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    We all struggle. We all endure problems that we wish we could fix, issues that we need to address. Unfortunately, not all problems are created equally. For some of us, our problems are overwhelming. We are hurt. We are sick. We find ourselves completely disabled and unable to perform.

    If you, or somebody you know, is struggling with disability, there is help. In fact, millions of people across the country are suffering. Every day, people in need of assistance receive the benefits they deserve. These benefits are specifically designed to aid those who need them most.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a federal governmental agency tasked with providing benefits, insurance and income. For some people, this program is an absolute life-line. Established many decades ago, the SSA now offers a number of important monetary benefits for individuals and families in need.

    What Is Social Security?

    Recipients of social security receive their monthly benefits based on both income and disability. Claimants for social security must prove that they are sufficiently disabled and unable to work. In order to demonstrate a disabling condition, applicants must meet a set of very specific criteria.

    The SSA offers two primary programs for individuals who are disabled. The agency administers Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Although both programs help the disabled, they each have their own unique set of criteria.

    The SSDI program is based on one’s work history and recency. You must prove that you have met a certain standard for social security taxes. Meanwhile, the SSI program does not require any kind of work history or recency. SSI is based largely on one’s low income and assets. However, both SSDI and SSI require that you meet a standard definition of ‘disabled’ to qualify.


    Disability Under the Social Security Administration (SSA)

    The SSA has a very strict structure for defining disability as it pertains to qualifying for benefits. If you are disabled and unable to work, you need to prove that you are fully disabled. Total disability is not short-term. It is not partial.

    Total disability must meet the following conditions:

    • Your disabling condition prevents you from substantial gainful activity (SGA)
    • Your disabling condition is expected to last, or has lasted, for a continuous 12 months; or
    • Your disabling condition is expected to result in death

    Once you have met these requirements for disability, you must prove that you are also restricted in either your income and assets, and/or your work capacity. Again, both programs have differing criteria.

    Social security disability insurance (SSDI) focuses on your work history and capacity. You must have ‘earned’ a certain amount of work credits and have worked a certain number of recent years. By contrast, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) requires that you do not exceed a certain level of income and assets.

    SSI is typically administered to impoverished individuals, whereas SSDI is administered to former workers who are disabled. Although both programs help those who are in need, they both have completely different purposes. In rare cases, applicants will qualify for both.

    The Criteria For SSI And SSDI

    Although both the SSI and SSDI programs rely on the same definition of disability, they have vastly different requirements for work capacity. Generally, recipients of social security disability insurance (SSDI) can only qualify if they have demonstrated significant work history. You must also show that you worked in a recent time period.

    To receive disability benefits under SSDI, you must undergo two earnings tests. These earnings tests factor in (1) the age at which you became disabled and (2) the duration you worked under Social Security. You generally need at least six quarters of coverage. The average SSDI recipient receives $1,234 per month in 2019.

    By comparison, SSI focuses on one’s assets and income. The monthly payments for 2019 are $771 for qualifying individuals, and $1,157 for eligible couples. In general, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays monthly benefits to both children and adults. Children must be blind or disabled, and adults must be blind, disabled, or older than age 65.

    SSI recipients must also have less than $2,000 in assets. If a couple is applying for SSI, they must have less than $3,000 in assets.

    The SSI program also includes metrics of income. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider what it terms, ‘countable’ income. This type of income includes wages, unemployment, retirement, and free gifts such as food or shelter.

    If you are hoping to qualify for social security, you must prove that you are disabled. You must prove that you cannot work. You must prove that you meet the financial criteria. In general, you must prove that you are disabled, unable to work and in need.

    Disability is not nearly as rare as people think. In fact, most 20 year-olds have a 25% chance of becoming disabled prior to achieving full retirement age. This is a problem that may continue to grow. Disability can affect at any time, for any reason. In some ways, disability is absolutely devastating.

    However, it doesn’t have to be. Before you apply for social security, know what you need to show. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate many types of information.

    These include:

    • Your birth certificate
    • Your name, address and phone number
    • Your medications and medical records
    • Your tax statements
    • And your work history

    Of course, these are only a small sample of the information you may be required to provide. Depending upon the complexity of your history, you may need additional documentation. A good social security lawyer can help you with this. If you need additional proof, a seasoned attorney can assist.

    Many lawyers may even seek expert opinions to prove that you are fully disabled and unable to work. Without these important determinations, you may never receive the benefits you need.

    Again, it is always essential that you consult with an expert if you have any questions. An experienced social security disability lawyer can help you obtain the help you need.


    Your Attorney

    Bill B. Berke

    Mr. Berke is an experienced attorney based in Southwest Florida. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Degree from Indiana University in 1982 and his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Florida in 1985. Since 1986, he has been running his own law firm, Berke Law Firm, P.A., exclusively representing injured individuals. He is admitted to practice in various courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Berke specializes in workers' compensation, social security disability, defective drug/device litigation, employment law, and overtime claims. He is actively involved in professional associations and community organizations, advocating for the rights of employees and claimants.

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