Only 65% of people who ask for Florida Disability get approved to receive benefits the first time they apply. For someone who’s lost the ability to work, that’s a terrifying prospect.

The only good news is that more than half of those who appeal their denial receive benefits in the end. Even still, if you can’t work, you need money now so it’s better to get approved the first time.

For this reason, it’s in your best interest to have a solid understanding of Social Security Disability and how to qualify. If you’re seeking disability benefits, read on to learn more so you’re not left in a lurch

What Is Social Security Disability (SSD)?

Every time you receive a paycheck, your employer should take out taxes and pay them on your behalf. Social Security is one such tax your employer pays.

Unlike other taxes, when you put money towards Social Security (SS), it gets put aside. Should you ever become disabled and are unable to work, you can draw on this money so you still have income. In this way, it’s almost like you’re paying into a rainy day fund or insurance policy.

SSD Versus SSI

You can get SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, whether you have paid into SS or not if you have a financial need.

To qualify for SSI, an adult or child must have no more than $2,000 worth of resources. The max resource limit for a couple is $3,000. Besides having a qualifying financial need, you must also be at least 65 or older, blind or disabled.

It’s possible to qualify for both SSD and SSI if your financial need is still great enough after receiving SSD.

For clarity, the rest of this article is about SSD.

Applying for SSD

You have three ways to apply for SSD. You can apply online, call the administration at 1-800-325-0778 or arrange an on-site appointment.

Once you apply, you’ll have a disability interview or hearing to help establish your eligibility. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a free Disability Starter Kit. You can use the kit to help prepare you for the application and interview processes.

The starter kit includes the following:

  • A list of FAQ’s for disability applicants
  • A checklist of documents and information you’ll need to help determine eligibility
  • A worksheet to help you organize the information you’ve gathered

Having all the information you need upfront can help make sure you don’t miss something that could help you get approved.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply?

You don’t need a disability lawyer when you first apply for SSD, but having one may increase the chances of your initial claim getting approved.

A lawyer familiar with disability claims can point out common pitfalls to avoid. They can also review your situation and prepare you for the interview process.

Getting one isn’t even as scary as you may first think.

How Much Will My Lawyer Charge Me?

A lawyer helping you with your disability claim can’t take more than 25% of your awarded past-due benefits. Additionally, the lawyer fees can’t come out of your monthly benefits. The SSA can also cap lawyer fees that exceed $25,000.

The average monthly SSD award is $1,237. As an example, let’s say you’ve already been out of work for six months before you start getting paid. Under these circumstances, you could expect to receive $7,422 in back pay.

The lawyer who assists you with your claim can take no more than a quarter of that amount, or $1855.50. Since the funds get taken out of back pay, your regular SSD income of $1,237 per month remains unaffected.

Qualifying for Disability

The SSA considers a disability as any condition that makes it impossible for a person to take part in gainful work for a year or more. Outside of this, the SSA asks six major questions to help determine eligibility.

1. How Much Have You Worked?

Work credits are what the government uses to tell if you have put enough toward SSD to qualify for benefits. Every year, an amount of earnings gets designated as what’s needed to earn a work credit. In 2019, the magic number is $1,360.

For every $1,360 of reported income you receive in 2019, you’ll earn one work credit, up to the max of four. Most people need a total of 40 credits, half of which must’ve been earned within the last ten years. Younger individuals may qualify for benefits with fewer credits.

2. Are You Conducting Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA?

This is a convoluted way of asking if you’re involved in activities that could translate to income. For 2019, the SSA determined that SGA equates to activities that could earn you more than $1220 per month.

Note, this doesn’t mean you have to have earned income from said activities. Your claim could get denied if you help someone else earn money while on disability, even if you aren’t paid. The idea here is that by doing the work, you’ve proven you could still earn a paycheck.

3. Is Your Condition “Severe”?

For the record, “severe,” is not as severe as it sounds. The SSA only needs to find that your condition impairs your basic ability to work. If you can’t stand, walk, lift or sit, there is a good chance you qualify for benefits.

4. Is Your Disability on the SSA’s List of Impairments?

The SSA has developed a List of Impairments to help streamline the claim process. If all of the following is true, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t receive benefits:

  • You meet the criteria up to this point
  • Your disability appears on the List of Impairments
  • Your affliction meets the listing’s approval requirements

Use this link to find out if your disability is on the list. If you don’t see your condition, it’s okay. There are still two other things the SSA looks at to determine eligibility.

You may yet qualify.

5. Can You Do Other Relateable Work?

At this point, the SSA understands you can’t continue working at your current job. The next thing they want to know is can you do something else instead.

They’ll start by looking at your work history from the last 15 years. This helps them understand your relative experience so they can tell if you’re qualified for other work.

The SSA doesn’t care if you can get the job or not. They only want to know if you’re capable of doing the work.

6. Is There Any Work You Can Do?

The SSA has now ruled out jobs you’ve done before, so now they turn to careers you haven’t tried. They take into account your education, age and work history to determine if there is any job you can do.

While they are searching for anything you could possibly do to earn money, they aren’t looking to make it impossible for you to get work. They’ll only consider careers with enough viable opportunities for work.

If they find you’re still unable to work, you’ll receive disability benefits.

How Much Will I Get from Florida Disability?

The amount you’re awarded for SSD depends on how much you were earning before you became disabled. Depending on your prior earnings, you could receive anywhere from $300 to $2,200 per month.

For How Long Will I Receive My Benefits?

When you can’t return to work and must stay on disability, you receive benefits until you turn 65. If you’re still getting SSD payments at 65, your award converts from SSD benefits to retirement benefits. The amount you receive from retirement benefits is the same as what you received from SSD.

If you go back to work, you can continue getting SSD benefits for up to nine months after returning. If you were also getting Medicare benefits, you continue to receive them for 8.5 years after going back.

The SSA understands how scary it can be to resume work after being on disability. This extension of benefits gives you a safety blanket as you re-enter the workplace. Now if you find that you can’t continue to work, you still have the help you need to pay your bills.

My Claim Was Denied! What Now?!

If you find yourself among the many who get turned down the first time they file for Florida disability, don’t worry. You have 60 days to file for an appeal. Most people who get denied their first time around have their request granted when their case gets heard before a judge.

Having an attorney who understands the ins and outs of SSD can help improve your chances of approval. A lawyer can help you understand why your claim got denied so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Reasons you may get denied for benefits include:

  • Not haven’t had your disability for 12 months
  • You’re continuing to work
  • You waited too long to apply
  • You didn’t have enough medical evidence to support your claim

If your claim was denied, you can speak with us for free. Call 904 LAW-1212 anytime, day or night! You can also contact us anytime through our website.

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