Social Security disability benefits provide an important financial safety net for individuals who find themselves unable to work due to a physical or mental condition. Understanding the basic programs, process and time limits in a Social Security disability claim is crucial to a successful application.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits are available to those who have worked and paid into the Social Security system through taxes long enough and in a high enough amount to be insured under the program. Supplemental Security Income Benefits are a need-based benefit available to those who are disabled and have very limited income and financial resources. In some situations, an individual may have claims under both programs. Other benefit programs are available for disabled children, disabled adult children and disabled spouses of diseased wage earners.
To be disabled and entitled to Social Security disability benefits, an individual must be unable to engage in any form of substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical and/or mental impairment and the disability must have lasted, or be expected to last, a continuous period of 12 months or result in death. To determine if this definition Is met, Social Security generally uses a 5-step process as follow:
First, is the individual engaging in substantial gainful work activity. Generally, in 2023, if a non-blind individual is working and earning over $1470 per month he or she would be presumed to not be disabled. In 2024 this amount increases to $1550 per month. Different and higher amounts apply to those suffering from blindness.
Second, does the individual have a severe impairment? That is, a medically determinable physical or mental condition that impacts the ability to perform basic work functions. If the answer is no, the individual would not be entitled to benefits.
Third, does the individual have an impairment that meets or medially equals in severity one of the conditions in Social Security’s listing of impairments. The Social Security Listings outline various medical conditions or medical findings that are presumed to be disabling. If a Listing does not apply, Social Security goes to Step Four.
Fourth, does the individual claiming benefits retain the physical and mental abilities, despite his or her impairment, to perform any of the work they have done in the past as they performed it or as generally performed in the national economy. If the ability remains, the individual is not disabled.
Fifth, does the individual, despite the limitations resulting from their physical and mental impairments, retain the ability to engage in any work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Consideration is given to the individual’s age, education, past retained job skills as well as physical and mental limitations.
Filing an application for Social Security disability benefits requires complete descriptions of medical conditions, medical care providers and past work. Most applications are denied by Social Security. While an individual denied benefits can appeal, there are specific time limits within which appeals must be filed. The assistance of a knowledgeable Social Security disability attorney can be crucial to a successful outcome. An attorney can assist you in filing an application or appeal and in gathering needed information to support a claim. If a hearing is required, an attorney will prepare your case and present arguments to the judge supporting your claim for benefits.
The Social Security process can be lengthy and frustrating. Currently, Social Security has a backlog of over a million cases awaiting an initial decision. Additional backlogs exist for those claimants that have requested reconsideration of their claim after receiving an initial denial. During this process, remember that you are not alone. Attorneys at Blachly, Tabor, Bozik & Hartman have represented individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits for over 40 years and have handled thousands of cases. If you are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits, or if you have been denied, reach out to our experienced team at Blachly, Tabor, Bozik & Hartman. We work with clients throughout Northern Indiana including clients in Valparaiso, Portage, Chesterton, Hobart and Merrillville.