December 11, 2015

Is it Easy to Get Social Security Disability?

I don’t think so.  Almost every day I hear from somebody who tells me about a neighbor or relative who gets Social Security Disability payments even though there is “nothing wrong with him.”  The fact is there are guidelines and rules that must be met in every Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case.  When people tell me stories like the one I just mentioned, my guess is they are not fully informed about the facts regarding the particular case.  Social Security processes each claim for disability very thoroughly, so to think Social Security hands out benefits like candy is just not the truth.

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First, individuals must meet certain rules regarding resources and whether you have worked enough to be eligible.  The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program considers various factors regarding financial resources and income to determine eligibility.  The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is available to workers who have worked long enough to earn eligibility for benefits.  Unfortunately, some individuals do not qualify for either program; one example is a parent who has taken several years off of work to care for young children but has a spouse who works full time.  The best way to determine whether you qualify is to apply for both programs and let the SSA determine your eligibility.

Second, medical records are generally necessary to prove a case and receive benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes certain impairments as disabling.  Simply saying you have something wrong with you is usually not enough if you cannot provide medical evidence to back you up.  While the SSA will send you to a consultative medical examination, in my experience the results of these examinations are not given a great amount of weight by the disability reviewers or by Administrative Law Judges reviewing your case.  Obtaining medical records from a treating physician can greatly enhance a chance of a favorable outcome.

Third, most people find themselves in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will determine whether they are eligible for disability.  By that point, many people have examined your claim file.  All of the good, bad, and neutral information contained in your SSA file will be available to the ALJ to help him or her determine whether you are eligible for benefits.  There also may be trained medical experts at the hearing who thoroughly examine the medical records and advise the ALJ.

In summary, that guy down the street who seems perfectly healthy to you may in fact be severely depressed, have terminal cancer, have a severe heart condition, or be at death’s door for any number of reasons.  There are checks and balances in the system.  Social Security is certainly not perfect, but I believe we should be grateful to live in a country in which we attempt to take care of our disabled family and neighbors.

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