Important questions about Social Security Disability

Even though the Social Security Administration has tried to make applying for benefits easier in the last few years, many people still find the process complicated and sometimes difficult to navigate. This is especially true if an application is denied and an appeal is necessary.

That's why in this week's post we wanted to look at five questions most people ask about the Social Security disability program. By giving our Missouri and Illinois readers answers to these questions, we can hopefully take away some of the confusion and make the process less complicated.

How many programs are there?

There are two main programs associated with disability are Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Both programs pay out benefits to people who are totally disabled, with each program having its own set of non-medical requirements.

How does SSA define disability?

The first step in eligibility for benefits is to match SSA's definition of disability. SSA defines disability using three major factors:

The condition will last at least a year or will result in death
The condition leaves you unable to work
You are unable to adjust to other work because of your condition

How are payments calculated?

Depending on which program you apply for -- SSDI or SSI -- payments will be calculated differently. With SSI, a person does not need to have a work history in order to be eligible for benefits. How much a person is paid is based on their financial need.

With SSDI, however, payments are based on the number of years worked. The longer a person worked before the onset of their disability, the larger their benefit amount is likely to be.

Will payments change after retirement?

The nice thing about SSDI is that when a person reaches full retirement age, disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits. Even early retirement, which usually results in reduced benefits, is a non-issue for people collecting SSDI because disability benefits usually offset the reduction in retirement benefits.

Source: The Social Security Administration, "Benefits For People With Disabilities," Accessed Sept. 29, 2014

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