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Disability Income and Benefits

Some people with mental health issues may have trouble working and might eventually be unable to keep a job. Fortunately, there are two national programs run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provide monthly income and health insurance for those who can’t work. Here’s a summary of both programs:

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)
To qualify for SSDI, you need to have a disabling condition that keeps you from working for at least a year. You also must have a work history with contributions to Social Security (like payroll taxes) for at least five of the past ten years.

In 2014, the average monthly SSDI benefit was $1,165, but the amount you get depends on the FICA taxes you’ve paid during your working years.

  • Important Points:
  1. Your spouse and young children can also get benefits based on your SSDI.
  2. After 24 months of receiving SSDI, you can get Medicare benefits.
  3. You might also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  4. You can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance in person at a Social Security office or online at www.ssa.gov.
  5. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • SSI has programs for both adults and children (up to age 18).
  1. For Children: To get SSI benefits, kids must have a disabling condition expected to last at least a year and significantly limit their abilities. The family must have very low income and few resources. When the child turns 18, the SSA checks if they qualify for adult SSI benefits.
  2. For Adults: To qualify for SSI, you need a disabling condition that stops you from working regularly. You must also have very low income and few resources, with a cap of $2,000 in assets. If you’re married, your spouse must also meet strict income and asset limits, with a combined total of $3,000 in assets.

In 2015, federal SSI payments were $733 per month for individuals and $1,100 per month for couples, but the exact amount can vary based on your living situation.

  • Important Points:
  1. SSI doesn’t count certain assets, like your main home, one car, wedding rings, specific types of support, burial savings up to $1,500, and some exceptions.
  2. Depending on your state, you might get an extra monthly payment.
  3. You’ll be eligible for Medicaid coverage.
  4. Any adult who contributed to the FICA system might be able to get SSDI benefits at the same time.
  5. You can apply for SSI benefits at a Social Security office or by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213 to schedule an appointment.

Disability Claims Process
Most Social Security applications go through a local SSA office. If you need help with your application, consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in disability claims or a Social Security claims representative. They can help you prepare and submit your application. The payment for representation is usually capped at 25% of retroactive SSI or SSDI payments if you win your case, with a maximum of $6,000, whichever is less. Many professionals only get paid if your claim is successful.

The SSA has detailed criteria for evaluating disabilities. Make sure to check their standards for your specific condition, which you can find under “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security.” If your condition isn’t listed or you don’t meet all the criteria, you can look into other disability qualifications. SSA uses a different system than medical professionals, so you might be eligible for benefits based on a different condition than your medical diagnosis.

Usually, it takes three to five months to process your application and make a decision. If you’re approved, you’ll start getting benefits right away. SSI and SSDI applicants may receive back pay or retroactive benefits, depending on when you filed your claim and when your disability started.

Appealing a Denied Claim
Most claims are initially denied, so many applicants file an appeal. You can appeal and have a hearing with an administrative judge. Notably, many people who were denied initially end up getting benefits during these hearings. Consider consulting a Social Security disability benefits attorney or another professional to guide you through the appeals process. It typically takes about 22 months from applying for benefits to the hearing.