Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights
Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.
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Can I receive disability benefits for severe rheumatoid arthritis?
Yes, people with severe rheumatoid arthritis may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. But, a simple diagnosis is not enough on its own. Applicants must meet certain criteria. This includes medical evidence supporting the claim that they are unable to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also outlines several non-medical requirements. The application process can feel overwhelming. Consulting with an experienced disability lawyer can clarify any questions you may have. They can also help improve your chances of approval.
Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
A chronic inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), most commonly affects the joints. Smaller joints are often affected first, like in the fingers, hands, toes, and feet. RA can then spread to hips, shoulders, knees, and elbows. It can also affect other body systems, like the skin, eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Painful swelling of the joints
- Bone erosion and joint deformities
- Joint stiffness, especially after periods of inactivity
- Fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite
- Mobility issues and inability to grip items effectively
Overview of Eligibile Disability Benefits
The SSA runs two main programs providing benefits to people with disabilities. The application processes and medical requirements are similar for both programs. The two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). People with severe rheumatoid arthritis may be eligible for either program.
Social Security Disability Insurance
People who have paid FICA taxes may qualify for SSDI. The program is based on a person’s Social Security earnings history. It is not needs-based. Monthly disability benefits may continue as long as the person cannot work. This may extend to retirement age.
Supplementary Security Income
Unlike SSDI, Supplementary Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based emergency program. SSI applicants do not need to meet employment history requirements. Instead, they must prove their financial need. SSI is often supplemented by other government assistance, like food stamps.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
Applicants must prove they are unable to work to qualify for either disability program. The SSA defines “disability” as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means the person is not only unable to perform the job they had but also any relevant job at all. This must be expected to last for at least 12 months. Criteria for the type of possible work become less stringent for older individuals.
Someone may be able to overcome a mild case of inflammatory arthritis. But, severe rheumatoid arthritis can be very debilitating. A person may not be able to engage in manual labor. They may lack the dexterity in their fingers to work on a computer. Prolonged bouts of fatigue may force them to take extended time off work. In effect, they may not be able to engage in substantial gainful activity.
The SSA defines substantial gainful activity (SGA) based on earned income. For 2023, the maximum income threshold for SGA is $1,470 monthly for most people. For blind individuals, the monthly amount is $2,460. The SSA adjusts the SGA amount for inflation each year.
SSDI and SSI Eligibility for Rheumatoid Arthritis
To qualify for Social Security disability, applicants should meet the Blue Book definition of rheumatoid arthritis. The SSA lists the condition in Section 14.00. This describes adult immune system disorders. More specifically, section 14.09 outlines the spectrum of inflammatory arthritis. It discusses difficulties with fine and gross movements. This includes arthritis involving the peripheral joints. A skilled disability lawyer can explain these criteria to you.
Whether or not you meet the SSA Blue Book listing, it is vital to provide supporting medical evidence. This may include a residual functioning capacity (RFC) assessment. This looks into a person’s ability to perform any work. Lab results, medical reports, and doctor’s letters can support your claim.
Keep up with the rheumatoid arthritis treatments prescribed by your doctor. This shows you are doing everything you can to reduce RA symptoms. The SSA will want to know about your medical history, including medications. Rheumatoid arthritis can be an invisible disability. So, offering compelling evidence is absolutely vital.
Experienced Legal Advice to Help You Apply
A loss of income due to disability can be very stressful. Navigating the application process for Social Security benefits can be confusing. Suffering the daily challenges of severe rheumatoid arthritis isn’t easy either. Allow the skilled team at Keefe Disability Law to put your mind at ease.
An experienced disability lawyer can streamline the application process. They can present the strongest case possible to the SSA. We can explain non-medical requirements for SSDI, like having accrued enough work credits. Our team can suggest what documentation to include as part of your disability application. SSDI denials are common. Our team is also prepared to help you navigate the complex appeals process. Let us help you get the rightful benefits you deserve.
Do I need a Social Security disability lawyer to get benefits if I have celiac disease?
Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy (GSE), is an autoimmune condition. People with this disorder are unable to digest gluten properly. When they eat foods with gluten, they can experience debilitating symptoms. The body attacks the villi of the small intestine. This can prevent the body from absorbing valuable nutrients. While it is possible to qualify for disability benefits with celiac disease, it isn’t easy. A skilled Social Security disability lawyer can vastly improve your chances of success.
How Celiac Disease Impacts Your Ability to Work
Gluten is found in food products containing wheat, spelt, rye, and barley. Common examples include most breads and pasta. When people with celiac disease eat these foods, they can experience such symptoms as:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Joint pain
- Chronic headaches
- Canker sores
Celiac disease can affect a person’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), applicants must not exceed the SGA threshold for income. With severe cases of celiac disease, a person may need to take frequent breaks from work. They may also need to take too many sick days to maintain steady employment.
Doctors will usually diagnose celiac disease with a blood test. They may also collect a sample of the small intestine. Treatment consists of a gluten-free diet. Since most symptoms disappear when someone stops eating gluten, it can be difficult to qualify for disability benefits with celiac disease alone. A Social Security disability attorney can help package the strongest case possible to improve the chances of approval.
Gaining Approval for Social Security Disability Benefits
The government offers two programs to assist people unable to work due to a disability or illness. These are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). In both cases, applicants must prove their disability prevents them from keeping steady employment. Applicants must miss at least one year of work because of their condition.
While a gluten-free diet should resolve symptoms, someone can go years with undiagnosed celiac disease. They may experience all the symptoms without an official diagnosis. Even when their celiac disease is identified, it can take time to develop a proper diet. It can take time for the symptoms to subside. If this takes at least one year, they may qualify for Social Security disability benefits for that period of time. Benefit payments stop when they return to work and exceed SGA income thresholds.
Medical and Financial Eligibility Requirements
The Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book lists qualifying conditions for disability benefits. Celiac disease is not on this list. But, people with celiac disease may still qualify for benefits by proving equivalency. Celiac symptoms may be equivalent in severity to a listed disability. People can also list more than one condition on their application.
One example is inflammatory bowel disease (listing 5.06). Your physician must provide a written opinion that your celiac symptoms are equivalent to the IBD listing. You must meet two of these criteria in a six-month period while on medication:
- Anemia with a hemoglobin result of under 10.0 g/dL
- Tender abdominal mass with pain or cramping
- Weight loss of at least 10 percent from normal
- Need for supplementary daily nutrition through a gastrostomy or IV
Another example is weight loss due to any digestive disorder (listing 5.08). The Blue Book states this involves having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17.5 for at least two months. This is despite following all suggested treatments from your doctor.
The SSDI and SSI programs differ in their financial requirements. With SSDI, you must have accrued a minimum number of work credits through gainful employment. Your current income is not a factor. By contrast, SSI is a needs-based program. Only people with limited financial resources are eligible. The SSDI and SSI programs have similarities in their other non-medical requirements too. A Social Security disability attorney can walk you through these criteria and how they apply to your case.
Residual Functional Capacity
If the symptoms of celiac disease are not equivalent to another Blue Book listing, applicants may still be able to qualify for benefits. The other path is through a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. The RFC describes the level of work you are able to do on a regular basis. This includes sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work.
Sedentary work is described as sitting for six hours and standing or walking for two hours in one day. If you are unable to do this because of your condition, you may be eligible for benefits. What it takes to be found disabled can also vary based on age and education. The claim must be backed by evidence, like medical documentation from your doctor. They may state that you miss work often or you are unable to focus on work because of severe pain or headaches.
Why You Need the Help of a Skilled Lawyer
Especially since celiac disease is not listed in the SSA Blue Book, it is vital to seek the help of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. They can help you navigate the complex application process. Gathering medical evidence and completing paperwork accurately can help improve the chances your application will be approved. A skilled attorney will know the ins and outs of the system, presenting the strongest case possible for receiving SSDI benefits.
The reality is that most disability applications are initially denied. If this happens to you, an experienced lawyer can help you avoid common mistakes in appealing an SSDI decision. They can represent you throughout the appeals process and attend court with you. Consider retaining an attorney as early in your application process as possible.
Do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits if I wear a hearing aid?
If you have difficulty hearing what people are saying, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). But simply having hearing aids doesn’t automatically make you eligible for benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lays out specific criteria. One of the major factors is an inability to work due to a disability. If you wear hearing aids and are able to work, you likely will not qualify for benefits. A Social Security disability lawyer can help assess your specific case and explain your options.
Hearing loss affects millions of Americans. Some people are born with some level of deafness. Others suffer an injury or lose their hearing over time. In any case, the SSA sees that people with hearing loss may struggle to find work. Qualifying for disability benefits is possible, but often only for those with profound hearing loss. Mild to moderate cases usually don’t meet the criteria, even if they wear hearing aids.
Qualifying for SSDI With Cochlear Implants
The SSA Blue Book lists disabilities that may qualify for benefits. For each of these disabilities, the Blue Book describes the qualification criteria. Deafness and hearing loss have two main entries in the Blue Book. One of these is section 2.11, “Hearing Loss with a Cochlear Implant.”
A cochlear implant is a small medical device that provides a sense of sound. An external part is placed behind the ear. A second part is surgically inserted under the skin. While cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing, they can help people with hearing loss experience a version of the sounds around them. They can better understand speech too.
When someone has a cochlear implant in one or both ears, they qualify for one year of SSDI benefits following the surgery. This is automatic. It doesn’t matter if the hearing improves or not during those 12 months. After the year has passed, the applicant will need to submit to a hearing test to continue receiving benefits. They must score 60 percent or less on a Hearing in Noise Test (HINT), a word recognition test.
Cochlear implants are typically very expensive. They can cost as much as $125,000. Even with health coverage, this can be a heavy financial burden. Disability benefits can help to offset some of this expense.
Are Other Types of Hearing Aids Eligible?
As beneficial as they may be for people with hearing loss, cochlear implants aren’t for everyone. The significant cost is one deterrent. There are many other reasons why someone may opt not to get one. Other types of hearing aids may be more convenient and less costly. They may be only a few thousand dollars rather than over $100,000.
It is possible to receive SSDI benefits if you wear other hearing aids too. Unlike cochlear implant surgery, though, qualifying under Hearing Loss (2.10) is not automatic. Instead, the SSA outlines criteria for specific test results. They evaluate the severity of hearing loss. You must meet a minimum threshold to qualify for disability benefits. As mentioned, milder cases of hearing loss usually do not qualify.
Assessing Hearing Loss for Disability Benefits
The SSA outlines hearing test requirements when applying for SSDI. There are two main parts of section 2.10 for hearing loss. To qualify for SSDI, you need to meet only one of these criteria. You do not need to satisfy both requirements.
- Audiometry test. This assesses your ear’s sensitivity to air conduction. You must show an average threshold of at least 90 decibels (dB) in your better ear. The test must also show a bone conduction hearing threshold of at least 60 decibels in your better ear.
- Spoken word recognition test. This test gauges how well you can identify commonly spoken words. To qualify, you need a score lower than 40 percent in your better ear.
The audiometry test calculates hearing loss at three sound frequencies.
- Low-frequency sounds around 500 hertz (Hz), like a growling animal
- Middle-frequency sounds around 1,000 Hz, like a person’s voice
- High-frequency sounds around 2,000 Hz, like chirping birds
For context, the human ear can register sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. This range varies by age and between individuals.
For tests to be valid, they must be performed by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT) or a licensed physician. They can also be performed by an audiologist supervised by a physician or ENT. The SSA may also require an otologic (ear) exam. The doctor looks at your external ear canals and tympanic membranes. Another exam is an auditory evoked response test, assessing brainwave responses to tones. Vestibular testing checks the balance organs in the inner ear.
You must have profound hearing loss or deafness in both ears to qualify for benefits. If you have one good ear that passes the above tests, you likely will not receive SSDI. Being able to hear well enough in one ear should allow you to work.
The Ability to Work With Hearing Loss or Deafness
Broadly speaking, there are two main criteria to qualify for SSDI benefits. You need to have a disability. And you must be unable to work because of that disability. If you have a condition but are still able to work, you are not eligible to receive SSDI.
To this end, wearing a hearing aid does not qualify you for benefits in and of itself. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that employers must provide reasonable accommodations. This will depend on the type of work. It may involve closed captioning, text messaging, or ASL interpreters.
You may be able to perform the duties of some jobs without being able to hear at all. You may experience some limitations, but you can do the work. In these cases, you do not receive SSDI. In other careers, being able to hear is critically important. The SSA handles these on a case-by-case basis, assessing your ability to work given your level of hearing loss.
The SSDI Application Process
Most commonly, people are able to apply for SSDI online. Alternatively, they are able to phone the Social Security Administration to book an appointment. The SSA makes accommodations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing too. They can call the toll-free TTY number. This relays text messages over the telephone network.
Applying for SSDI can feel overwhelming. You need to gather medical evidence to prove your disability. This can include test results, doctor’s reports, and other documentation. You should include any corrective measures you have taken. It is also helpful to include reports on how the disability affects your ability to work. To qualify, you must have accrued enough work credits over your career as well. There are many forms to complete and deadlines to meet. Then, you may need to engage in the Social Security hearing process with a judge too.
In some cases, your application may need a residual functioning capacity (RFC) form. Your doctor completes this form to explain how your work is affected by your hearing loss. It looks at your capacity to work in light of your disability. Many applications are denied the first time around and require applicants to file for an appeal.
Why You Need a Skilled Social Security Disability Attorney
Navigating the application process can be a complex affair. There is a lot of documentation involved. Even if you meet all the filing deadlines, the SSA may still deny your claim. A skilled Social Security disability lawyer can help present your case in the most effective way possible. A qualified SSDI attorney can identify what documents can improve your chances of approval.
For instance, it is often in your best interest to submit as much medical evidence as possible. The more proof you have of your disability, the stronger your case may be. But, this evidence needs to be relevant. It needs to support your claim effectively. An experienced disability lawyer can help package your application compellingly.
Even if your hearing loss does not meet SSA Blue Book criteria, you may still be eligible to receive benefits. Your SSDI lawyer can work to develop a strong strategy for your application. This includes medical evidence but also requires proof that you are unable to work. And, should the need arise, your lawyer can guide, prepare, and represent you throughout the appeals process.
If my condition gets worse, will my SSD benefits increase?
No, your disability payment amounts do not increase if your condition worsens. If you already receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the payment amount stays the same. This is true even if your disability has become much more severe.
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves your application, it decides you qualify for benefits. It is black and white. There are no grades, levels, or tiers. Either the SSA approves your application or denies it. They deem you disabled or not disabled. The payment amount does not depend on the severity of your disability. You do not need to file for benefits again if your condition worsens.
Approval and Denial of SSDI Benefits
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, applicants must meet certain criteria, such as:
- They must be disabled. This usually involves conditions listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. The disability must stop the person from being able to work.
- The condition must be expected to last at least 12 months or end in death.
- The applicant must meet non-medical requirements. The technical criteria include accruing enough work credits through paying Social Security taxes.
- The applicant mustn’t engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Earning too much income disqualifies applicants from receiving SSDI.
A worsening condition does not mean you can receive more benefits. But, if your condition improves, you may lose eligibility. The SSA checks on your disability from time to time. If it decides you can work, you may no longer receive benefits. A Social Security disability attorney can help you appeal this decision.
How Disability Benefits Are Determined
The SSA uses a complex formula to calculate the amount of your disability benefits. The SSA considers your average lifetime earnings covered by Social Security. SSA indexes this amount to inflation. Part of the formula looks at your highest-earning years. This calculates your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME).
Simply put, disability benefit amounts are equal to retirement benefits. They are calculated as if you were at full retirement age when your disability began. People who have earned higher incomes over the years qualify for higher payments. Lower-income earners receive smaller amounts.
The severity of the impairment is not a factor. Having more than one condition can help you qualify. The SSA considers their combined impact on your ability to work. But, having multiple conditions does result in higher disability payments. Your application is approved or denied. That’s it.
A Notable Change If You Become Blind
One important detail a Social Security disability lawyer can help explain is what happens if you become blind. Losing your vision does not qualify you for more benefits. But, it changes the amount for substantial gainful activity (SGA). This is how much income you can earn while keeping your SSDI benefits.
For non-blind SSDI recipients, the SGA amount in 2023 is $1,470 per month. For people who are blind, that amount increases to $2,460 per month. This means you can work and earn over $1,000 more per month and keep your disability payments. These figures change every year. But, the amount for blind persons is always higher.
The SSA thresholds for blindness consist of one of the following:
- Visual acuity is 20/200 or worse in the better eye. This is with using corrective lenses.
- The visual field is 20 degrees or less in the better eye.
The SSA requires documentation to prove this level of visual impairment. Consult with a Social Security disability attorney before you submit any paperwork.
Impact of Cost of Living Increases on SSD Benefits
Increases in the cost of living can increase the amount of SSD benefits. But, this is not on an individual basis. If you live in a more expensive part of the country, you do not receive more money because of it. The SSA does not restrict how you spend your SSDI benefit payments.
Instead, the SSA adjusts benefit amounts through cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). This is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The CPI-W tracks changes in the prices of goods and services typically purchased by urban workers. When the CPI-W increases, SSA adjusts SSDI payments to align with inflation. SSA usually announces COLAs each January.
Individual changes aren’t reflected in COLAs. If your medical bills increase because your condition worsens, your SSDI benefits don’t change. If you move out of state to somewhere with higher rent, your SSDI payment does not increase either.
How to Get the Benefits You Deserve
An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you understand your rights. Keefe Disability Law has worked with clients and their SSDI applications for many years. If you already receive benefits but are worried the SSA might take them away, our team of dedicated professionals can help defend your rights. Get the full benefits you deserve.
What types of musculoskeletal disorders can qualify for disability?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 130 million people see medical professionals for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) every year. Many of these MSDs are minor sprains and injuries. Since they are mild and short-term, these MSDs typically do not qualify for disability. A musculoskeletal disorder must be severe enough to stop someone from working to qualify for benefits. It must also expect to last for at least 12 months.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 20 percent of MSDs are severe enough to qualify for at least partial benefits. A skilled Social Security disability attorney can help determine your eligibility. They can help to assemble the strongest SSDI application possible. This can greatly improve your chances of approval.
Types of Musculoskeletal Disorders Eligible for Disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers MSDs as potentially qualifying applicants for disability benefits. But, it still makes decisions based on function loss and ailment type on a case-by-case basis. The SSA looks at the severity of musculoskeletal disorders. It does not approve all applications. Simple sprains aren’t severe enough to warrant disability.
The SSA maintains the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The guide describes conditions that may qualify for Social Security disability. Section 1 of the Blue Book deals with types of musculoskeletal disorders. A simple diagnosis often isn’t enough. Applicants must prove they are unable to work as a result of their condition. The impact the condition has on your life is more important than the specific diagnosis. The Blue Book’s list of MSDs includes the following:
1.15 - Disorders of the Skeletal Spine Resulting in Compromise of a Nerve Root(s)
Spinal disorders can affect your ability to move. They can also make it difficult to stand, sit, or concentrate. Taken together, these disorders may prevent you from performing many work tasks. Affected nerve roots can result in symptoms like pain, paresthesia, or muscle fatigue. You may also have muscle weakness or sensory changes.
1.16 - Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Resulting in Compromise of the Cauda Equina
This MSD refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. This puts pressure on the spinal cord. The cauda equina is the continuation of nerves through the lumbar and sacral regions near the tailbone. Compromised nerve roots in this region can cause cauda equina syndrome (CES). Symptoms may include urinary retention, incontinence, weakness in the lower extremities, and sciatica.
1.17 - Reconstructive Surgery or Surgical Arthrodesis of a Major Weight-Bearing Joint
Reconstructive surgery can lead to pain and loss of mobility. The SSA includes surgery on any major weight-bearing joint in section 1.17 of the Blue Book. Examples include work on the knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. If you are unable to walk, push, lift, or perform fine motor skills, you may qualify for disability.
1.18 - Abnormality of a Major Joint(s) in Any Extremity
Even without surgery, major joint problems can be a disability. Your joints are essential to performing a variety of job duties. No one should be forced to work through the pain. The SSA accepts certain joint problems for disability. Some of these include osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, hip fractures or degenerative hip disease, bursitis, and shoulder problems.
1.19 - Pathologic Fractures Due to Any Cause
To qualify for disability under this section, you must have fractures on three separate occasions within a 12-month period. These bone fractures must limit your physical function. For example, you may need a walker or wheelchair to get around. The SSA also requires the inability to use one or both upper extremities to complete work activities.
1.20 - Amputation Due to Any Cause
Generally, two limbs need to be amputated to qualify for disability. This involves amputation at or above the wrist or ankle. An exception is the amputation of a leg at or above the ankle. In many cases, the SSA may need you to show that prosthetic devices could not be used to help you work again.
1.21 - Soft Tissue Injury or Abnormality Under Continuing Surgical Management
A soft tissue injury may not be enough to qualify for disability. It must receive surgical management “directed toward saving, reconstructing, or replacing the affected part of the body.” Examples that may fall under this section include sciatica, third-degree burns that affect nerves, and torn ligaments.
1.22 - Non-Healing or Complex Fracture of the Femur, Tibia, Pelvis, or One or More of the Talocrural Bones
Fractures can qualify you for benefits in some cases. But, you must show that the fracture is expected to make it impossible for you to work for a year or more. Medical imaging, like X-rays, must show a “solid union” is “not evident” and is “not clinically solid.”
1.23 - Non-Healing or Complex Fracture of an Upper Extremity
Similar to fractures involving the leg bones, complex fractures of the upper extremities may qualify for benefits too. The criteria are similar. The fracture is “under continuing surgical management.” Fractures of the humerus, radius, or ulna prevent you from working for at least 12 months.
Take the Confusion Out of Filing
A medical professional has diagnosed you with a debilitating injury. Due to pain and limited mobility, you are no longer physically capable of working. The bills are piling up, and stress levels are rising. Filing for disability quickly becomes your best option for a stable future. Unfortunately, filing a claim can be confusing. It can be scary if the SSA denies your claim. This is the last thing you need when dealing with an ailment.
Let the qualified Social Security disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law help take the worry out of your claim. Our dedicated staff will help you understand your rights and options. With experience, knowledge, and fortitude, we can help encourage your claim through the SSA faster than if you filed alone. We can help fill out disability reports too.
How does marriage affect Social Security disability?
If you’ve already applied for Social Security disability and currently receive benefits, getting married will not affect your monthly payments. While this is generally true for your own disability benefits, there may be certain circumstances where marriage does have an impact. It is important to learn how saying “I do” may affect the payments you receive.
Qualify for SSDI With Your Work Credits
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program for disabled workers. Having earned enough work credits is one of the main criteria. You earn work credits through regular employment. Self-employment counts too. The dollar amount changes each year. For 2023, you earn one credit for $1,640 in wages, and you can earn up to four credits per year.
The number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI can vary. Most people will need at least 40 credits to receive Social Security benefits. What’s important to note is that these are your own credits. As long as you qualify for SSDI based on your own work credits, marriage has no impact. Your new spouse’s income has no effect either.
Consult with a Social Security disability attorney if you have any questions. They can help clarify any confusion you may have.
How to Qualify for Disability Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) outlines the requirements to receive SSDI. The main criteria are:
- You have worked jobs covered by Social Security.
- You have enough work credits.
- Your medical condition meets the SSA’s definition of disability.
- You are under 65 years old.
The SSA requires proof of your disability. This is why you must work with your doctors to provide evidence such as lab tests, medical reports, and other relevant information. A simple diagnosis is not enough. The condition must be so severe that you are unable to work. Marital status is not a factor.
Working with a skilled Social Security disability attorney can help you get approved for SSDI. Every case is different. A lawyer can help present the strongest case possible to the SSA.
Marriage May Affect Other Benefits
Generally, getting married will not affect SSDI eligibility. This assumes these are your benefits based on your own history. Benefits may be affected in other instances such as the following:
- Children may receive SSDI based on a parent’s work record. If that child gets married, they will no longer receive benefits. They also lose benefits if they turn 18 or until they turn 19 as a full-time student in high school.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based partly on financial need. SSDI is not. With SSI, individuals can have no more than $2,000 in assets. For couples, that number is $3,000. If your new spouse moves you above this figure, you may no longer get SSI benefits. Eligibility is also affected by location and income.
Remarrying as a Widow or Widower
Marriage can impact benefits for survivors and divorced spouses. When a spouse receiving SSDI dies, the surviving partner may be eligible to receive disability payments. If they are at least 60 years old at the time of their spouse’s death, they can keep getting SSDI until they pass away. But, if the surviving spouse remarries, they may no longer receive SSDI benefits. It is possible, though, to be re-entitled to benefits in certain circumstances. Ask your Social Security disability lawyer how this might apply to your case.
Getting remarried after divorce follows similar rules. If you receive SSDI benefits based on your ex-spouse, those payments stop if you remarry someone else.
Talk With Your Disability Lawyer
Dealing with the SSA can be confusing. There can be a lot of rules and paperwork. You need a good Social Security disability attorney. At Keefe Law, we are experts in SSDI. Share your documents with us, and we can look at your case and answer any questions you have.
Major life changes are impactful. This includes moving to another state or retiring. It also includes getting married. As you prepare for the next chapter in your life, talk to your SSDI lawyer. We can discuss your continued eligibility and how you can keep receiving benefit payments.
Can I continue to work if my spouse receives SSD benefits?
If your spouse has applied for or is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you can continue to work while your spouse receives SSDI benefits. Your income will not affect their benefits. However, it's important to understand SSDI eligibility and seek the advice of an experienced SSDI lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.
SSDI Eligibility Requirements
SSDI is a federal program that provides financial support to people who are unable to work due to a disability. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to earn sufficient credits. You must also have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of a disability, which is a condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and prevents you from doing any substantial gainful activity (SGA).
SGA is defined as earning more than a certain amount of money per month from working. In 2023, the substantial gainful activity amount for SSDI is $1,470 per month. This amount is updated annually. If you earn more than the SGA amount, the SSA will consider you to be engaged in substantial gainful activity and will likely find that you are not eligible for SSDI benefits.
In addition, you will typically need 40 work credits to be eligible for SSDI, but this number can vary based on age. Workers can earn up to four credits per year. The dollar amount changes year-to-year. In 2023, you need to earn $1,640 in income to earn one credit. Thus, $6,560 in 2023 equals four work credits. A lawyer can determine if you have earned enough work credits to qualify.
Having more than one condition does not mean you get more benefits. But, the SSA does consider compounding factors. The combined impact of your disabilities may qualify you for SSDI. Past income does not impact eligibility. You will need to provide medical evidence regarding your condition and to prove that you have a qualifying disability that prevents you from working. You must meet all of the required criteria for SSDI to ensure your claim is not denied.
Household Income and SSDI Eligibility
It's important to note that household income is not one of the factors considered in SSDI eligibility. This means that your income as a spouse will not affect your spouse's eligibility for SSDI benefits. Your spouse's eligibility is based solely on their own work history and medical condition.
However, SSDI eligibility can be confusing, and there may be situations where your income could affect your spouse's benefits. For example, if you or your spouse are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the income of both you and your spouse will be taken into consideration. Since SSI is a needs-based program designed for disabled individuals with low income, your spouse's income is crucial in determining the applicant's eligibility. If your spouse is applying for SSI and your income exceeds a specific amount, a portion of that income may be deemed available to the applicant by the SSA.
In addition, a child under the age of 16 may qualify for auxiliary benefits based on the SSDI eligibility of your spouse. In this case, your income could affect the amount of auxiliary benefits your child receives.
Contact an Attorney to Find Out More
If you have any questions or concerns about SSDI eligibility or how your income may affect your spouse's benefits, it's a good idea to consult with an experienced SSDI lawyer. An SSDI lawyer can do the following:
- Help you understand the eligibility requirements
- Determine your spouse's benefit amount
- Answer any questions you may have about working while your spouse receives SSDI benefits
With the help of an SSDI lawyer, you can ensure that your spouse receives the benefits they are entitled to and that you are able to work and support your family without any negative impact on your spouse's benefits.
What respiratory disorders qualify for disability benefits?
Respiratory conditions can greatly impact a person's ability to work, and as a result, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to those who meet the eligibility criteria. However, not all respiratory conditions are considered disabling under the Social Security Administration's Blue Book. In order to qualify for benefits, the condition must be so severe that you are unable to work. When applying for Social Security Disability, it is advisable to speak with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the application process.
Respiratory Conditions That May Qualify for Benefits
The SSA’s Blue Book lists impairments that may qualify for benefits. In section 3.00, you can find the list of respiratory disorders. These include several lung diseases, plus other conditions. The list describes criteria for what is serious enough to merit approval of your claim. The SSA also considers the combined effect if you have more than one condition.
It's important to note that having a respiratory condition alone is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. The severity of the condition and its impact on the person's ability to work are taken into consideration.
Here are some common respiratory conditions listed in the Blue Book that may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits:
- Asthma. A mild case of asthma likely won’t qualify. You may need to have been under medical observation for at least a year. If, after a year of treatment, you still have severe asthma attacks, you may qualify. This might include at least three hospitalizations or six major attacks in a year.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD describes more than one condition. Examples include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This is when you have difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The symptoms must be severe enough to keep you from working full-time.
- Cystic fibrosis. To qualify, the SSA looks for at least six episodes of severe symptoms in a year. This includes coughing up blood, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Persistent lung infections may also qualify you for benefits.
- Lung transplant. If you receive a lung transplant, SSA will consider you disabled for one year. After that, SSA will reconsider your case to see if you still qualify.
- Sleep disorders. If you have a breathing disorder related to sleep, like sleep apnea, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.
- Lung cancer. By definition, this affects the respiratory system. Other related cancers can also qualify for SSDI benefits.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. If you have a rare disease not listed in the Blue Book, you may still qualify for disability. An experienced lawyer can help improve your chances of approval.
Other respiratory disorders that may qualify include:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Chronic restrictive ventilatory disease
- Chronic lung infections
- Chronic pulmonary hypertension
- Chronic pulmonary insufficiency (CPI)
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB)
- Respiratory failure
Supporting Evidence You Need to Provide
When applying for SSDI benefits due to a respiratory condition, you will need to provide medical evidence that supports your claim. This evidence may include:
- Medical records from your treating physicians, including diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications prescribed.
- Pulmonary function test results that measure your lung capacity and the severity of your respiratory impairment.
- Imaging studies, such as chest X-rays or CT scans, that show the extent of your respiratory impairment.
- Reports from any hospitalizations, surgeries, or other medical procedures related to your respiratory condition.
It's important to provide thorough and up-to-date medical records, as well as any additional evidence that may support your claim since the main challenge is proving you are disabled. Other evidence that can be used to support your claim may include statements from coworkers or supervisors regarding the impact of your condition on your work performance.
In addition, you will also need to meet technical requirements. This includes earning enough Social Security work credits. You must also not engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Share what information you have with a disability attorney. They can walk you through what is needed.
A Disability Lawyer Can Help With Your Application
Navigating the SSDI application process can be challenging, especially when it comes to gathering the necessary evidence to support your claim. An experienced SSDI attorney can help ensure that your application is complete and includes all the necessary medical evidence to support your claim.
With years of experience, the attorneys at Keefe Disability Law know all about SSDI claims and what it takes to get approved. We can carefully assess your case and see if your respiratory condition meets a Blue Book listing. If it doesn’t, we can seek paths to help you get approved for SSDI.
Could major life changes affect my disability benefits?
For anyone who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, big life changes can raise concerns. This might involve moving to another state, getting married, or going back to work. You’ve already applied for SSDI, but do these changes impact your eligibility? What about benefit payment amounts? The short answer is yes. But, it depends on the life change. Some events can impact benefit payments. Others may not.
Seek the advice of an experienced lawyer about the best course of action. They can help to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
What Events Can Impact Disability Benefits?
You must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of major life changes. You can do this online, by phone, or by mail. You can also visit your nearest SSA field office.
Life changes that may impact disability benefits include:
- Your spouse or ex-spouse passes away. You may be eligible for survivor's benefits. Thus, the SSDI payment amount may increase. This is based on your spouse’s earning record.
- Your disability improves. Benefit eligibility depends on being able to work. If your condition gets better and you can work, the SSA may stop payments.
- You start working. This can include both part-time and full-time jobs. Self-employment counts too. If you start earning an income, this may affect SSDI eligibility.
- You receive other disability benefits. The SSA may look at this other income in deciding SSDI benefit payments.
- You go to jail or prison. If you are convicted of a crime, you are generally not eligible for SSDI while serving time. Some exceptions may apply.
- You reach full retirement age. At this point, the SSA converts your SSDI benefits to retirement payments. These amounts are likely not the same. Your lawyer can help you find out.
- You pass away. In the event of your death, SSA will terminate benefits. If you have a surviving spouse or children, they may be eligible for survivor’s benefits.
What Changes Will Not Affect SSDI Benefits?
Other major life changes may not affect eligibility. You still have to notify SSA of these changes. But, you do not need to reapply for SSDI. Examples include:
- You get married. If you qualified with your own disability and earnings record, you will continue to receive benefits. This is different if you qualified in another way. An example is a child who receives benefits based on their parent’s income record.
- You move to another state. Contact SSA before you move. This way, you don’t miss any mail or payments. Moving to another state does not impact eligibility.
- Your living situation changes. If you move in with someone, like a friend or partner, your SSDI benefits are not impacted.
- You receive an inheritance. SSDI eligibility is based on disability and earnings history. An inheritance is unearned income.
- Your household income changes. Since SSDI is based on your earned income, your spouse’s income does not impact benefit payments.
Why Might Social Security Disability Benefits Stop?
There are two main reasons why the SSA may stop your SSDI payments. One, you start working. Or, two, your medical condition gets better. These are the two core factors in qualifying for SSDI benefits.
If you receive SSDI, you can have a trial work period (TWP) of nine months. This lets you test if you are able to work. Earning more than $1,050 in a month triggers the TWP. The nine months of work can span up to a 60-month period. The months do not have to be in a row. After nine months of TWP, earning more than $1,470 per month stops SSDI eligibility. That is the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount as of 2023.
If your medical condition improves and you are able to go back to work, SSA may stop your SSDI benefits. This is based on a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). This reviews your current medical condition. They ask about treatment and daily activities. If they decide you are no longer disabled, they may stop your monthly benefit payments. The SSA typically asks for a CDR every three to seven years.
How Can You Protect the Benefits You’ve Earned?
Just because you qualified for SSDI doesn’t mean you will continue to qualify for SSDI. The SSA reviews your case periodically with the CDR. Major life changes can affect disability benefits too. The federal government may also garnish benefit payments to serve outstanding debt.
A qualified Massachusetts lawyer experienced in Social Security can help. They can review your case and help you prepare for CDRs. They can also advise how to notify SSA of life changes and educate you on the impact these changes can have on your benefits. And, if the SSA stops payments, a lawyer can appeal that decision.
If my Social Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, how will SSA update me on the appeal process?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a defined appeals process. It can be frustrating when you submit a request for appeal and you’re not sure when you’ll hear back from them. The timeline can vary depending on many factors. If the SSA is currently facing a higher than normal volume of appeals, this may delay their response.
When it comes to the second stage of appeal with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you can expect several updates. Working with an experienced disability lawyer can help with this process. They can stay in touch with the court and SSA to manage your claim and appeal.
Did SSA Deny Your SSDI Claim?
You’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies upwards of 70 percent of disability claims. This is based on the initial assessment. The SSA may decide that the medical condition is not severe enough to stop you from working. Or, it may not think that your medical condition qualifies under its Blue Book definitions.
However, about 45 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are denied for technical or non-medical reasons. That’s about two-thirds of the denials. An experienced attorney can help you appeal a technical SSDI denial. They can put together the strongest case possible and improve your chances of approval.
How to Appeal Your SSDI Claim Decision
If the SSA denies your original SSDI claim application, you have the right to appeal. There are four levels of appeal.
- Reconsideration. Start by requesting SSA to review your initial SSDI application again. They’ll take a look at your claim through a fresh set of eyes. It’s as if you are sending in a brand new application. For this independent review, you can add new evidence you forgot to include the first time around.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The second step is to file an appeal with an ALJ. This involves a live court hearing. It could be in-person or via phone or video conference. It is considered an official courtroom proceeding with testimony under oath. You and your SSD lawyer will have the chance to present your case before an independent federal judge.
- Appeals Council. If your appeals for reconsideration and to the ALJ are unsuccessful, you can bring your case to the Appeals Council. You can request a review. They can then deny or dismiss your request, or bring it back to a judge for further review.
- Federal District Court. This is the fourth and highest level of appeal. You can file a federal district court action with the U.S. District Court. A federal judge will hear your case without a jury. If you don’t already have legal representation, you definitely need an experienced lawyer at this stage.
Examples of Typical Updates and What They Mean
If you want to appeal the SSA’s decision, it is important to act quickly. Generally, you have 60 days after receiving your Social Security Disability denial letter to appeal. This appeal is a formal, written request. The reconsideration stage often takes many months. So, you may not hear from them in a while. Your lawyer can help follow up for updates.
If they deny your request for reconsideration, you then have 60 days to request an ALJ hearing. This starts a new process with a few key stages. An attorney can improve your chances of winning your appeal.
- Pending folder assembly. During this stage, the ALJ and your lawyer compile your case file. They collect documents like medical evidence and work history. The information is organized in a folder for the judge to consider.
- Pending ALJ assignment. The case file is complete. Now, it must be assigned to an ALJ. This could take several months.
- Ready to schedule. The case has been assigned to an ALJ and is now waiting for a court date.
- Hearing date. The hearing before an ALJ is scheduled. You and your lawyer appear before the judge to present your case. This could be in person, over the phone, or via video conference.
- Post-hearing development. If the ALJ did not receive additional evidence at the hearing, the case can be held in this status. Once the evidence is submitted and reviewed, it can move on to the next phase.
- Post-hearing review. The ALJ is reviewing the evidence to make a decision. You cannot submit any more evidence.
- Pending decision writing. It can take about two months before the ALJ begins writing the formal decision on your appeal case.
- Decision writing process. The ALJ has made a decision. You should receive a formal written decision by mail within 60 days.
How a Massachusetts SSD Lawyer Can Help
Navigating the appeals process can be complicated. There can be a lot of paperwork. There can be many steps involved. Technical errors, typos, and missing documents can leave your application hanging for months.
An experienced SSD attorney can help you avoid some of the common mistakes in an SSDI appeal. By compiling the most complete and most compelling case possible, a lawyer can improve your chances of winning your appeal. They can keep track of updates and guide you through the whole process.
Call to Book a Free Consultation
Has your Social Security disability claim been denied? We can help. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847. You can also complete our online contact form. During your free consultation, we can assess your case and decide on the best next steps. Let’s make sure your SSDI application is in order for the best chance at approval. Let’s get the benefits and support you need and deserve.
What medical conditions automatically qualify for SSDI benefits in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island?
Are you thinking about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? Perhaps you’re not really sure if you qualify? Some situations may require a more complicated application process, but several medical conditions automatically qualify for SSDI. Speaking with an experienced disability lawyer can help to clarify any questions you may have.
The following list of qualifying conditions is not meant to be exhaustive. However, it should give you a good idea of what could qualify for SSDI benefits.
Musculoskeletal System Problems
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), diseases and conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue represent almost one-third of diagnoses among workers receiving disability benefits. This category of diagnoses can impair a person’s ability to move effectively. Their movement may be restricted or they may experience severe pain.
- Chronic joint pain
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
- Spine injuries
Respiratory system disorders can impair or prevent someone from performing their job effectively. They may have trouble breathing or participating in prolonged periods of physical labor. Depending on the severity of the illness, even short bursts of physical activity may be challenging.
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
Mental Disorders and Conditions
Physical ailments are not the only health conditions that can automatically qualify for SSDI. In fact, approximately 20 percent of disability benefit recipients report having a qualifying mental disorder. The Social Security Administration states that individuals with these conditions must be severely limited in their ability to function independently to qualify for benefits.
- Autism or Asperger’s syndrome
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most people in the United States. It’s no wonder cardiac and cardiovascular conditions similarly make up a significant portion of SSDI claims. These disorders can affect the heart itself, as well as the flow of blood to and from the heart.
- Coronary artery disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
In addition, illnesses relating to the heart and the flow of blood are examples of health conditions affecting the blood itself. This can then extend to impairing a worker’s ability to perform their duties.
- Bone marrow failure
- Sickle cell anemia
Nervous System and Neurological Conditions
Neurological conditions can have a profound impact on an individual’s motor function. Thus, their ability to perform the duties of their job effectively may be impaired. This can have an impact on both gross motor function and fine motor skills, affecting workers across a broad range of industries and work environments.
- Benign brain tumors
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Traumatic brain injury
Sensory Organ and Speech Conditions
The Social Security Administration defines blindness as the inability to correct your vision to at least 20/200 in your better eye. If your vision or other senses, including speech, are otherwise impacted by a health condition, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.
- Hearing loss
- Impaired speech
- Vision disorders
The endocrine system relates to the hormones circulating throughout your body. This includes the glands that secrete hormones, plus receptors and organs that respond to or are impacted by hormones. Endocrine dysfunction can lead to fatigue, weakness, unintended weight fluctuations, and mood swings.
- Pituitary gland disorders
Cancer and Benign Tumors
Both malignant tumors (cancer) and benign abnormal masses of tissue (non-cancerous) may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, individuals with disorders like these made up nearly 10 percent of benefits awarded in 2011.
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Other Disorders and Conditions
Several other health conditions and medical disorders may qualify for benefits. Some examples include the following:
- Chronic skin infections
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Inflammatory arthritis
Call Us for a Free Consultation Today
Before you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, give us a call, and we can help walk you through the whole process. We will evaluate your claim and help put your mind at ease. Call 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847 to schedule an appointment with our legal team. You can also fill out our online contact form to request your free, no-obligation consultation.
Does the SSA expedite Social Security disability applications for terminally ill patients?
Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has the TERI program. It is for people with terminal illnesses. Applications flagged as TERI cases are expedited. TERI applicants may start to receive Social Security disability (SSD) benefits sooner. Also, SSA treats these files “with special sensitivity.” Letters sent to applicants do not use “terminal” or “terminal illness.”
You cannot apply directly for TERI. Rather, it is up to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to flag your file. When filling out your SSD application, you can describe your terminal illness. Present your best case to expedite your benefit approval. This can include documentation from your doctor or another health professional.
How SSA Defines Terminal Illnesses
The SSA determines TERI eligibility based on the situation and condition. First, there must be an allegation or diagnosis that the illness is terminal. This includes conditions like ALS or AIDS. Hospice care can justify a TERI-flagged case too.
According to the SSA, an illness is terminal if the “impairment is untreatable.” It is “expected to end in death.” Many conditions may qualify as terminal illnesses. Once a claim receives a TERI flag, “each step in the process” is expedited. Only DDS can remove this case flag.
Examples of Terminal Conditions
The SSA lists several terminally ill conditions. These may qualify as TERI cases.
- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
- Chronic pulmonary or heart failure requiring continuous home oxygen and personal caregivers
- Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device
- Metastatic cancer
- Stage IV cancer
- Inoperable or unresectable cancer
- AML (acute myelogenous leukemia)
- ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia)
- Coma for at least 30 days
- Currently receiving hospice care
- Waiting for a heart, lung, live or bone marrow transplant
The above list is not exhaustive. This should, though, illustrate what may qualify as a TERI case. Consult with a disability law attorney to best assess your situation.
How Terminal Illness Affects Your SSD Application
You cannot apply for the TERI program. The SSA does not tell applicants if they are being considered. They also don’t say whether they’ve flagged it as a TERI case. Inclusion in the TERI program can be opaque.
Having a terminal illness does not change your SSD eligibility. The SSA can still deny your claim. You might not meet the Blue Book criteria. Or, the SSA may believe you can still work. The only difference with TERI is they expedite processing. You will likely learn sooner whether they’ve approved or denied your application.
The five-month waiting period still applies to TERI cases. During this period, applicants do not receive SSDI benefits. As part of the approval process, a medical consultant will review the file. The TERI flag may be added at this time.
TERI Cases Versus Compassionate Allowances
The criteria for Compassionate Allowance cases (CAL) are not identical to TERI cases. Not all CAL cases qualify for TERI. The same is true with Quick Disability Determination (QDD). The main feature of TERI cases is terminal illness. QDD and CAL cases may not imply a terminal illness. There is overlap in these programs, though.
As a result, your SSD claim may qualify for one or more of these programs. If you are eligible for more than one program, your chances of a faster decision improve. The CAL program makes it easier for SSA to identify qualifying cases. These conditions may not be terminal. A faster decision means benefits can begin sooner too.
The SSA provides a complete list of CAL conditions on its website. Examples include brain disorders, childhood disorders, and cancer. Rare conditions may be eligible too.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
With a terminal illness, time is of the essence. You can’t wait around for SSA approval. You need the benefits now. When you work with an experienced Social Security lawyer, they can review your application. They can ensure it is complete and accurate. This can reduce delays and denials.
Let our experienced Massachusetts law firm take a look at your file. We can look into sourcing the medical forms and statements. These can clearly establish your medical condition. We can help present the most compelling case possible to the SSA. This can help expedite your application as a TERI case. And this means you can start receiving much-needed SSD benefits sooner.
Request a Free Consultation Today
Managing a terminal illness is stressful enough. We can help lift some of the burden of applying for Social Security disability. The system can be complicated and we can help answer any questions you may have. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847 to book a free consultation today. You can also get in touch with us by filling out our online contact form. Let us evaluate your case and help you get the benefits and coverage you need.
My SSDI claim was denied; can I apply again?
Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) -- the government agency that administers the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program – doesn’t limit how many times you can apply for benefits. If the SSA denied your initial claim, there’s nothing stopping you from applying again. However, don’t start filling out a new application just yet. In most cases, it makes more sense to take advantage of the SSA’s four-level appeals process than to start over with a whole new claim. Here’s what you should know about your options after an SSDI denial, including the benefits of an appeal, when to consider submitting another application, and how Keefe Disability Law’s knowledgeable and experienced Boston disability attorneys can guide you through the appropriate process and increase your chances for success.
Understanding the Social Security Disability Appeals Process
If you waited months to find out whether you were approved for SSDI, only to receive a disappointing denial letter, you’re not alone. The SSA denies up to 70 percent of initial claims. Fortunately, you have the right to appeal and have 60 days (from the date you received the denial letter) to inform the SSA of your decision. The Social Security disability appeals process has four levels:
- Reconsideration, a new evaluation of your claim by disability determination examiners not involved in the previous decision
- Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), if Disability Determination Services (DDS) denies your request for reconsideration or you disagree with their decision, you can request a hearing with an ALJ
- Appeals Council Review, if the ALJ doesn’t rule in your favor, you can ask the Appeals Council to review your claim
- Federal Court Review, if the Appeals Council denies or dismisses your SSDI claim, you can file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court
Appealing a Denied SSDI Claim Can Have Numerous Benefits
The appeals process can be lengthy and grueling, but there are good reasons for slogging through it. Failing to provide sufficient medical evidence is one of the most common reasons SSDI claims are denied. Thankfully, you can submit additional evidence or documentation to support and strengthen your claim at every level of appeal, save the federal court review.
You’re also statistically more likely to succeed with an appeal than a new application, which puts you back at square one, where you face the same nearly 70-percent denial rate. On the other hand, if you can make it to the second level of a Social Security disability appeal, or an Administrative Law Judge hearing, you have an almost 50 percent chance of being granted benefits. Your chances of winning your SSDI appeal are even better if you have skilled legal counsel.
However, the main advantage of an appeal is that you can preserve your original protective filing date, which is the date you let the SSA know you were planning to apply for SSDI. If your claim is ultimately approved, you could be eligible for back pay (or past-due benefits) going all the way back to your protective filing date (and, in some cases, an additional 12 months). Reapplying resets your protective filing date, meaning you’d be eligible for less back pay if granted benefits.
When to Reapply Rather Than Appeal
Though appealing a denied SSDI claim is usually the most advantageous option, there are times when starting over with a new application makes sense. Here are some examples:
- You missed the 60-day deadline to file for an appeal
- Your condition has worsened in severity (or expected duration)
- You’re applying for SSDI for a different medical condition
Denied SSDI Benefits? Let Our Adept Disability Attorneys Handle Your Appeal
Appealing a denied SSDI claim can be difficult and time-consuming. Skilled representation can improve your chances of being granted benefits. Let Keefe Disability Law handle your SSDI appeal so that you can focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Ready to talk to us about your claim? Complete the contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Do I need a letter from my doctor when applying for SSDI?
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process is notoriously difficult, with the Social Security Administration (SSA) denying up to 70 percent of initial claims. Though a doctor’s letter isn’t a required part of the application, providing a well-written one can strengthen your disability claim and improve your chances of being approved for benefits. Before you ask your doctor to write a letter for your SSDI application, here’s what you need to know to ensure it’s as effective as possible, including how the experienced attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you get the evidence and information you need.
How a Detailed Letter From Your Doctor Can Help Your Social Security Disability Claim
The disability examiners evaluating your claim need to see a copious amount of evidence for your disabling medical impairment. Unfortunately, even the most thorough medical records don’t always paint a clear picture of what living with your condition entails. A detailed letter from your doctor – also known as a medical source statement – can help the examiner better understand your disability and how its symptoms affect your everyday life and ability to work and engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
How to Ensure Your Doctor’s Letter Is as Effective as Possible
A vague letter that says you’re disabled and shouldn’t work is unlikely to carry much weight with the SSA. Medical source statements are much more effective when they contain in-depth information on your condition and resulting limitations. It should come from your primary care doctor – ideally, with whom you’ve had a long doctor-patient relationship. A thorough doctor’s letter might include the following:
- The formal diagnosis
- A detailed description of your condition
- The disability’s onset date
- Diagnostic procedures used to diagnose your condition (and exclude illnesses with similar symptoms)
- Symptoms you experience, and their effects on your daily life and ability to work
- Treatments you’ve tried and whether they were successful in helping mitigate the condition’s negative effects
- Outlook and prognosis for your disability, including whether it’s expected to improve or worsen over time
- An assessment of your reflexes, dexterity, and range of motion
- Whether – and how well – you're able to complete routine or repetitive tasks; use your hands and arms to reach, grasp, and lift; or stand, crouch, sit, stoop, walk, or kneel
- An explanation of how the objective medical evidence supports their professional opinion
Medical Evidence Can Make or Break Your SSDI Claim
Medical evidence supporting the existence, severity, and expected duration of a disabling injury, illness, or other impairment is the cornerstone of a successful claim for SSDI benefits. Your application should include things like physical examination and treatment notes, bloodwork panel results, mental health records, imaging study reports of MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays, and any other documentation needed to meet or equal an entry in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. Applications without sufficient medical evidence are universally rejected.
However, the evidence provided can’t come from just anywhere or anyone. The SSA requires that medical evidence comes from acceptable medical sources (AMS), such as licensed medical or osteopathic doctors, or licensed or certified psychologists at the independent practice level. Additionally, appropriately-licensed or certified optometrists, podiatrists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, physicians' assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (including certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists) are considered AMS for claims related to their field of practice.
How an Experienced Disability Attorney Can Help You Get a Letter From Your Doctor
Applying for SSDI isn’t easy. Not only is the application process unfamiliar and intimidating, but gathering all the medical evidence needed to support your claim can be time-consuming. When you’re undergoing treatment for a disabling health condition and feel your worst, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether you can convince your doctor to take time out of their busy schedule to write a detailed medical source statement. Let Keefe Disability Law’s seasoned SSDI attorneys help prepare your application and work with your doctor to get the necessary notes and documentation.
Schedule a Consultation
Have questions about how Keefe Disability Law can help you complete your SSDI application or obtain a medical source statement from your doctor? Fill out the contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.
Should my doctor have experience helping people apply for SSDI?
When you have a disabling injury or illness that prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide monthly payments that help make ends meet. Unfortunately, applying for SSDI can be a complicated, frustrating, and lengthy nightmare. The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially denies up to 70 percent of applicants. Oftentimes, these denials are due to a lack of sufficient medical evidence for your disabling condition and the work-related restrictions and limitations it causes.
If you’re applying for SSDI, having a doctor who’s familiar with the application process and has helped other patients complete it successfully isn’t strictly necessary, but it can be extremely beneficial. Here’s what you need to know about applying for SSDI benefits, including how working with an experienced doctor and disability attorney when submitting the application may increase your chances for approval.
Understanding Your Doctor’s Role in Your SSDI Claim
To qualify for SSDI, you must have an injury, illness, or other medically determinable impairment that prevents you from working enough to earn above the SGA limit. (Though SGA changes with the national average wage index, in 2023, it was $1,470 per month for most applicants and $2,460 for blind claimants.) Additionally, the condition must be severe enough to last for at least a year or be expected to result in death.
Proving you’re disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits is no small feat. It requires your doctor (and you) to submit extensive medical evidence to the SSA, including medical records, test results, and notes related to your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Specifically, your application should contain a medical source statement from your doctor that:
- Includes a list of your diagnosed medical conditions that negatively affect your ability to perform work and SGA
- Explains whether your condition meets or equals the criteria for a qualifying disability in the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments
- Describes your residual functional capacity (RFC) -- or the most you can do despite your limitations
- States whether symptoms or complications of your condition causes you to miss work regularly
- Lists any side effects you’ve experienced from your prescribed treatments that had a negative impact on work ability or performance
The SSA tends to give greater weight to the opinions of medical specialists than general practitioners. How can you ensure that your medical source statement is as effective as possible? Make sure it includes a plethora of detailed information and comes from an appropriately licensed or certified medical professional.
The Benefits of Working With a Doctor With SSDI Experience When Applying for Disability
The SSA asks a lot of doctors who are already burdened with busy schedules and mountains of paperwork. Healthcare providers who haven’t previously helped patients through the grueling SSDI application process can face a steep learning curve. As a result, there are numerous benefits to having a doctor who’s been around the block, including:
- Familiarity with SSDI eligibility requirements, the application process, and forms
- Knows what specialized tests you need to prove the existence and severity of your condition to the SSA
- Knows how to convey symptoms, limitations, and restrictions, and their effects on your ability to work in a way that the SSA expects and can evaluate
How a Seasoned Disability Attorney Can Help Your SSDI Claim
Your doctor isn’t the only professional whose help you may need when applying for SSDI. A skilled disability lawyer can explain the complex application process, help you gather the necessary medical evidence, ensure your application is free of mistakes that could result in a delayed decision or denial of your claim, and much more. There’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Find out how to get the adept legal help you deserve.
Schedule a Consultation
Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered by a member of Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished Boston legal team during a free initial consultation. For more information, request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.
What if my condition worsened after I submitted my SSDI application?
When you can’t work because of a disabling medical impairment, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, applying for SSDI and getting approved for the benefits you need and deserve is a long and grueling process that can take months and sometimes even years. Not only does the Social Security Administration (SSA) impose a mandatory five-month waiting period from the onset of your disability until you can start collecting payments, but the wait can actually be much longer due to a backlog of claims.
If you applied for SSDI, but your disability got worse before you received a decision, keeping the SSA informed of changes in your medical condition is vital, as a particularly severe, worsening, or terminal diagnosis may qualify your claim for an expedited review and determination. Here’s what you need to know, including how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish and help you get approved for much-needed benefits as quickly as possible.
SSA Programs That Allow for Expediting SSDI Claims
The SSA has three main programs or initiatives that can speed up the determinations process for direly ill individuals, helping them get approved for payments faster. These are the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative, Presumptive Disability (PD) payments, and the TERI program for terminal illnesses. Here’s a brief overview of these crucial initiatives, what they do, and examples of conditions that qualify.
Compassionate Allowances (CAL)
The Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL initiative, allows the SSA to deliver faster SSDI determinations to individuals with especially severe disabilities. The program uses cutting-edge technology to identify diseases and other medical conditions that clearly meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and make the applicant eligible for benefits. More than 200 conditions qualify for expedited processing under the Compassionate Allowances program, including:
- Adult-Onset Huntington Disease
- Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
- Esophageal Cancer
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
- Lewy Body Dementia
- Malignant Multiple Sclerosis
- Nut Carcinoma
- Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Stiff Person Syndrome
- Thyroid Cancer
Presumptive Disability (PD)
Presumptive Disability, or PD payments, allow SSDI applicants with easily identifiable, qualifying conditions to collect “presumptive” benefit payments for up to six months while SSA Disability Determination Services (DDS) processes their application. The local Social Security field office, or in some cases DDS, grants Presumptive Disability payments based on the likelihood of your eventual approval for SSDI benefits. However, even if your application is ultimately denied, applicants approved for PD payments are not required to pay them back. Examples of conditions that commonly qualify for Presumptive Disability payments include:
- Total blindness
- Total deafness
- Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
- Amputation of legs at the hip
- End-stage renal disease requiring dialysis
- Terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less
Terminal Illnesses (TERI)
SSDI applications based on conditions expected to result in imminent death can be flagged by a Social Security field office representative – or a DDS case examiner – and brought into the TERI program for expedited processing. If you’re receiving inpatient or home hospice care, applied for SSDI for ALS or AIDS, or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, your case will likely qualify for TERI.
Keeping the SSA Informed of Changes to Your Condition
If your condition has changed or worsened after applying for SSDI, it’s critical that you inform the SSA and submit additional supporting medical evidence (from acceptable medical sources) as soon as possible. Mail your medical documentation to your local SSA office or drop it off in person if you haven’t been assigned a DDS claims examiner. However, if your claim has been assigned to an examiner, you can submit the evidence to them directly, using the contact information provided in the notice you received from the SSA.
Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application
Applying for SSDI can be complicated – and having your condition worsen before you’ve received a determination certainly doesn’t make matters any simpler. When you’re disabled and counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished SSDI attorneys offer the skilled guidance you need to secure the benefits you deserve.
Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered. Want to learn more? Request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.
What is the Disability Starter Kit?
Have you had to stop working due to a disabling medical impairment? You may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Disability Starter Kit is the informational packet the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends when you request an appointment to file for SSDI benefits. It’s also available for download on the Social Security website. Here’s what you should know about the Disability Starter Kit, including how it can help you prepare for your initial appointment with the SSA and provide a skilled disability lawyer with the information they need to begin working on your SSDI application.
Your Disability Starter Kit
In addition to a letter with the date, time, and location of your upcoming appointment – which can be in-person at your local Social Security office or over the phone – the kit also contains a fact sheet, adult disability checklist, and medical and job worksheet. Here’s a brief overview of each component.
Social Security Disability Fact Sheet
This sheet provides all the basic information you should know when applying for SSDI. From suggesting that you set aside at least an hour for your in-person or phone interview to advising that free interpreter services are available with advanced notice, it’s a great place to start. You can also find details on the following:
- The SSA’s strict definition of disability
- Duration of disability requirements
- How Social Security makes disability decisions
- How long it can take to receive a decision
- Ways to speed up the application process
- What types of benefits you might receive if approved
Adult Disability Checklist
The SSA offers Adult Disability Checklists that can help you get organized and ready for your appointment. There are two versions available that differ slightly, depending on whether you’re applying in person or by phone, or online. The checklists recommend gathering the following information, as applicable:
- Medical records in your possession (a disability attorney or the SSA can help you get the rest of your records as needed)
- Workers' compensation information, including date of injury, settlement agreement, and proof of other payments awarded for disability
- Names and birth dates of your spouse and minor children
- Marriage and divorce dates
- Checking or savings account number, including your bank's nine-digit routing number (if you want benefit checks direct deposited)
- Someone the SSA can contact if they have trouble reaching you
- A medical release form authorizing your providers to disclose information to the SSA
- A completed Medical and Job Worksheet (can also be completed online)
Adult Medical and Job Worksheet
This worksheet asks you to compile information about your medical conditions, treating physicians, medications, medical tests, and job history. Specifically, you’ll be asked to list:
- All of the physical, mental, or emotional conditions or learning problems that limit your ability to work
- If you've stopped working and, if so, when
- Your height and weight without shoes
- Any doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, or emergency rooms you have visited
- because of your conditions
- The medicines you take, reasons for taking them, and the name of the prescribing provider
- Any medical tests you had or are going to have in the future
- Up to five jobs you've had in the 15 years before you became disabled (including job title, types of business, state and end dates, hours per day and days per week, and rate of pay)
Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application
Even when you have the Disability Starter Kit to assist you, applying for SSDI can be complicated and confusing. It’s also notoriously challenging – with the vast majority of claims initially denied. When you’re unable to work on counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. At Keefe Disability Lawyers, our knowledgeable and experienced Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish – and help you avoid common mistakes that could result in delays or denials.
Schedule a Consultation
We offer free initial consultations. Complete the online contact form or call us at (508) 283-5500 to have your SSDI applications answered by a member of our highly-skilled legal team.
Can I collect SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time?
Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two programs that provide monthly payments to disabled individuals: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In some cases, you may be eligible to collect benefits from both programs at once, something the SSA calls concurrent benefits. Here’s what you should know about the SSDI and SSI disability programs when you might qualify for concurrent benefits and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you navigate the application process.
SSDI Versus SSI
Though Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both provide monthly payments to people who qualify, the programs have very different eligibility requirements.
SSDI is a payroll-tax-funded government program for disabled workers. Eligibility is based on whether the applicant amassed enough work credits by working in jobs that pay into the Social Security trust fund through a dedicated payroll tax with contributions from workers and their employers.
SSI is a needs-based program for individuals with low incomes and very limited financial resources who are disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old. Unlike SSDI, SSI has nothing to do with your employment or earnings history. In fact, applicants can qualify for SSI even if they’ve never worked.
Qualifying for Concurrent Benefits
It is sometimes possible to get concurrent disability benefits, collecting both SSDI and SSI at the same time. This could happen if you are approved for SSDI but receive a small monthly benefit award based on a history of low-wage earnings or because you haven’t worked much in the past ten years. If your total income, including SSDI, is less than the current SSI monthly payment amount ($841 in 2022), you may qualify for concurrent benefits. However, things like SSI asset limits ($2,000 in countable resources for individuals and $3,000 for couples in 2022), state income limits, income earned during trial work periods, and other factors can affect your eligibility. To understand how your specific circumstances could impact your eligibility for SSDI and SSI benefits, talk to an experienced disability attorney who’s successfully handled concurrent benefit claims.
Understanding the Benefits of a Concurrent Claim
The main and most obvious benefit of a concurrent disability claim is that, if approved, it allows you to raise a low monthly SSDI payment to the SSI maximum ($841 per month in 2022), but that’s far from the only benefit. Approval for benefits can take months or years, but with a concurrent claim, you may be eligible for back pay from both SSDI and SSI for some of the time you spent waiting. Other benefits include:
- Both programs can help you access needed health care (Medicaid for SSI and Medicare for SSDI)
- SSI benefits start immediately after approval, while SSDI benefits have a five-month waiting period; a concurrent claim lets you collect SSI benefits while you wait for SSDI benefits to begin
Applying for Concurrent Benefits
The Social Security disability application process is notoriously frustrating, with up to 70 percent of applicants initially denied benefits. With that in mind, you might expect the process for applying for SSDI and SSI to be twice as complicated. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. When you complete and submit your application for either disability program, the SSA determines which program you qualify for and whether you’re eligible for concurrent benefits.
Get Experienced Help With Your Social Security Disability Application
When you can’t work due to disability and are counting on much-needed SSDI or SSI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Working with a seasoned disability attorney when preparing your application can help you avoid common mistakes that lead to denied claims and increase your chances for approval. Ready to find out how we can assist you?
Schedule a Consultation
Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of the Keefe Disability Law legal team.
What are the benefits of hiring a disability attorney to handle my SSDI appeal?
If you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but were denied benefits, you’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies between 60 and 70 percent of SSDI applications each year, often due to insufficient medical evidence or mistakes in the application paperwork.
Once you’ve received a denial letter, you have just 60 days (roughly two months) to initiate an appeal. That’s hardly enough time to learn the complexities of the SSDI appeals process, especially when you’re in such poor health. Don’t go at it alone.
Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced disability appeals lawyer to represent you can save you considerable stress, time, and effort – not to mention improve your chances for a successful outcome. Here’s what you should know about appealing an SSDI denial and how the exceptional Boston disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you.
Experience That Matters
Appealing an SSDI denial can be confusing, frustrating, and more than a little intimidating. At Keefe Disability Law, we know the ins and outs of the complex Social Security disability system – and how to make it work for our clients. Since 1994, our adept attorneys have helped thousands of disabled clients get the financial benefits they need to survive when a severe medical impairment prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA).
Understanding the SSDI Appeals Process
The SSDI appeals process has four levels. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect – and the benefits of having skilled representation – at each level.
- Reconsideration. The first level of appeal is a complete reevaluation of your claim by a disability examiner not involved in the initial decision. You can submit new or additional evidence for review. Our attorneys can review your initial applications, correct mistakes or omissions, and assist you in obtaining the evidence needed to convey the severity of your condition to the SSA.
- Hearing by an administrative law judge. If you received a denial at the reconsideration level, you can request a hearing by an ALJ. This hearing has strict procedural and evidentiary rules that you’re unlikely to know as a layperson. Having a seasoned lawyer at this stage can increase your chances for approval.
- Review by the Appeals Council. If you disagree with the ALJ’s ruling, the next step is to request an Appeals Council review. From there, the council could dismiss your request and uphold the ALJ ruling, issue a new decision, or return the matter to the ALJ for further action. Our attorneys will advocate for your best interests at every step.
- Federal Court review. If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision or the council refuses your request for review, you can file a civil lawsuit in a Federal district court. This last level of appeal involves complex litigation, which makes having a skilled disability attorney absolutely imperative.
Our Contingency Agreements Mean You CAN Afford a Disability Attorney
SSDI applicants are often reluctant to hire a disability attorney because they’re worried they can’t afford the expense. Fortunately, Keefe Disability Law accepts cases on contingency so that you can take advantage of accomplished legal representation without concern for the cost. There are no upfront fees, and you pay nothing unless we win your case. If you’re approved for SSDI, we receive a portion of your back pay. The SSA pays us directly, while you receive a check for the remainder of your back-pay, so you never have to worry about the cost of our services. Have questions? Talk to us about your SSDI claim and our contingency agreements.
Schedule a Consultation
Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of Keefe Disability Law’s legal team. For more information, browse our online FAQs or request a free download of our informative guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.
Can I get SSDI if I can no longer use my hands?
Yes. Most jobs – even those that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers unskilled and sedentary – require the use of the hands and fingers. If you’re unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a loss of hand function, such as reduced muscle strength or limited gripping or pinching capability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here’s what you should know about how the SSA evaluates claims involving manipulative limitations of the hands and how Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished attorneys can help you apply and fight for the benefits you deserve.
Conditions That Can Affect Hand and Finger Function
Loss of hand function can be caused by a wide range of injuries and disorders, including:
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can affect the hands, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities that make completing everyday activities difficult.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve is pinched or compressed at the wrist, causing numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand and forearm and, in some cases, permanent hand dysfunction that includes weakness and loss of sensation in the fingers.
- Neuropathy. Whether caused by a traumatic injury, infection, or complication of a disease like diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the hands can result in debilitating weakness, numbness, and pain.
- Cervical disc disease with radiculopathy. This condition happens when a cushioning disc in the cervical spine begins breaking down, compressing or irritating a nerve in the neck and causing burning pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the arms and hands.
Qualifying for SSDI for Loss of Hand Function
In addition to meeting the SSA’s substantial gainful activity requirements, meaning that you aren’t currently working or earning more than the SGA cap ($1,350 monthly for most applicants or $2,260 per month for blind claimants in 2022), you must have a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that’s severe enough to prevent employment for at least 12 months or result in death. Disability Determination Services (DDS) considers the nature of your injury or illness and the extent of the limitations it causes to decide if you qualify for benefits. When evaluating an SSDI application that includes loss of hand function, the disability examiner needs to know if your condition prevents fine and gross motor movements, such as pinching, picking, fingering, manipulating, handling, grasping, gripping, holding, writing, typing, and reaching. Good use of the hands and fingers isn’t just essential in the workplace; it can also affect your ability to maintain personal hygiene, cook or feed yourself, or perform other vital daily tasks.
Proving Your Disability
Regardless of whether your SSDI application is based on loss of hand function or it’s simply one of the multiple impairments included in your claim, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, electromyography (EMGs), nerve conduction studies, and tests that measure the range of motion and grip and pinch strength can serve as strong supporting evidence. Additionally, because DDS reviews your past relevant work and assesses your ability to adapt to a new job, the opinion or testimony of a vocational expert can help convey the severity and extent of your limitations. Our Boston disability lawyers can connect you with qualified physicians and vocational experts.
Let Our Exceptional Attorneys Assist You With Your SSDI Application
Losing hand functioning can greatly narrow your options for substantial gainful employment. After all, even if you can sit at a desk for a full eight hours, most sedentary jobs involve repetitive hand movements and good use of the hands and fingers. Having trouble using your hands? Let Keefe Disability Law assist with your application.
Talk to Us About Your Claim
Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Boston legal team. For more information, request a complimentary download of our report, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Process.