Benefit Programs for Disabled Americans
You are disabled. Perhaps your disability was the result of an accident. Or perhaps you were born with a disability.
Or perhaps you have a genetic condition that came upon you later in life that caused your disability. Perhaps your disability is entirely psychological. You may have served with the Armed Forces in Afghanistan or Iraq.
When you arrived home, you noticed that you were not acting as you used to and that things were not quite right. You may have a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that hinders your ability to live a full life.
Perhaps you grew up in an abusive environment that planted a sense of anxiety in you and you lived with that anxiety for years. All of these situations, physical or psychological, can be described as a disability.
If you have a disability, it may be difficult or impossible for you to find gainful employment. Fortunately, the United States government provides benefits programs for disabled Americans.
Those programs are the Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, program and the Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program. Should you apply for one or both of these programs? What are the qualifications for these programs?
Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI benefits provide income to those who have a work history but are no longer able to work or have limited capacity to work due to a disability. The disability need not be job-related; rather, it must satisfy the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled, which is discussed later in this article.
SSDI is funded through a payroll tax, specifically through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA. As such, to qualify for SSDI, you must have “paid into” the program by contributing to the fund. The SSA administers the program. You must also have worked for 10 out of the last 20 years and have not have worked for the last 12 months.
To qualify as disabled, it must be demonstrated that you cannot perform “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA. That is, SGA is when you are able or deemed to be able to earn at least $1180 per month and $1,950 per month for a blind individual.
If you are earning that amount and if the SSA reasonably believes that you can earn that amount, then you are not eligible. Note that either you are disabled or not disabled under the SSA definition; there is no category as partially disabled
Supplemental Security Income
SSI, in contrast to SSDI, which is payroll tax-funded, is funded by the United States Department of the Treasury. Like SSDI, the SSA administers the program and uses SGA as the threshold for determining eligibility.
However, unlike the SSDI that is for those who paid into the program, SSI is for low-income individuals with a disability. There is no determination based on prior contribution. A person is allowed to receive both SSI and SSDI benefits simultaneously.
Are You Considering Applying for SSDI or SSI Benefits? Things to Consider
In general, if you are disabled and unable to work or your disability prevents you from performing substantial work, you should probably apply for SSDI and SSI benefits, depending on your specific circumstance. While the process is complex, a knowledgeable disability lawyer can help you navigate this complex and sometimes difficult process.
Nonetheless, you should consider certain circumstances wherein applying for SSDI and SSI benefits may not the best choice. One instance is privacy issues. To qualify, it is important to supply the SSA examiner all of your medical information so that the examiner can make a determination about your case.
If supplying medical information, which is otherwise very personal, will cause you to have more stress and more anxiety, then perhaps applying may not be for you. For most, supplying such information to an examiner who does not know you is not an issue. However, if disclosing such information will cause you to become worse than you are, then that needs to be taken into consideration.
Another instance in which it may be questionable to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits is when you are involved in a custody case. To have custody in Pennsylvania, family law judges will look to the stability of the home of the parent seeking custody.
If by the rules of the SSA, you are considered disabled enough to qualify for SSDI or SSI, then a judge may determine that you are unable to properly care for your child because you have limited capacity to bring in income. This was the ruling in the custody case of C.A.U. v. C.L.U. from 2015, which was heard in the family part of Pennsylvania Superior Court.
In most situations, you should apply for SSDI or SSI benefits, as applicable. However, if applying will make your medical situation worse or if you are involved in a custody battle, then perhaps you should give serious thought to whether applying for benefits is right for you.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Disability Attorney Today
If you are disabled and unable to work or your disability affects your ability to work, you should consider applying for SSI and SSDI. However, the application process and guidelines for SSA benefits are complex.
Therefore, you need an experienced and knowledgeable advocate on your side who can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Contact the Philadelphia disability law firm of Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo at 800-952-9640. We are advocates on behalf of the disabled.