Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How to get approved for SSI disability

I came across a question the other day and the question was, "Is getting approved for ssi disability different from getting approved for social security disability.

Answer: there is no difference in procedure between the two programs. And after a disability application has been taken at a social security field office, there is practically no distinction as to whether or not the app was for title II benefits (social security disability) or title 16 benefits (supplemental security income benefits, aka SSI).

This is an abbreviated version of how it works. A prospective claimant contacts the social security administration, either by calling the toll free line or by contacting a local office. The individual states that they would like to file for disability. The determination is then made by SSA as to which program the individual may be eligible to receive benefits in.

If the individual has enough work credits and is "insured" (yes, social security is actually considered a form of government insurance), an application will be taken for social security disability. If the individual is a child or is an adult who has A. never worked, or B. has not worked enough in recent years to maintain their insured status, an application for SSI will be taken instead. In some cases, however, an application will be taken for both social security disability and SSI. This is known as a concurrent application and it happens when a disability claimant is actually covered or insured for social security disability but their projected benefit amount would be low (i.e. less than the full SSI amount). A concurrent application, in other words, is taken to ensure that a claimant will receive a certain minimum monthly benefit.

Are there limitations on applying for SSI disability or social security disability. Yes.

I. A working individual can apply for either social security disability or SSI disability. However, to file a disability application, your monthly earnings cannot exceed a specified amount. This amount is known as substantial gainful activity, or SGA, and it tends to change yearly. Currently, to apply for disability in either program (and as I said earlier, the determination of which program your application will be taken in is made by social security), an individual cannot have more than $860 in gross monthly earned income. What happens when a claimant who is working and earning at least this amount attempts to file? An application is taken, but a technical denial is issued (this is a fairly quick denial as no medical evaluation is conducted).

II. For individuals who are not insured for social security disability (i.e. have not paid enough into the system), the ability to file for SSI (or have a concurrent application taken) will not only be dependent on meeting the SGA requirements as stated above, but may also be limited by resource limits. What are resources? In social-security-speak, resources are assets. To file for SSI, or have a concurrent application taken, a prospective claimant cannot have more than $2000 in assets. Countable assets, of course, would include real property other than the home a person lives in, vehicles other than one's primary transportation, cash value in insurance policies, and liquid resources such as money in a savings account. The reasoning behind the $2000 asset/resource limit, of course, is that SSI is a needs-based program.

Once a disability application is taken, however, regardless of whether the application is for SSI or social security disability, the application will go through the federal system the way every other disability application does. The claim will be evaluated by a disability examiner at the initial claim level first. Typcially, claims are denied at about the rate of 70 percent at this level. If a claimant decides to appeal (and they certainly should), a first appeal will be conducted in the form of a review or reconsideration. Claims are denied at even higher rates at this stage (up to 85% of first appeals are denied). The next appeal, of course, is a disability hearing before a federal administrative law judge. This is actually the stage that any claimant who has been denied at the initial level wants to get to. At this level, claimants will have about a 40-60% percent chance of being approved.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

A disability claim tip: Never never never call the social security 1-800 number
Obesity and Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Questions
Apply for SSI