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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY?

May 13, 2022
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY?

          Happy 62nd birthday! You worked hard your whole life to finally achieve this moment – you can now elect to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). But wait, even though you can now start collecting Social Security retirement benefits, should you instead wait until you reach your full retirement age so you can obtain a higher monetary benefit for the rest of your life?

           What happens if you cannot wait until your full retirement age? Did you consider whether to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? Did you know that if you are approved for SSDI, your monthly Social Security disability benefit would be higher than the monthly benefit you would receive if you started collecting your Social Security retirement before your full retirement age, even if you are approved for SSDI as of or prior to your 62nd birthday? That’s right, a SSDI benefit will essentially pay you the equivalent of what you would have received had you waited until your full retirement age to start collecting your Social Security retirement. 

            The unfortunate reality is that most people are not aware that SSDI can pay you more money per month than a regular Social Security Retirement. For every 100 people who simply elect to take their regular Social Security retirement, it is likely that one-third or more of these individuals may have qualified for SSDI, yet never knew about SSDI or that they might be eligible to apply for disability benefits. Worse yet, these same individuals are permanently giving up the right to receive an additional 25%-30% more money per month for the rest of their lives simply because they elected to start receiving early retirement benefits rather than applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits.  Read on for how you or someone you know can make the best financial decision when it comes to pursuing your Social Security benefits. 

            Social Security replaces a portion of your pre-retirement income based on your lifetime earnings based on your highest 35 years of earnings. A person’s monthly benefit varies depending on your earnings and most importantly when you choose to start receiving such benefit. You can start receiving Social Security at an early retirement age (i.e., 62), your full retirement age (i.e., 66 or 67 depending on when you were born), or at a delayed retirement age (i.e., 70), with no incentive to delay claiming after age 70. 

             For example, if an individual born in 1960 waited to collect their Social Security retirement until their full retirement age (i.e., 67), such benefit would be $2,500.00 per month. However, if that same individual took an early Social Security retirement at age 62, such individual would only get $1,750.00 per month, a whopping $750.00 loss per month for the rest of their life. Whether someone elects to take their Social Security retirement when they are first eligible (age 62) or waits until their full retirement age (i.e., 66-67) or delays until even later (e.g., age 70) is the subject of endless debate, primarily fueled by predictions about one’s life expectancy and financial considerations. And this is exactly why you should be thinking about whether SSDI is the better Social Security benefit for you or someone you know. 

            Like Social Security retirement, SSDI provides a monthly monetary benefit to people who have a medically determinable impairment that restricts their ability to engage in what is referred to as the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”). For 2022, an individual who is unable to earn at least $1,350.00 per month (or the equivalent of $16,200.00 per year) is not considered capable of substantial gainful work activity. Yes, you can still work and be eligible for SSDI. 

            To be eligible for SSDI, you must file an application with the Social Security Administration, and demonstrate you are either out of work or unable to earn more than $1,350.00 per month (in 2022); that you have a severe medical condition(s) lasting or expecting to last for at least 12 months; that you cannot do the work you previously performed; and that given your age, education and prior work experience you are incapable of performing other work activity. In certain cases, you may have such a severe medical diagnosis which automatically qualifies you for SSDI benefits. You do not have to be at least 62 years young to apply for SSDI. In fact, many people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s are receiving SSDI benefits. 

            No matter what your age, it is important to note that unlike Social Security retirement benefits, which require you to have worked long enough, SSDI benefits also require you to have worked recently enough to have earned a certain amount of work credits within the ten years before you became disabled.  Generally, you need to have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years before your disability started.  So, if you think you might meet the criteria for SSDI now, or at any age before your full retirement age, it is best to apply as soon as you become disabled.   Additionally, since SSA can only pay benefits up to a year before your disability filing date, waiting to apply may cause you to miss out on significant retroactive SSDI benefits.  

             You can receive SSDI in addition to Workers’ Compensation, Disability Retirement and Veterans Affairs benefits. In some cases, certain benefits may be reduced by the receipt of other benefits, but such determination must be made on a case-by-case basis to insure such person receives the maximum benefits from multiple sources. 

            One of the most important reasons to also pursue SSDI is because you will also become eligible for Medicare once you have received the equivalent of 24 months of SSDI benefits, even if you are not age 65. Unless you have end stage renal disease or are 65 years young, you are otherwise not eligible for Medicare. 

             It is common for people to apply for SSDI and get denied. Do not get discouraged especially if you are truly disabled from substantial gainful work activity. You are permitted to challenge a denial, which may ultimately lead to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who will consider all the facts and determine whether you are eligible for SSDI. An attorney can help you navigate this process and potentially lead to a successful application for benefits. An attorney is only paid if your application is successful, and even then, the attorney fee is a one-time fee on any past due benefits you may be owed by the Social Security Administration. 

              The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC represents individuals nationwide with their Social Security Disability and Veterans Affairs claims, and with their New York and Florida Workers’ Compensation and Disability Retirement claims. Contact us today at www.alexdell.com or 1-866-965-2667 for a free consultation. Who’s Protecting You?