All About Social Security Disability
The Realization of the Importance of SSDI: When Tragedy Strikes
For most of our working lives, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is merely a background concern. The only time we think about it is when we check to see how much money the federal government has taken out of our paychecks.
It is when tragedy strikes that we realize the importance of this fundamental government insurance program. After an accident or illness which results in permanent disability, SSDI becomes a lifeline for those who can no longer work. If you are ever severely disabled, take comfort in knowing that you have been paying into the country’s largest disability insurance program, and will be able to provide for yourself and your family despite your illness or disability.
If you have been denied SSDI benefits, the experienced Social Security attorneys at Riddle & Brantley can help. We have experience fighting for those afflicted by serious illnesses and disabilities, and will help you get the benefits to which you are entitled. Call (800) 525-7111 to speak with our disability lawyers about your claim today.
The History of Social Security Disability Insurance
The Social Security administration was established more than eighty years ago to provide insurance and security for American workers and their families against the hardships of everyday life. In 1956, Congress realized that most private workers did not have (or could not afford) long-term disability insurance. Accordingly, the Social Security Administration was expanded to include disability insurance for workers through the SSDI program.
SSDI has steadily expanded since 1956. After the 1950s, the United States experienced a huge population surge as a result of the Baby Boomers born after World War II. By 1976, record numbers of people were seeking SSDI benefits, on account of both the Baby Boomers entering the workforce in earnest, and more women seeking work outside of the home.
The exponential growth of the SSDI program leveled off around 2008, as most Baby Boomers reached retirement age. Once a person is of retirement age (currently 67) he or she is no longer able to collect SSDI benefits.
Today’s SSDI Program
If you have spent your adult years working and paying for federal taxes, then you have been funding your own disability insurance. For the average American worker with a spouse and two children, SSDI is the equivalent of a $580,000 long-term disability insurance policy.
SSDI is funded by payroll taxes. Currently, 6.2% of a worker’s income goes to the Social Security Administration, where the funds are split between SSDI and Social Security retirement benefits. The 6.2% tax is only taken from the first $117,000 a worker makes–if you make more than this, your additional income is not subject to the tax.
Most developed countries around the world also provide disability insurance for their workers. In comparison to these countries, the U.S. spends very little federal money funding the SSDI program. While the percentage of U.S. workers receiving disability benefits is on par with workers in most other countries, American workers receiving disability benefits generally have to meet more stringent disability requirements and receive less money on a monthly basis.
Who Receives SSDI Benefits?
More than every working age person in America is covered by SSDI. Over 160 million people, including 91% of those aged 21 through 64, pay part of their wages towards Social Security programs. This is especially important in light of estimates that one out of every three workers today will need disability benefits before retirement age.
Currently, approximately 8.9 million people receive SSDI benefits, which includes over a million disabled veterans. In addition to the workers themselves, 157,000 spouses and more than 2 million children receive social security benefits as a result of their loved one’s work history.
Most people who receive SSDI benefits are in their 50s and 60s. The majority worked in unskilled or semi-skilled work, like construction or other physical types of labor.
What Benefits Does the Social Security Disability Insurance Program Provide?
The amount of SSDI benefits a person will receive is based on his or her salary prior to their disability. SSDI payments usually replace a little less than half of your past earnings (subject to a cap for higher-earning individuals).
SSDI benefits do not provide a lot of money, even though 80% of recipients use it as their main source of income. As a result, 20% of people receiving SSDI benefits live in poverty. Without SSDI, however, the number of disabled persons living in poverty would be far greater.
The average disabled worker receives $1,140 per month in SSDI benefits. After two years, SSDI recipients are also eligible for Medicare, which also helps to ease the financial burdens of the disabled.
For those whose disability or illness improves over time, the Social Security Administration allows disabled workers to test out their ability to work. For up to 12 months, recipients can attempt to earn as much as they are able without losing any SSDI benefits. If they earn more than $1,070 for more than 12 months, they will enter an extended period of eligibility for three years, which will allow them to work full time, but receive benefits if their income in any month falls below $1,070. In addition, for five years after the extended eligibility period ends, recipients will be able to use an expedited process to resume their benefits if their disability once again prohibits them from working.
Most SSDI Applicants are Denied
Types of Disabilities that Qualify for SSDI Benefits
The five categories of SSDI disabilities and their prevalence:
- 32%: Mental impairments (schizophrenia, PTSD, intellectual disabilities)
- 30%: Musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorders
- 20%: Cancers, infections diseases, or other injuries
- 9%: Cardiovascular conditions like chronic heart failure
- 9%: Nervous system disorders (cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, etc.)
In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, workers must have a severe illness or disability which prevents them from any type of significant gainful employment. Because SSDI is only available to those with debilitating impairments and life-threatening diseases, many people who apply for benefits are denied—less than four out of every ten applicants are approved.
In order to be considered disabled, a person must not be able to engage in any meaningful employment. “Meaningful employment” means any job where a person earns more than $270 per week, or $1,070 per month.
In addition, a worker must also have earned coverage in the SSDI system before benefits can be approved. The number of years a worker will need to pay taxes into the system varies based on age, but in general, a person needs to have worked for at least ten years, five of those years being within the past ten years.
Even if a person is unable to work and has sufficient work history, it can still be difficult to get approved for benefits. When considering whether or not someone’s disability will qualify for SSDI benefits, the Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices of the Social Security Administration will consider a person’s age, education, and work experience. It is not enough to show that you are unable to do the work you used to do—your disability must also prevent you from doing any substantial gainful activity.
Finally, a person’s disability or illness must be expected to either last for more than a year, or end in death. Temporary or short-term disabilities do not qualify for SSDI benefits. An applicant will need substantial medical evidence from acceptable sources in order to prove the extent of their disability.
SSDI Benefits Allow Disabled Workers to Support Themselves
Every American should take comfort in knowing that there is a program of financial support after devastating injuries and illnesses. SSDI benefits allow former workers to provide for themselves and their families after years of paying into the insurance program.
You have paid for this coverage with every year you worked. If you need SSDI benefits but have been denied, you need the help of experienced Social Security Disability lawyer like those at Riddle & Brantley. Call (800) 525-7111 or use our case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed for free by a knowledgeable North Carolina Social Security lawyer.
- Social Security Disability Insurance: A Bedrock for American Workers. Center for American Progress. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/report/2014/07/08/93386/social-security-disability-insurance/