Social Security disability benefits are governed by federal Social Security laws, not state or local laws, since the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a national agency. Those Social Security laws may have a great impact on your financial future, so it’s important to keep up with any new Social Security disability laws that might be passed to stay informed about your rights.
The majority of federal laws and regulations for Social Security disability benefits are found in Title 42 of the United States Code or in Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, where Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is covered in Part 404.
In addition, rulings over the years have clarified policies and regulations. These rulings are binding on the SSA and are published by the head of the Social Security Administration. Rulings from the year 1960 onward are found on the SSA’s website.
To qualify by law for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must prove these things:
To Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
In short, to be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits, according to Social Security laws, you must be medically eligible as well as financially eligible. The SSA will determine whether your injury or illness is disabling and whether you have earned enough work credits to receive SSDI or financially meet Social Security Criteria.
Each time you earn a certain amount of salary or self-employment income, you get one work credit from the SSA. In 2016, it takes $1,260 of earnings to receive one work credit.
You can earn a maximum of four work credits in one calendar year. To be eligible for SSDI, you generally must have amassed at least 40 work credits over your lifetime, of which 20 must have been earned in the 10-year period leading up to your application date. However, this requirement varies depending on your age.
To receive disability benefits, claimants must prove they have a medical condition that meets the following criteria:
Also, according to Social Security disability laws, the medical disability must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months.
If a claimant still earns a certain amount of money per month, the claimant may be deemed gainfully employed and thus ineligible for SSDI benefits under Social Security laws.
What is “gainfully employed”? That involves the SSA’s determination of “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA.
For 2016, work is generally considered to be SGA if the monthly earnings are more than $1,130 for non-blind disabled applicants or $1,820 for blind applicants. Workers earning above those amounts are considered not disabled by the SSA, since they can engage in employment, and they are ineligible for disability benefits.
Under disability law, the SSA does not take into account any income gained from non-employment sources, such as gifts, investments, or interest.
For instance, regardless of your age, you most likely can withdraw funds from a 401(k) without penalty while receiving SSDI benefits. But keep in mind that those withdrawn funds still will constitute taxable income when you file your tax return.
If you receive SSDI, can your spouse also do so? The answer is yes, in certain circumstances.
For this to happen, under the Social Security disability laws, your spouse must be 62 or older or must be caring for a child entitled on your record who is under 16 or disabled. Also, you must be receiving SSDI benefits for your spouse to do so independently of their own earnings.
Other legal questions involving SSDI include:Can you earn money while receiving disability benefits?
In some cases you can, via a “Ticket to Work” program administered by the SSA. This allows trial work periods when you can work for nine months of trial work followed by a three-month grace period and stay in the program.
If you stay in the workforce beyond those 12 months and earn more than a specified amount, your disability benefits may be suspended.Can children receive disability benefits?
Disability laws and rules also can provide benefits for children. In fact, children and adults who have been disabled since childhood may qualify for SSDI benefits on the work records of their parents.
We know that these complex Social Security disability laws can be intimidating. That’s why we’re here: Let us help you.
Jim Adler & Associates can provide you with a knowledgeable and experienced disability lawyer who understands both old and new Social Security laws. Then, you can claim the disability payments to which you are legally entitled.