Text Resize

Monday September 1, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Get Social Security Benefits When You’re Disabled

What do I need to do to get Social Security disability? I’m 57 years old and have some health issues that are keeping me from working, but I’ve heard it’s very difficult to get benefits.

The process of getting Social Security disability benefits can be tricky and time-consuming, but you can help yourself by doing your homework and getting prepared.

Last year, around 3 million people applied for Social Security disability benefits, but two-thirds of them were denied. The reason is that most applicants fail to prove that they’re disabled and can’t work. Here are some steps you can take that will improve your odds.

Get Informed


The first thing you need to find out is if your health problem qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits.

You generally will be eligible only if you have a health problem that is expected to prevent you from working in your current line of work (or any other line of work that you have been in over the past 15 years) for at least a year or result in death.

There is no such thing as a partial disability benefit. If you’re fit enough to work part-time, your application will be denied. You also need not apply if you still are working with the intention of quitting if your application is approved, because if you’re working your application will be denied.

Your skill set and age are factors too. Your application will be denied if your work history suggests that you have the skills to perform a less physically demanding job that your disability does not prevent you from doing.

To help you determine if you are disabled, visit ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify5.htm and go through the five questions Social Security uses to determine disability.

How to Apply


If you believe you have a claim, your next step is to gather up your personal, financial and medical information so you can be prepared and organized for the application process.

You can apply either online at ssa.gov/applyfordisability or call 800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the phone.

The whole process lasts about an hour. If you schedule an appointment, a “Disability Starter Kit” that will help you get ready for your interview will be mailed to you. If you apply online, the kit is available at ssa.gov/disability.

It takes three to five months from the initial application to receive either an award or denial of benefits. The only exception is if you have a chronic illness that qualifies you for a “compassionate allowance” (see ssa.gov/compassionateallowances), which fast tracks cases within weeks.

If Social Security denies your initial application, you can appeal the decision. Roughly half of all cases that go through a round or two of appeals end with benefits being awarded. Unfortunately, with a backlog of about 900,000 people currently waiting for a hearing it may take a year or longer for you to get one.

Get Help


You can hire a representative to help you with your Social Security disability claim. By law, representatives can charge only 25% of past-due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000 if they win your case.

It’s probably worth hiring someone at the start of the application process if your disability is something difficult to prove such as chronic pain. If, however, your disability is obvious, it might be worth initially working without a representative to avoid paying the fee. You can always hire a representative later if your initial application and first appeal are denied.

To find a representative, check with the National Association of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (nosscr.org, 800-431-2804) or National Association of Disability Representatives (nadr.org, 800-747-6131). If you are in the low-income category, contact the Legal Services Corporation (lsc.gov/find-legal-aid) for free assistance.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 29, 2014

Previous Articles

How to Get a Medicare Covered Power Scooter or Wheelchair

Is Life Insurance Needed in Retirement?

How to Find the Best Reacher Grabber Tool

Food Assistance Programs Can Help Seniors in Need

Low-Cost and Free Cell Phone Options for Seniors

scriptsknown

© 2014 Carson-Newman

Carson-Newman University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, disability, age, veteran status, or genetic information in provision of its education policies, programs, services and activities.

© 2014 Crescendo Interactive, Inc. PRIVACY STATEMENT