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SSD Facts to Help Cut through the Red Tape

Disability is not an anomaly in society. In fact, there are some 37 million Americans who are currently classified as disabled, many of them in their prime working years. On the benefits side of the equation, as of 2013 there were some 8.8 million disabled workers in the United States collecting Social Security Disability Benefits. For many, these monetary awards offer crucial relief in the face of debilitating injuries and disabilities. But actually collecting the award is another matter entirely. As with any government agency, there are hoops to jump through and bureaucratic red tape to contend with when filing a claim. And not having certain bits of crucial info can affect with the applicant receives an award at all.

So in the interest of streamlining the process, here is some vital info anyone considering applying for SSD should have.

The difference between SSI and SSDI

One of the most basic bits of disability information—that isn’t always made available—is the difference between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both programs are available to claimants, but there are stark differences in requirements. SSI is purely need-based, and is calculated based on a percentage of the claimant’s income and assets. Those with less than $2,000 in assets can apply for SSI. Payroll taxes, on the other hand, provide funding for SSDI. Therefore the claimant’s income and assets are not taken into account when calculating a particular award. However, he or she must be under 65 and have earned a number of work credits in order to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Understanding the “blue book”

The SSA rules for who does and does not receive benefits are not arbitrary. There is a firm system in place. The social security office that receives the application must check eligibility and then forward it to a state agency called Disability Determination Services. The DDS evaluates the applicant, using a what’s called the “blue book” to determine eligibility. This book contains specific approval criteria based on a number of serious ailments, including heart problems and other physical impairments. If an applicant is denied benefits despite having a condition listed in the blue book, he or she may have legal recourse. In this event it is wise to consult an experienced disability lawyer, available at The law Office of Debra J. Venhaus.

Also, DDS looks at a medical records in order to determine a residual functional capacity (RFC). This states whether the claimant can indeed return to work. Moreover, it determines whether the claimant’s impairment prevents him or her from doing other work. SSD factors this data into a grid rule, which also determines disability. It’s for this reason that claimants over 50 years old are granted disability at a much higher rate than those under 50. So keep in mind that age matters.

Appealing a disability decision

Those who are denied benefits have recourse to an appeal. Appeals are available after every SSD decision, save for the final decision one, which is decided by the federal district court. In most states there are four levels to an appeal, the first being “reconsideration.” This is an appeal made after an initial claim ha been denied. The second appeal involves a hearing before an administrative judge, which can be requested if the reconsideration was denied. The third involves review by an appeals council, and the fourth appeal involves the aforementioned federal court. Despite whatever the social security office does or does not say, all claimants have the right to the appeals process.

The above bits of info are all worth knowing for those about to enter the SSD system. Knowing one’s rights, as well as how the system itself is set up, boosts the chances the claimant receives the benefits to which he or she is entitled.

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