The Social Security Administration administers two programs that provide benefits based on disability: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The monthly benefits for SSDI vary for each person based upon earnings and work history. To be eligible to receive the benefits, you must have worked and earned a sufficient amount of money to be insured for Social Security purposes. The payment of SSI benefits is not based upon work history. SSI provides monthly income benefits to persons with limited income and financial resources regardless of their work history.
SSA uses a five step evaluation process to determine whether a person is disabled or not for purposes of a SSDI and SSI claim. First, the person can not be engaged in substantial gainful activity, meaning the person can not do significant work activity involving physical or mental activities that are performed for pay or profit. Second, the person must be found to have a severe impairment. A severe impairment must be medically determinable, physical or mental, and that can be expected to last for 12 continuous months. Third, SSA looks at whether the person meets any of the listing or impairments that are outlined by the social security regulations. If the person meets the listing of impairments, then the person is found to be disabled and no further evaluation is needed. If the person is unable to meet the listing, the SSA will proceed to the fourth step of the evaluation. For the fourth step, the person’s impairments must prevent past relevant work (i.e. any substantial work that the person has done within the past 15 years). Finally, the person’s impairment must prevent him or her from making an adjustment to do other work in the national economy. This step is where the vast majority of cases are decided but the burden shifts to SSA to prove that the person is able to do any other job in the national economy.
Most people are able to file the initial application and other required documents for disability benefits on their own. You can find the application online at www.socialsecurity.gov/diability. A decision usually takes about 3-5 months. If denied for the benefits, the second step is to file a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days of the denial. If your Reconsideration motion is denied, you will need to request a hearing within 60 days before an Administrative Law Judge with the assistance of any attorney.