When a disability prevents a person from working, it can be incredibly frustrating. A person could go from being able to support themselves financially to being unable to take care of even their basic needs. Fortunately, there is a social safety net in place to help people in such situations in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance.
The Social Security Disability Insurance program pays around $143 billion annually to over 11 million people. And the number of people applying for benefits is only going up. For example, in 2013 the program saw almost 2.7 million applications, which represents nearly a 2 million increase since 2003.
That being said, the number of applications actually approved for benefits has not kept pace with the uptick in applicants. From 2004 to 2013, an average of only 36 percent of applications for benefits were approved, meaning more often than not a person’s initial application for benefits will be denied. Moreover, for those that choose to appeal the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision, it could take 12 months or more before they get a hearing.
However, there are some steps applicants can take to try to increase the chances that their initial claim for disability benefits will be approved. First of all, applicants should obtain all available medical records before submitting their application. The SSA will want to see that the applicant was treated for their medical condition both recently and on a consistent basis in the past. Medical records can also document how serious the applicant’s medical condition is and how it has affected the applicant’s life.
Applicants also have to be careful when it comes to earning an income prior to and while applying for benefits. One requirement for obtaining disability benefits is that the person applying for benefits cannot be able to perform any “substantial gainful activity.” In 2016 this means the person can’t make more than $1,130 monthly. If a person works full-time up until the date that they apply for benefits, it could send the message that the person’s disability does not actually keep them from working.
As you can see, applying for Social Security disability benefits is not as straightforward as it may seem Fortunately, those applying for disability benefits can seek the help of an attorney, to help them present the strongest application for benefits possible.
Source: CNBC, “Steps to successfully apply for Social Security disability,” Kelli B. Grant, Feb. 1, 2016