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Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security is one of several potential sources of financial support for people who cannot work due to an injury or illness. As with any form of financial support from the government, Social Security disability benefits are subject to a range of restrictions and prerequisites. The benefits may also affect one’s ability to get financial support through other sources, so anyone considering applying for Social Security benefits should examine not just the rules for the program itself but also how it may play into a larger strategy of making ends meet while off work. Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits requires a number of specific elements. The first is that the applicant must have paid into the Social Security system by working in jobs that contribute to it. People who work in jobs that are exempt from Social Security will not qualify. Second, the applicant must be disabled in accordance with the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of the term. For Social Security purposes disability means:
  • The applicant is unable to do the work he or she did before the injury or illness due to limitations in the applicant’s physical or mental abilities.
  • The applicant’s condition makes switching to different work untenable.
  • The condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or is expected to result in the applicant’s death.
In addition to these prerequisites, a condition also must appear on the SSA’s list of impairments. Although this list is quite extensive, it may not capture every potential condition that could disrupt someone’s ability to work. This is especially important to keep in mind if a physician providing a diagnosis is doing so with a mixed set of incentives, as can be the case for physicians who conduct screening for insurers.

Social Security disability and other sources of support

For people who have been disabled as a consequence of an injury, questions often arise as to how Social Security disability benefits may affect, and be affected by, workers’ compensation claims, personal injury settlements, and state disability benefits. There isn’t one answer to this question, which depends on the source of the alternative support and a range of other factors. For example, Social Security disability payments probably will not be affected by a personal injury settlement or favorable judgment. But they may be reduced if disability payments from a state program combine with the Social Security benefits to exceed eighty percent of the applicant’s former annual income. Note that other forms of Social Security payments, like supplemental income (SSI), are subject to different rules. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients find strategies for making ends meet after being injured. We provide personalized advice to each client to ensure that their full circumstances are taken into account as we explore legal solutions together. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.