Guide to Successful Claims of Social Security Disability

Millions of Americans cannot work due to limitations caused by medical conditions, and Social Security Disability Insurance was created to provide benefits to these disabled workers and their dependents. Many people have questions and concerns about the claims process and navigating the established procedures. Before applying, learning as much information as possible is imperative to increase chances for a successful outcome.

What is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a social program with roots dating back to the mid-1930s and the Great Depression. Planners spent the program’s early years devising the framework, complete with strict distinctions between those who were unemployed and those who were disabled. After nearly two decades of work, the new plan became law in 1956. By design, the agency’s strict definition of disability continues to leave many seeking help with SSDI claims.

The Rules of the Program

As a federal plan managed by the Social Security Administration, SSDI has strict guidelines to ensure benefits for some of the most vulnerable members of society. These rules may substantially differ from a private disability insurance program or a plan offered through an employer. Many private plans provide temporary or partial coverage to protect workers’ wages until they are well enough to return to work, whereas SSDI does not offer this flexibility. 

A principal requirement for SSDI approval is that the individual cannot work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted for an entire year or is expected to last at least this long or result in the individual’s demise. Additionally, the situation must prevent work in the field the employee has previously worked in and any other field. Unsurprisingly, with such stringent rules in place, SSDI beneficiaries have a death rate of more than three times that of the general population of the same age,

SSDI and Work Credits

Social Security supports the program through payroll taxes paid by workers, and individuals must have earned at least 40 credits to meet this requirement. Along with the medical conditions of SSDI, applicants must also have accrued enough work credits in the recent past to qualify for benefits. The number of annual credits achieved varies according to wages and type of income, but the maximum number that can be earned for each year of work is four. The number of recent work credits needed depends on the person’s age at the onset of the disability.

The total work credits earned over a lifetime can go beyond the 40 credit requirement, but earning more credits will not affect the amount of the SSDI benefits payment received. Credits earned are only used to determine program eligibility and survivors’ benefits for the family when a beneficiary passes away. Unfortunately, even if workers have a severe medical condition, they will not be eligible for benefits under SSDI without accruing the minimum required work credits. 

Achieving a Successful Outcome

Every SSDI case is unique, and there is no magic formula for achieving a favorable result, but there are actions to take that will help move things along. Before filing, familiarize yourself with the applicable SSDI guidelines so you can see the type of medical evidence they’re looking for and whether your medical records meet those guidelines. Staying in contact with your doctor and confirming that your records illustrate the scope of your limitations will also help build your case.  

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