Social Security Disability, MS, and a Trip to the Dentist
Today, I went in for a tooth cleaning (don't think I've ever started a post this way before) and, interestingly enough, the conversation between the dental hygeinist and me turned toward the topic of eligibility for social security disability benefits.
How did this happen? Well, sort of the way conversations often go, with the question, "So, what do you do for a living?" My answer, of course, included a recitation of my prior work as a medicaid caseworker and as a disability examiner for the social security administration, and then on to include the fact that I blog about SSD and SSI and also publish the site, Disability Secrets.
It turned out that my hygeinist's husband has MS, or multiple sclerosis, and has a very stressful job as a salesperson, not making his MS fare any better.
Here are some of the questions my hygeinist asked and I have to say I found them interesting because, although I've addressed these same questions more times than I can count, providing the answers to someone I know (and can actually see and speak with versus over the internet) made them seem a little fresher to me.
Also, as it has always been the case in the past, I found the following to be true: A) it was gratifying to provide answers to someone who really needed the information I provided in order to make an informed decision, or to pursue a certain path, and B) I realized once again for the upteenth time that, even though I always have social security disability and SSI issues in my mind, to the average person out there the thought of filing for disability is confusing and initimidating (my hygeinist Donna's exact words).
So, here are the questions she had and here are also my answers.
1. Will he be able to get disability benefits based on MS? My answer was that, unfortunately, many good cases get denied at the two DDS adjudication levels. Those levels are A) initial claim (the disability application) and B) Request for reconsideration (the first appeal). However, at the disability hearing level, cases in general have a significantly higher chance of being approved. The chance of winning tends to go up when one has representation and, more specifically, well documented cases of Multiple Slcerosis tend to have a higher approval rate than claims which focus on many other types of impairments.
2. How much money will he receive if he is approved for disability? My answer was that this will depend on which program awards him benefits. If he is awarded SSI, he may possibly receive the full SSI amount (for the particular year -- this amount is adjusted for inflation each year). If he is awarded SSD (social security disability), his monthly disability benefit will be based on his prior earnings record. The way to find out, of course, what he may possibly receive in monthly disability benefits is to contact social security.
3. Which program will he qualify for disability benefits in, SSD or SSI? My answer was this: the SSI (supplemental security income) program provides disability benefits for A) disabled minor-age children, B) adults who have never earned enough to become insured for social security disability benefits, and C) adults who were once insured but, due to a significant gap in their work activity, have lost their insured status for SSD. Since her husband had, for the most part, maintained a continuous work history, he would surely be eligible to file for SSD.
4. Would her income be counted against his ability to file for disability or to receive disability benefits? My answer was that her income could only be figured into the equation if his disability application was filed in the SSI program. This is because SSI is a need-based program. And for this reason, one's family income (including the deemed income of a spouse) and one's assets (SSA refers to these as resources) may be used to determine one's non-medical eligibility to receive benefits. However, this is only the case for SSI applications. SSDI, or social security disability insurance, does not consider assets and does not take into account anyone's income other than your own.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
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