When your career is cut short due to an injury and you suddenly find your working days behind you, Social Security Disability benefits can mean the difference between financial ruin and financial security.

Navigating the rules about qualifying conditions, filling out endless paperwork, understanding waiting periods and determining benefits can be overwhelming, to say the least. Without an attorney, you could easily find yourself trapped in the maze that is SSDI.

Rather than risk your financial future, contact the attorney’s at Nuñez & Associates. We’ll walk you through every step of the process, ensuring that your claim is handled appropriately and your benefits awarded fairly.

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Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability is a federal program administered by the Social Security Disability Administration that is designed to offer monthly compensation to insured workers who have been disabled from working before they have reached the age of retirement.

Navigating SSI can be difficult without the advice of a trained attorney. Contact our office today so we may help you claim your maximum amount available under these regulations.

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet or consider the following conditions:

  • You have not yet reached the age for full retirement
  • You worked long enough and earned enough money in the required number of years to qualify for insured status
  • You have a qualifying disability
  • If you do not have a qualifying disability, is it as severe as a qualifying disability?
  • If it is not as severe, is your condition or disability preventing you from doing the work you were previously doing?
  • If you cannot do your previous work, are you able to adjust to performing other work considering your age, education, skills and past work experience?

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What is the Full Age for Retirement?

Contrary to what many believe, age 65 is not necessarily the age of full retirement. This age only applies to workers born on or before 1937. For most people, or at least those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67.

What is Insured Status?

A key condition to receiving disability benefits is having worked for a sufficient time or earned enough money. Workers earn quarters of coverage, or QC, for a particular amount of work they do each calendar year, or up to four per year. The minimum number of QCs is six, and the maximum is 40. QCs are also referred to as credits. The minimum earning amount to qualify is relatively low and easily attainable for the majority of workers.

The amount of work that qualifies as a credit or QC varies. For 2016, for example, you merely have to earn $1,260 to earn a QC. When you reach $5,040, you have reached your four credits for the year.

To be fully insured for disability, you must have earned at least one QC for each year after you turned 21 and the earliest of:

  • the year before you reaches 62
  • the year before you pass away
  • the year before you became disabled
  • If you began working full time at age 25, you can easily reach the maximum of 40 QCs by age 35.

For disability insured status, the following must apply:

  • you earned at least 20 QCs during the past 10 years, and
  • you are fully insured

For workers who become disabled at a young age, they may qualify with fewer QCs.

What is a Qualifying Disability?

A disability, according to the Social Security Disability Administration, is the inability of someone to perform their former work or to substantially perform any other work because of a physical or mental impairment that is considered severe. A physician must have diagnosed a particular disabling condition and documented it. The condition must either have lasted at least 12 months or be expected to last that long.

To qualify, there are certain criteria to meet:

  • You are no longer working or engaged in substantial gainful employment
  • You have a severe physical or mental impairment, or a combination of the two, that will last at least one year and which significantly limits your ability to perform basic work tasks
  • Your impairment is the same or the equivalent of an impairment listed in Social Security’s Listing of Impairments
  • Your residual functional capacity, if any, will also be considered.
  • There are a list of impairments that are automatically qualifying disabilities. If you do not have one of these conditions, you may still qualify if your injury is of equivalent severity or you are unable to perform your previous job.

Should you be unable to perform your old job, you must be evaluated to see if you can substantially perform any other work based on your skills, age, education and work experience.

Waiting Period

Once you are determined to qualify, there is a five-month waiting period before payments commence or before back payments can be calculated. The wait begins on the date the Social Security Administration determines you became disabled.

If you are an SSI claimant, there is no waiting period. This is Supplemental Security Insurance for those with a low income aged 65 or over, or those who are blind or disabled. Dependents of disabled claimants have no waiting period either. Expedited reinstatement is available for workers who were approved, returned to work but then became disabled again so long as a period of five years has not passed between the first and second periods of disability.

Amount of Benefits

Your benefits are based on your AIME, or average indexed monthly earnings. It does account for an increase in your lifetime monthly earnings and uses up to 35 years of your working years. Your highest indexed earnings are added together and divided by the number of months for these years. The average is rounded down.

The average SSDI payment as of March 2016 is $1,166 per month with higher wage earners receiving up to $2,639. You do receive a yearly cost of living adjustment.