At some point in your life you may suddenly find yourself unable to work because of a disability. The sudden, unexpected inability to provide for you and your family may be frightening. Fortunately, help may be available through the Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, program. Administered by the Social Security Administration, or SSA, the SSDI program is a federally funded program that pays benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or that is expected to result in death; however, there are certain basic criteria that must be met to qualify for SSDI. Determining your eligibility for benefits begins with filling out the SSDI application.
Applying for SSDI benefits can be a lengthy and complicated process, requiring much supporting medical evidence and paperwork. Time for a decision may take up to 5 months. Many applicants choose to work with an experienced SSDI attorney to increase the odds of being approved without the need to appeal. To begin you must meet earning requirements. There is a “recent work” test, which calculates the amount you earned in relation to the time of your diagnosis and a “duration of work” test, which calculates how long you have contributed to Social Security through employment. If these criteria are met, the remainder of the decision is based on your medical condition. In addition to the basic application for disability benefits, there are other forms you will need to fill out. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work while others provide doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals who have treated you permission to send information to the SSA to help evaluate your application.
Once your application has been filed, it will be reviewed to determine if you have met the basic income requirements. Then it will be forwarded to the Disability Determination Services office in your state. This agency is the one that determines your disability based on information from agency doctors and disability specialists and reports back to the SSA. Information that may be collected from your doctors includes:
- What your medical condition is;
- When your medical condition began;
- How your medical condition limits your activities;
- What the medical tests have shown; and
- What treatment you have received.
It is important to note that the agency, not your doctors, decides who is disabled. According to the SSA, the decision is based on 5 questions:
- Are you working?
If you earn more than you would receive in SSDI benefits, then you are not eligible. If not, then your medical condition is considered.
- Is your medical condition severe?
Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities—such as walking, sitting and remembering—for at least one year, and/or will result in death.
- Is your medical condition on the list of impairments?
If the severity of your medical condition meets or equals that of a listed impairment, which is a list of severe conditions per law, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If not then step 4 is considered.
- Can you do the work you did before?
If yes, your benefits are denied. If no, then step 5 is considered.
- Can you do any other type of work?
The agency evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you are able to work, you are not disabled; if you cannot work, you are disabled.
Once all of the information is considered, a decision will be made. A letter will be sent to you stating your application was denied and explaining why, or an approval along with a benefit summary. If you feel the agency should not have denied your application you have a right to appeal the denial. Because the application and appeals process is complicated, the assistance of an experienced Michigan Social Security benefits attorney can be invaluable when navigating the system.
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