights while you focus on your recovery and your family.

Posted on March 30th, 2021 by Leventhal, Sutton and Gornstein

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