How can I speed up the decision on my Social Security claim?

It can take a long time to get approved for disability benefits; several years for many claimants (applicants). However, there are a number of methods to speed up the process. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will expedite the processing of SSI and/or SSDI claims that meet certain requirements, typically where a certain medical or financial condition is present. Additionally, there are several options for expediting the resolution of claims are at the hearing level. Continue reading “How can I speed up the decision on my Social Security claim?”

Can I Get Social Security Benefits for a Temporary Disability?

The answer depends on how long your temporary disability lasted, or is expected to last. If your disability lasted or will last less than 12 months, you cannot receive Social Security benefits. Continue reading “Can I Get Social Security Benefits for a Temporary Disability?”

What Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Conditions from asthma, to back pain, to depression, cancer, and schizophrenia may qualify a person for disability. However, it is not just the “right” diagnosis that will qualify you. Your condition must be of a certain severity for your claim to be approved.  Continue reading “What Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability?”

Can My Child Receive Social Security Benefits?

Children can receive Social Security disability benefits under both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. The rules and eligibility requirements for each program differ, and not all children will be eligible under both programs.

SSI 

A child under the age of 18 may be eligible to receive SSI if he meets Social Security’s definition of disability. When a child applies for SSI, Social Security will look at the child’s and certain household members’ income and resources to determine whether the child meets the income and resource limits for SSI. However, not all of the household income and resources is counted.

When a child applies, he goes through an evaluation process that is similar to the process for adults who have applied for SSI. The main differences are that the listings for children are different than those for adults, and the evaluation process stops after the claims examiner determines whether the child meets or equals the listings. Unlike with adult applicants, Social Security does not look at whether a child can return to his past relevant work or any work in the national economy. Either a child meets or equals the listings and is approved, or he doesn’t and he is denied.

There are several conditions that may allow your child to receive SSI payments while Social Security is still making their decision. Those conditions include total blindness or deafness, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe intellectual disability, symptomatic HIV infection, and birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces. If your child has one of these conditions, you should ask the local Social Security office to begin payments immediately.

When your child turns 18, Social Security will review their case using the adult disability guidelines. It is important to keep in mind that just because a child is approved for SSI does not mean they will be approved for it when they turn 18. Additionally, if your child was not eligible for SSI because the income of the family was too high, once the child turns 18 the household income is counted differently. Thus, at age 18, your child may become eligible even if their financial situation hasn’t really changed.

SSDI

Disabled and non-disabled children under the age of 18, and sometimes 19, can receive dependents’ benefits if a parent is receiving Social Security retirement benefits. The child must be unmarried and under the age of 18, or be 18-19 years old and a full-time student in high school. If the child is disabled, he may also be able to continue receiving benefits once he turns 18 by applying as an adult disabled child.

Adults who were disabled before the age of 22 may be eligible to receive SSDI on their parents’ record as an “adult disabled child”. The parent must be deceased or receiving retirement or disability benefits for the adult child to apply. Unlike traditional SSDI, it is not necessary that the adult child has ever worked, because the adult child is eligible based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.

The adult child—including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild—must meet the definition of disability for adults. In evaluating whether the adult child is disabled, the same rules apply as any other adult applicant.

Example: A father starts collecting his retirement benefits at age 62. He has a son who is 35 years old. The son has a severe intellectual disability, which was diagnosed when he was 4. The son has never worked. He can receive a SSDI benefit based on his father’s record because he meets the adult definition of disability, and was disabled before the age of 18.

What are the chances my Social Security claim will be approved?

You may have heard that everyone gets denied the first time they apply for Social Security disability benefits. Though this is slight hyperbole, it unfortunately is not far from the truth. Continue reading “What are the chances my Social Security claim will be approved?”

How to Return to Work and Keep Your Disability Benefits

If you are receiving VA Disability Compensation, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or all three, you may be able to work and still keep your benefits. Each program has its own requirements, however, so you may be able to receive one type of benefit but not the others. It all depends on what type of benefit you receive, and how your benefit rate was calculated.

If you receive VA Disability Compensation benefits and…

Your rating is based on the VA Ratings Table

If you are receiving a rating that was calculated based on the Ratings Table, even if it is 100% (called a schedular rating), you can still work and receive your VA benefits.

Your rating is based on TDIU (total disability rating based on individual unemployability)

In order to get approved for TDIU, you must prove to the VA that you are unable to perform substantial gainful employment as a result of your condition(s). Substantial gainful employment for VA purposes is “other than marginal work,” meaning you could work in a sheltered or protected environment such as a family business so long as your earned annual income is less than the federal poverty guideline. In 2018, the federal poverty guideline for a single person household is $12,140/year. If you then go back to work, the VA can decrease your rating to what it was before you were approved for TDIU. See my prior post on TDIU for more information.

If you receive Social Security benefits (SSI and SSDI)…

Each program has its own rules regarding whether and how much recipients can work. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, SSI and/or SSDI, you can work within certain limitations.

SSI

If you are receiving SSI, you can work so long as your earned income does not exceed substantial gainful activity[1] ($1,180/month), and your monthly income is under the SSI income requirements for eligibility ($750/month for an individual in 2018).[2] If your income is above the monthly limit of $750, your benefit will terminate. Additionally, if you start to earn more income than you were earning when you were first approved, even if that income is below the $750/month limit, SSA will decrease your monthly SSI benefit to account for your increased income.

SSDI

SSDI recipients on the other hand do not have a monthly income limitation other than substantial gainful activity. So long as you earn below SGA, $1,180/month, you can still receive the SSDI benefit.

Trial Work Period for SSDI Recipients

Additionally, when you want to return to work, you can do so during a Trial Work Period (TWP) without immediately losing your benefit. Read this post for more information on TWP.

If you receive both VA Disability Compensation and Social Security benefits…

For individuals who receive both VA and SSI/SSDI, they must consider both program’s limitations if they want to keep both types of benefits. Each program is run independently of each other, so you will have to report separately to each agency. It is possible to keep all of your benefits while working, but depending on the type and amount of work you are engaged in, one or both of your benefits might terminate.

Bottom Line: If you are thinking about returning to work and you receive VA or Social Security disability benefits, you should carefully consider how your work will affect your benefits, especially if you are unsure if you will be able to maintain employment for an extended period of time.


[1] Though the VA and SSA both use the phrase “substantial gainful activity,” it is defined differently by each agency. See above.

[2] Because of how SSA calculates beneficiary’s income for eligibility purposes, it could be possible for someone to earn more than $750/month and still qualify for SSI.

Can I apply for Social Security if I have a mental condition?

Absolutely! Though mental illness is sometimes called the “invisible illness,” mental disorders are the primary diagnosis of a large proportion of all SSI and SSDI recipients. In 2016, a mental disorder was the primary diagnosis of 37.3% of SSDI beneficiaries and 60.2% of SSI recipients. Continue reading “Can I apply for Social Security if I have a mental condition?”