If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, you may qualify for disability benefits from the government. These benefits are offered as part of the Social Security program, and your eligibility will depend on both your medical condition and how much (if at all) you have worked in the past. The two types of benefits are:
- SSDI (Social Security Disability) is for people who have worked most or all of the time in the past 10 years. There is no income requirement for SSDI.
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is for anyone, whether they worked or not, if they have very low income.
Whether or not you’ve worked enough is based on how many “credits” you earned through past Social Security deductions. If you worked full time for most or all of the last 10 years, you should have enough credits to qualify for SSDI. If you worked less than full time or only worked sporadically, your situation may be more complicated and you should speak with a Social Security disability lawyer.
The hours you worked only count toward these credits if you paid Social Security taxes on your earnings.
Who handles disability benefits and in Georgia? Who decides if my application is approved?
Both SSDI and SSI are federal programs, officially overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a federal agency. However, each state handles applications for benefits independently, following federal guidelines. In Georgia, SSDI benefits are overseen by an office known as Disability Adjudication Services (DAS).
When you first submit your request, it will be processed and reviewed by a government employee who specializes in disability claims. If your claim is turned down and you appeal it, it can eventually go all the way to a judge.
SSI claims follow a slightly different procedure. Georgia has an office known as the Georgia Department of Human Resources, handles the state’s supplement to federal SSI benefits.
How much money can I receive for my disability benefits?
The amount depends on your average lifetime income prior to becoming disabled. For example, if you earned an average of $32,000 a year over the course of your working life, that will be the baseline income that is used to compute your benefits.
Here is the range you can expect to receive in benefits:
- Most recipients will get between $700 and $1,700 monthly
- The average monthly amount in 2016 was $1,166
- The maximum you can receive in 2016 is $2,639 per month
What counts as a “disability” for Social Security Disability benefits?
The government uses a very narrow definition. Under the SSDI rules, a disability must meet two criteria:
- Your condition prevents you from doing any substantial amount of work, and
- Your condition has either lasted a year or more; be expected to last a year more more; or is considered terminal.
If you fit these requirements, and you have medical documentation to support your claim, it does not strictly matter what type of condition you have. Physical injuries, neurological disorders, back pain, diseases like cancer, and even mental disorders can count as disabilities. However, the SSA has an official list of conditions that are known to cause disabilities, and if your condition is on this list it’s easier to qualify.
Do I need a lawyer to get disability benefits?
No, you are not required to have a lawyer to apply. In fact, you can apply online yourself here. However, it’s extremely common for applicants with legitimate disabilities to be turned down for a variety of reasons:
- Did not provide the required paperwork
- Paperwork did not clearly show how you are eligible
- Did not have a formal medical opinion, or medical opinion did not support your claim
- It’s not clear why you cannot work with your conditions
A lawyer can help you file a strong application the first time, improving your chances of being accepted and helping you get benefits faster. Experienced lawyers also understand what conditions the SSA and DAS are most skeptical of—and how to prove your claim anyway.
Do you need help getting disability benefits? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.