Applying for Social Security disability benefits means beginning a lengthy, often frustrating process. As of February 2017, applicants in Indianapolis have to wait an average of 19 months between requesting a hearing and actually having one. That doesn’t include the time spent submitting an initial application or getting a rejection.
Here are our top 7 tips for how to apply for disability in Indiana:
1. Determine Your Eligibility
The Social Security Administration (SSA) occasionally makes changes to their Listing of Impairments, which is a list of conditions that qualify a person to receive Social Security disability benefits.
The Listing of Impairments can be confusing to navigate, and it can be difficult to determine whether or not your condition(s) qualify you for disability. That’s one reason it’s a good idea to contact an Indiana Social Security disability attorney for a free consultation to see if you’re a good candidate for disability benefits.
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
DIB is for people who have been employed long enough to gain “insured status.” This means that while they worked, they paid Social Security taxes. You must pay into the system of Social Security through your taxes in order to be eligible for DIB.
Your work history determines how many work credits you have. Work credits show that you have paid into the Social Security system and qualify you to receive payment from the system. If you work full time and pay your Social Security taxes, you earn four work credits a year.
According to the SSA, if you became disabled in your sixties, you need 40 credits, half of which were earned in the 10 years before you became disabled. If you became disabled at an earlier age or are blind, you need fewer credits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a needs-based program, not work-based like DIB. To qualify for SSI, you must qualify as disabled and meet certain asset and income limits. (SSI also assists people 65 years and older who do not have disabilities but who meet the financial limits.)
Unlike DIB, you can qualify for SSI without ever having worked before. However, the amount of income your household brings in can affect the amount you earn in SSI each month.
You may be eligible for one or both of these disability benefit programs. An Indiana Social Security disability lawyer can help you determine which program is best for you.
2. Get Your Doctor’s Confirmation of Your Condition
Disability applicants need written confirmation of their condition from their doctor(s) when they apply—otherwise, further delays are likely.
Your doctor can be a great ally in your quest for disability benefits. Doctors can explain exactly how your condition(s) will prevent you from working. Their expert opinion can be a powerful factor working in your favor.
Your doctor’s confirmation is also a good way for the SSA to see that you’re seeking treatment and responsibly following your doctor’s advice. Imagine, for example, that you have terrible stomach pain that keeps you from being able to work. If you go to the doctor and receive a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, the SSA will see that your condition is truly debilitating and that you’ve exhausted all of your treatment options before turning to disability benefits. If, however, you never get a doctor’s confirmation of your condition, it will be impossible for the SSA to know if your stomach pain is Crohn’s disease or something more mild that could be cured with the proper medication or treatment.
3. Prepare a Detailed Medical History
Applicants for disability need a thorough medical record that demonstrates how their condition(s) interfere with their ability to work.
Many people focus on their most debilitating condition but forget that all of their conditions will be factors in their approval for disability benefits. If you suffer from the loss of a limb, for example, that may be your most serious condition. But if you also suffer from PTSD, then that also contributes to your condition and affects your ability to work.
A detailed medical history will show all of your conditions and how they affect your daily life and your ability to work.
4. Compile Work History Data
For DIB, applicants must show that they have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years in order to qualify. If you do not have a sustained work history, that is a good indicator that you will be a better candidate for SSI instead of DIB.
Your work history will show that you have paid Social Security taxes and therefore are eligible to withdraw benefits from the Social Security system. If you have a good work history but were paid “under the table” or didn’t pay your taxes, you will be ineligible for DIB.
If you’re still working while you’re applying for DIB, it may be more difficult to prove that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain amount is generally considered to be performing SGA. If you can perform SGA, you are ineligible for DIB. IN 2017, the SGA for the non-blind disabled is $1,170 per month (gross).
5. Seek Assistance
Nearly 70 percent of those who apply for disability in Indiana are denied. That isn’t necessarily because they aren’t disabled or don’t really qualify for benefits. Often, it’s because of mistakes made on the initial application or an incorrect belief that a first rejection is a final rejection. In fact, you can appeal a rejection and even request a hearing if you are rejected yet again.
Often, many people believe they don’t need professional help to file for disability because you just have to file a few forms. However, mistakes on your initial application will follow you through all levels of your application process. The earlier you involve professional help, the higher your chances of success will be.
At Hensley Legal Group, we offer free, no-obligation consultations. Call us today and we’ll discuss your case and help you determine whether you’re a good candidate for DIB or SSI.
6. Meet All Deadlines
If your initial claim is denied, you only have 60 days to appeal the decision. A missed deadline means starting all over again.
If you do hire an attorney to help with your case, it’s important to meet any further deadlines that your case manager gives you, whether it’s to provide specific documentation or attend your hearing. To stay informed of approaching deadlines, you should make sure your attorney and case manager have your current phone number and email address so they can stay in contact with you throughout the application process.
7. Be Persistent
As mentioned before, nearly 70 percent of all initial applicants for disability benefits get denied. However, of those who file an appeal, nearly half will receive their benefits if they continue to a hearing.
The process can be long and frustrating, but at the end of it all, if you are approved for disability, it will be worth it.
Still, you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. An Indiana Social Security disability attorney can help ease the process, answer your questions about DIB and SSI, and help you avoid making mistakes on your application. In order to get back on track with your disability benefits claim, download a copy of our free book, 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits. Call Hensley Legal Group today for a free, no-obligation consultation, and let us see if we can help with your case.