We Help Individuals Nationwide With SSI and SSDI Eligibility
Living with a disability comes with challenges that have wide-ranging repercussions on your daily life and financial security. Fortunately, government programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provide crucial support to qualifying individuals with disabilities.
Disability Services of America, an SSA-approved Employment Network (EN), can help you understand SSI and SSDI eligibility criteria, complete complex disability forms, and secure the benefits you need to care for yourself and your family. Don’t go it alone and risk a denial that would delay the benefits you need and deserve. Complete our contact form to request a free initial consultation to discuss your SSI or SSDI claim and how we can assist you.
Are Benefits Automatic?
Having a disability doesn't guarantee that the Social Security Administration (SSA)—the federal agency overseeing the SSI and SSDI programs—recognizes this and automatically approves your claim for benefits. Disability approval requires meeting strict eligibility criteria and providing medical evidence to prove that your condition is severe enough to prevent substantial gainful employment for at least a year or result in death. Unfortunately, for many claimants, this is easier said than done.
The SSI and SSDI application process can be complicated, frustrating, and time-consuming, requiring thorough documentation and adherence to exacting guidelines. Most claims are initially denied—often because of mistakes in the application forms or insufficient medical evidence.
Not to worry. Our dedicated team of Social Security disability professionals is here for you. We can help you complete the application paperwork, prove the extent of your disability, gather wage and income documentation, and more while advocating for you every step of the way.
SSI and SSDI: Distinct Programs Providing Financial Support for Individuals With Disabilities
It’s easy to confuse SSI and SSDI, as the acronyms are similar, they’re both administered by the SSA, and both provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work because of severe disability. Additionally, to qualify for either program, your medically determinable impairment must have lasted—or be expected to last—for at least 12 months or cause death. But despite all their similarities, the two programs have fundamental differences.
SSI: Supplemental Security Income
SSI is a needs-based program that provides monthly benefit payments to assist individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources. Eligibility for SSI is based on financial need, with benefit amounts set by the federal government and supplemented by certain states. People who are approved for SSI might also qualify for Medicaid coverage.
SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance
On the other hand, SSDI is a program that acts as a form of insurance for workers who can no longer engage in substantial gainful employment due to a disability. Eligibility for SSDI is based on credits earned by working in jobs that pay into Social Security taxes.
So SSDI benefits—based on your average lifetime earnings before becoming disabled—are generally higher than SSI benefits, which are set by the government.
Navigating the Complexities of the Social Security Disability Application Process
Not only can applying for Social Security disability be a lengthy and confusing process, but it’s also one that ends in disappointment for claimants. Approximately 70 percent of claims are initially denied, often due to preventable mistakes in the application paperwork. Don’t risk it. Following these steps helps you more effectively navigate the ins and outs of the application process.
- Gather relevant medical evidence. Documenting your disability with comprehensive medical evidence is crucial to the outcome of your SSI or SSDI claim. Provide medical records, diagnostic test results, and detailed statements from your health care providers describing the nature and daily impacts of your disability.
- Complete the application forms. Whether you’re applying for SSI, SSDI, or both, ensuring that you complete all required application forms accurately is essential. Make sure to include detailed information on your medical condition, work history, and financial situation.
- Consider work credits and eligibility. If you’re applying for SSDI, check your work credits to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria based on your employment history. Generally, you must accumulate 40 work credits—with 20 of them earned in the last 10 years—to qualify for SSDI benefits.
- Undergo a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. RFCs evaluate your ability to perform work-related tasks, providing the SSA with valuable insight into what you can do despite your limitations. Be prepared to provide extensive information on how your disability affects your daily life and prevents specific activities.
Understanding Social Security Disability Denials and Appeals
It’s not uncommon for the SSA to deny initial disability claims. Don't be discouraged if this happens—or has happened—to you. You have 60 days from the date you receive the denial letter to initiate an appeal. There are four stages in the Social Security disability appeals process:
- Reconsideration. Examiners at state-level Disability Determination Services agencies conduct another review of your claim. These examiners weren’t involved in the initial evaluation, so you can have your application reviewed with fresh eyes. You can also submit additional medical evidence, such as records of examinations or treatments you’ve had since receiving your denial letter.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ hearing. If reconsideration of your claim doesn’t yield the desired results, you can request a hearing before an ALJ, who reviews the evidence and listens to testimony from you and various expert witnesses. Though the hearings themselves typically take less than an hour, it can take weeks or months to receive a decision.
- Appeals Council review. If an ALJ rules against you, you can ask the SSA Appeals Council to review your claim. The two- or three-judge panel (three for reviews involving oral arguments, two for case-record reviews) go over the previous findings and evidence, as well as any additional evidence or information added to the record. The Appeals Council can uphold, modify, or reverse the ALJ’s ruling, or order a new ALJ hearing.
- Federal Court review. If appealing to the Council didn’t result in a favorable decision, you can file a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court.
Appealing a Disability Denial Versus Reapplying for Benefits
One of the most common questions about disability denials is whether it’s better to appeal the decision or apply again. Fortunately, the answer is simple: appealing a denial is almost always preferable to completing a new application for benefits.
When you notify the SSA that you intend to apply for disability, you establish something called a protective filing date. This date can substantially impact approved claims. For SSI beneficiaries, the protective filing date determines when benefits begin. For SSDI recipients, it marks the start of your back pay, which covers the period between your protective filing date and the date of your disability onset, possibly providing you with retroactive benefits.
Appealing a denied disability claim preserves your protective filing date, while completing a new application resets it—potentially reducing the amount of retroactive benefits you could receive if your claim is eventually approved.
How Our Skilled Social Security Disability Professionals Help You Obtain the SSI or SSDI Benefits You Deserve
Applying for Social Security disability can be daunting, but our knowledgeable and experienced team provides valuable support for each stage of the journey. We can help you complete your application, compile the necessary documentation, and act as a liaison between you and the SSA to facilitate communication and promptly submit all required information. If your claim has been denied, we’ll guide you through the appeals process.
Dealing with a disability is stressful enough—don't go through the SSI or SSDI application process alone. We can provide peace of mind and alleviate some of your stress by handling the intricate details of your case, allowing you to focus on your health.