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Can I get Social Security disability benefits SSD/SSI if I am disabled but have never worked?

Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I am disabled but have never worked?

The Social Security Administration runs two programs that provide disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). SSDI provides benefits to: (1) disabled workers who worked for five out of the last 10 years, called “insured workers” by the Social Security Administration; (2) the disabled children of insured workers, as long as the children became disabled before they reached the age of 22; and (3) the disabled surviving spouses of deceased insured workers. SSI pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have little or no income, or other financial resources; it also provides benefits to adults without disabilities who are over 65 and whose financial means are under certain limits.

Whether someone with a disability who has never worked can receive Social Security disability benefits depends upon the circumstances. For someone who has never worked and became disabled after reaching age 22, SSDI benefits would not be available. SSDI benefits could be available, however, to either a disabled child of an insured worker, as long as the child became disabled before reaching age 22; or, to the disabled surviving spouse of a deceased insured worker. Neither disabled children, nor disabled surviving spouses, have to satisfy the SSDI work requirement on their own.

SSI benefits, on the other hand, could be available to someone who has never worked, regardless of age. The reason that SSI could be available to someone ineligible for SSDI is that eligibility for SSI is based only on disability and financial means. Therefore, someone with a disability who has never worked can qualify for SSI benefits.

In order to qualify for either program, applicants must prove that they have a “disability” under the Social Security Administration’s rules (with the exception of those age 65 or over who apply for SSI benefits). With respect to adults, a “disability” is a serious medical condition that has lasted (or will last) for at least one year, and prevents someone from being gainfully employed. With respect to children, a “disability” is a serious medical condition that causes severe functional limitations and can either be expected to cause death, or be expected to last for at least one year.

Qualifying for either program can be difficult. The Social Security Administration often finds that applicants are not disabled, and proving a disability would be critical for someone who has never worked and would only be eligible for SSI benefits. If you are disabled and have never worked, then you should speak with an attorney who understands the Social Security Administration’s disability rules and can help you understand how to qualify.  Complete our free online consultation form today.

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My child has autism, can she draw social security disabled child benefits?

Can a child with autism receive Social Security disability benefits?

The parents of an autistic child recently asked me whether their child could be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Generally, autism qualifies as a disability for Social Security purposes. Whether a specific child qualifies, however, depends upon the severity of the child’s condition.

The Social Security Administration’s definition of the term “disability,” for children under age 18, is “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” Autism, or “Autistic Disorder” as it is called by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), appears on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments. As the SSA puts it, the Listing of Impairments “describes, for each major body system, impairments considered severe enough” to satisfy the SSA’s definition of the term “disability.”

Listing 112.10 is “Autistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders,” which are described as “[c]haracterized by qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, in the development of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and in imaginative activity.” According to this entry in the Listing of Impairments, the “required level of severity” for an autistic child to qualify for disability benefits is met when the child exhibits: (a) qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction; (b) qualitative deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication and in imaginative activity; (c) a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests; and (d) for “older infants and toddlers (age 1 to attainment of age 3), resulting in at least one of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B1” of Listing 112.02; “or, for children (age 3 to attainment of age 18), resulting in at least two of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B2 of” Listing 112.02.

The SSA applies a five-step disability analysis to make the determination of whether someone is officially disabled. Although autism appears on the Listing of Impairments, the SSA will still require that documentation be submitted as part of an application for disability benefits. Additionally, the SSA may require that an applicant receive an independent medical examination.

Parents of autistic children can encounter problems applying for Social Security disability benefits on behalf of their children, even though autism appears on the Listing of Impairments. In some cases, the SSA denies such applications. If you are the parent or guardian of an autistic child and have questions, or if the SSA has denied an application for benefits on behalf of your child, then you should talk with an attorney who focuses on Social Security disability issues.  Contact the Law Offices of John T. Nicholson today to schedule free consultation.

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How to collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits at the same time?

Can I collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits at the same time?

The Social Security Administration runs two programs that provide disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). SSDI pays disability benefits to “insured workers.” An “insured worker,” for purposes of SSDI, is someone who pays FICA taxes (“FICA” stands for “Federal Insurance Contributions Act”). SSDI also pays benefits for the disabled children of insured workers, so long as the children became disabled before they reached the age of 22, as well as to the disabled surviving spouses of deceased insured workers.

SSI, on the other hand, pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have little or no income, or other financial resources. The program also provides benefits to adults without disabilities who are age 65 or older and whose financial means fall within the applicable limits.

As an example, suppose that Edith Keeler, who rents an apartment in Springfield, Ohio, is 45 years old, is unmarried and has liver cancer. Her medical condition has forced her to stop working, leaving her with no income.

Edith decides to apply for disability benefits. She visits a Social Security Administration field office and submits an application. An examiner reviews her application and then forwards it to Disability Determination Services (“DDS”). DDS, a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies, is responsible for determining whether an applicant for disability benefits has a disability that qualifies under the applicable rules. In Edith’s case, DDS determines that she is disabled. Therefore, she is eligible to receive SSDI benefits.

In order to be eligible to receive SSI benefits, Edith’s financial resources and monthly income—including her SSDI benefits—must be less than the corresponding amounts established under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines. All of the property that Edith owns (for example, bank accounts, cars, cash, real estate, and stocks and bonds) constitutes her “resources.” Edith rents her apartment and does not own any real estate, nor does she own any stocks or bonds. She does own one car worth $1,500.00, and she has $250.00 in a checking account. Edith otherwise owns no property. She also has no income because she is unemployed as the result of her medical condition.

Currently, the limit on the value of a single applicant’s resources (property, in plain language) is $2,000.00. Some resources, however, are exempt and do not count towards this limit. Among other things, an applicant can exempt one house and one car. Accordingly, Edith has resources worth only a total of $250.00 (the balance in her checking account) because her car is exempt.

With respect to the monthly income limit, the Social Security Administration uses a formula to determine eligibility. The value of Edith’s resources is under the limit, and because Edith has no income, she would probably be eligible to receive SSI benefits.

Given that Edith is disabled for purposes of SSDI, and given that her financial resources and income are under the limits applicable to SSI, Edith is eligible to receive both SSDI benefits and SSI benefits. The total amount of Edith’s monthly benefit, however, cannot be more than the maximum possible benefit that she would receive from SSI alone. For 2011, the maximum monthly SSI benefit for a single recipient is $674.00.

In other words, were Edith to receive $600.00 per month in SSDI benefits, then her total monthly benefit would still be $674.00, which would consist of $600.00 per month from SSDI and $74.00 per month from SSI. Were Edith eligible to receive $700.00 per month from SSDI, then she would not be eligible to receive any SSI benefits.

ssi payment amount Applying for either of these programs can be complicated, and qualifying is often difficult. The examples above have been simplified and are offered only to give a very basic understanding of SSDI and SSI. In fact, a significant percentage of applications in Ohio are initially denied by the Social Security Administration. When an application is denied, however, the applicant has the right to appeal. If you would like more information or have been wrongfully denied Social Security Benefits then call the Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 or complete our online free consultation form.

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Social Security disability rules for Lupus

lupus_diagnosisHow to win my disability case for a lupus diagnosis?

Systemic lupus erythematosus, or simply lupus, is evaluated in the immune system section of the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security disability handbook, more commonly known as the Social Security Blue Book. Although there is a specific listing for lupus in the Social Security disability handbook listing 14.02, the reality is that due to the complicated nature of the disorder, the disability criteria for lupus is somewhat lacking in specificity as other impairment listings are often involved.

According to the NIH, lupus is an autoimmune disorder that attacks different body systems or multiple body systems simultaneously with each exacerbation. Lupus can cause a wide range of limitations that are dependent upon the body system or organs that have been affected. Consequently, Social Security evaluates the limitations imposed by lupus under a variety of other impairments depending upon which body system (or systems) has been affected.

Limitations caused by lupus are evaluated under other impairment listing sections that address impairments of the following body systems: joints, muscles, ocular, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, renal, hematological, skin, neurological, or brain. This just means that to be approved for Social Security disability benefits for lupus an individual must meet the criteria established for the body system affected by lupus. For example, an individual with neurological problems must meet the criteria contained within the neurological listing.

If an individual does not meet the criteria established for their particular manifestation of lupus symptoms, they still may be able to receive Social Security disability if the following is true:

Their lupus condition involves two body systems or organs to a lesser extent, and at least one of the body systems or organs is affected by an impairment that is at least moderately severe.

The individual is experiencing severe documented constitutional symptoms and signs such as weight loss, joint pain and stiffness, fever, extreme tiredness, or malaise.

The SSA will use medical history, lab studies, medical imaging (x-ray, blood test, scans, MRI, CT scans, etc.), and even biopsies to establish the existence, duration, and severity of a claimant’s lupus. In addition to this type of medical documentation, the SSA requires a treatment record of at least three months in order to establish that an active impairment exists in spite of treatment and that the condition is expected to last twelve months or more.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Delays in Ohio Social Security Disability claims hurt claimants

people in lineSocial Security Disability Delays Impact Vulnerable Patients

Unfortunately it is becoming all to common for those applying for Social Security Disability benefits to suffer delay after delay while their claims languish in a bureaucratic mess as the Social Security Administration struggles to keep up with a growing caseload. Given the numbers of aging baby boomers, the SSA has found itself under incredible stress and its ability to promptly handle cases has been compromised.

For a small group of claimants who are suffering from severe illnesses, many of their cases are never even heard because they die before ever reaching the point of getting a proper hearing. The Social Security Administration has said that some 2,000 cases were dismissed last year because the claimant died. This figure is tragic not only for the deceased who was never able to get benefits, but also for his or her family members who are in need of support.

Everyone who is familiar with the disability process knows it can take years to finally begin receiving benefits. Most claims are denied at first and then must be appealed up the chain of command until the case is given a fair hearing. Overcrowded dockets such as those in Toledo, Ohio and other places can slow the process down and mean that some of the most vulnerable claimants never receive their day in court.

The SSA has been dealing with mounting problems for years. More than 63,000 claimants waited at least 635 days for an initial appeal hearing and decision back in 2007. Thankfully that number has come down, but nowhere near where it ought to be. The SSA says that the process has gotten faster and that it hopes to end the backlog of cases that are older than 310 days. Though this represents a big drop from how bad things used to be, it is important to note that this wait comes after an individual has already waited an average of 150 days for a claim to be denied and then reconsidered before appealing to the ALJ.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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