This article is written by Crysti Farra, Esq., a guest author for the Russo Law Group P.C. blog.
Social Security, as a program, began in 1935; however, it took more than 20 years before Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was added under the Eisenhower administration. Even still, those in the population who were younger than 55, or without significant work history, were not covered for disability until 1974, when the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) component of the act was implemented under the Nixon administration.*
Although SSI and SSDI are two separate programs, with different criteria to be met at the outset, the definition of disability is largely the same under both (except in children). The following information is designed to give an overview of the steps necessary to be successful at being awarded disability, staying on disability, and maintaining your benefits if you choose to work.
What should my first steps be in filing for Disability?
Before you file for disability, you should speak with your healthcare professional(s) to ensure you have their support for your claim. This is the most important step. Your doctor’s assistance will be integral in proving that your condition is disabling. You will need to gather the medical evidence to include diagnostic records (blood panels, Cat Scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies, etc.) as well as clinical notes from your treating sources.
Am I eligible for Social Security Disability if I don’t have a formal diagnosis?
According to the Social Security Website:* “Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. They consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is a strict definition of disability. Having a diagnosis does not necessarily mean you have a disability under Social Security Rules and Regulations (SSR), though it will often be helpful in your overall case. The Social Security Regulations use a standard of Substantial Gainful Activity to determine if you are disabled. In raw numbers, Substantial Gainful Activity is defined as earning $1,180 ($1,820 for blind individuals) per month or more. So, if your limitations would still allow you to work at a job where you could earn $1,180 per month, with few accommodations, then under the Social Security rules, you are NOT disabled.
Can I still work if I am on Social Security Disability?
Under SSDI, the short answer is yes, under very limited circumstances. There are provisions within the Social Security Regulations that allow someone who is receiving SSDI or SSI to work, but again, the programs vary in standards. Therefore it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney who has experience in handling these types of cases.
In closing, it is important to understand that the Social Security Act is one of the most lengthy and complicated pieces of legislation ever passed into law. This process for filing for either Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income is rarely a fast experience. You should plan on 6 to 8 months before an initial decision is rendered by Social Security, Social Security Disability attorneys must be registered through the Social Security Administration and licensed in the state in which they practice. Attorneys/ Representatives are not permitted to charge a fee for their services unless they are successful at helping you win or keep your benefits, and they must receive approval from the Social Security Administration before charging/collecting a fee.
*www.ssa.gov provides the source of information for most references in this article.
Ms. Farra is an attorney licensed to practice in New York and Connecticut, as well as nationally through registration as an appointed attorney representative before the Social Security Administration. For further information, please visit her website at www.cdfarra.com.