Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program of the Social Security Administration (SSA) designed to provide benefits to American workers who have become temporarily or permanently disabled and are unable to work. Employees pay into Social Security through their payroll deductions, and if they suffer disabling illness or injury, they may receive payments based on their work history.
However, the SSA does not automatically grant disability benefits. A worker and his or her eligible family members must apply for these benefits. Unfortunately, the application process can be quite lengthy and complex, and up to 75 percent of claims are initially denied. For those who are ultimately approved, the process of application, reconsideration, and appeal can take years—an unthinkable delay for individuals who need these benefits in order to support themselves and their families after a disability renders them unable to work.
Because of the Social Security backlog, the specter of the depletion of the Social Security Disability fund in only a few short years, it is critical that anyone who needs SSD benefits apply quickly.
While it is possible to apply for disability benefits without a disability lawyer, it is not recommended. Having experienced counsel can help you gather all necessary documentation and ensure that you correctly file your application. If your benefits are denied, it is important to have legal representation at your disability hearing and other proceedings during the application and appeal process.
The SSA website offers online forms to facilitate applying for SSD benefits, it lists the types of documentation you will need for your application, and it provides an overview of the steps involved in application.
You can submit your disability application online, call the SSA national toll-free service, or visit a local Social Security office. The Oklahoma City Social Security Office is located in Shepherd Mall. The following cities also have Social Security offices: Ada, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Chickasha, Clinton, Durant, Enid, Hugo, Lawton, McAlester, Miami, Moore, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Poteau, Shawnee, Stillwater, and Tulsa.
In order to apply, you must first determine whether or not your condition meets disability eligibility requirements and whether or not you qualify based on your accumulation of Social Security credits from your work history. A worker may earn up to four credits per year, and typically, a worker needs 40 credits—20 of which were earned in the past 10 years—to be eligible for disability benefits. You must also meet the SSA’s criteria for disability:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
The SSA lists five questions that help them determine whether or not you are disabled and eligible for disability benefits:
- Are you working?
- Is your condition severe?
- Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
- Can you do the work you previously did?
- Can you do any other type of work?
It is important to realize that your answers to these questions may be different from what the SSA determines to be true. You may feel that your illness or injury is “severe,” but the SSA, in struggling to keep up with the demands of an application backlog and dwindling funds, may determine that it is not really serious. Although you may think you are unable to do any work, the Social Security Administration may think that there are other types of gainful employment you may secure. For this reason and many others, it is critical that you consult a Social Security disability lawyer who can answer your questions and who can shore up your application for benefits with the documentation and medical proof necessary to support your claim.