About 89% of workers aged 21 to 64 work in companies eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The eligible workers pay Social Security taxes through their payroll that qualify them for regular income in case of severe disabilities that limit their ability to work. In Louisiana, 5.9% of the working population aged 18 to 64 received SSDI benefits in 2020.

While SSDI guarantees you regular income after losing a job due to disability, the technicalities involved in the claim process may delay or deny you the benefits. You might also get frustrated by lengthy appeal processes and give up a claim that is rightfully yours. Luckily, a New Orleans Social Security disability attorney can help you refine your paperwork and enhance your chances of getting your benefits in time. If you need assistance claiming your SSDI benefits in New Orleans, Dudley DeBosier is here to help.    

How Social Security Disability Works

Social Security Disability insurance pays benefits to disabled workers and their dependents. If you are currently disabled and not working, learning how Social Security disability works could simplify your application process.

Social Security’s Definition of Disability

Social Security assists disabled workers who meet the strict definition of disability. Disability according to Social Security standards differs from other programs, and you can only get benefits for total disabilities that last for at least a year. Workers who suffer partial or short-lived disabilities are not eligible. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must demonstrate that:

  • You suffered a disability that limits your ability to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA).
  • You cannot continue working in your previous jobs or get an alternative way to earn an income.
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or may lead to death.

The strict definition of qualifying disability locks out workers who only suffer short-term disability,  receive workers’ compensation, use  savings, or can adjust to other jobs. 

The Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Income (SSI)

Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Social Security income (SSI) are the most prominent federal programs that assist people with disabilities. These programs differ in that SSDI program focuses disabled assistance on work credits based on FICA payroll deductions, while SSI concentrates on age.

When applying for Social Security disability benefits, confusion may arise on which of the two programs best suits your current status. Younger workers should apply for SSDI if they have enough work credits (based on number of quarters worked), while seniors should go for SSI. With the help of a Social Security disability attorney New Orleans residents can pick the right program, depending on their current status.

SSDI Qualification Requirements

You can assess your qualification for SSDI by asking yourself these questions:

Are You Working?

If you are still working and earning an average monthly income of more than $1,350, you do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Can You Continue Working at the Same Type of Job?

You do not qualify if you can still work in the same job. To qualify, you must prove that the disability makes it impossible to continue performing an income-generating activity.

Can You Do Another Type of Work?

If the medical condition makes you unfit for your current job, you may have to prove that you cannot take another job. Your disability must be so severe that it limits your ability to take substantial, gainful employment.

Severity of Condition

You can only qualify if your condition is so severe that it impacts your cognitive and physical abilities. For at least a year, the disability must make it difficult to stand, lift an object, sit, or remember things.      

Is Your Disability on the List of Medical Conditions?

Social Security assesses your disability against a list of medical conditions that may limit your ability to participate in an SGA. You may still qualify even when your medical condition is not found on the list of disabilities. However, you could need the services of a New Orleans Social Security disability attorney to help you with your paperwork and demonstrate that your current condition makes it impossible to work.   

If you are not working or your current job does not meet the definition of SGA, you should forward an application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) for an assessment.

Social Security Rules Exemptions for Special Situations

Blindness or Low Vision

Under Social Security rules, you are legally blind if your vision is not curable to be better than 20/200. You may also qualify if a medical condition exacerbates your low vision  and limits your ability to work. A blind person qualifies for disability benefits even when their average monthly earnings do not exceed $2,260.  

Widows/Widowers, Children with Disabilities

If an eligible worker does not survive, their widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse with a disability can receive their benefits. However, the surviving spouse should be:

  • Between ages 50 and 60.
  • Have a disability as defined by Social Security.

Children younger than 18 years do not need to prove disability to qualify as beneficiaries. However, their qualification expires once they reach the age of majority.

Wounded Service Member and Veterans    

A wounded service member or veteran who becomes disabled while on duty is also eligible for SSDI. They do not have to prove the injury occurred in combat.

Do You Need a Social Security Attorney?

While you can still apply for your SSDI benefits on your own, you could require the assistance of a New Orleans Social Security disability attorney. Filing an SSDI claim involves a lot of paperwork and requires attention to detail to increase your chances of success. Going it alone may appear inexpensive, but technicalities may deny you your rightful benefits. Social Security disability attorneys have the relevant experience required to file conclusive paperwork. If you do not want your application rejected based on inconclusive paperwork, contact Dudley DeBosier to assist you with the documentation.

You may also need a New Orleans Social Security disability attorney with years of experience if SSA denied your first application. While you have an opportunity to appeal SSDI decisions, you may still make the same mistakes if you do not clarify your paperwork.

You could also need a Social Security disability attorney if SSA terminates your benefits prematurely. The attorney can help you solve issues that make Social Security think you are no longer eligible. If you feel the termination was unfair, discuss the matter with your attorney to get legal advice. An experienced attorney will not let you suffer if they can clear the doubts that led to the termination.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability Benefits

Can I get Social Security benefits for partial or short-term disability? 

While partial or short-term disability may impact your ability to work, you can only get SSDI benefits for total disability. Further, the disability should have lasted or is expected to last at least one year.

Can I return to work while getting Social Security disability benefits? 

If your condition improves, you can return to work and continue enjoying your benefits for up to nine months. The nine months are considered a trial work period, meaning you will not lose your benefits. However, you are expected to file a report of changes when you recover and get back to your job. With the assistance of a Social Security disability attorney, New Orleans residents learn when to make a formal report of their recovery.

How long does it take to get a decision after applying for Social Security disability benefits?

You may not get a straight answer to this question since the time taken to get a decision depends on several factors. The waiting time depends on:

  • The nature of your disability.
  • The time Social Security uses to obtain medical evidence of your disability.
  • Whether Social Security finds it necessary to send you for further medical reviews.
  • Whether your application may require a quality review.

A New Orleans Social Security disability attorney could help you complete the paperwork immediately after you get eligible for the benefits to reduce the waiting time.

What are compassionate allowances?

Compassionate allowances are programs designed to help you expedite the application when your condition meets the definition of Social Security disability. You could qualify for compassionate allowances if your disability is certain cancers or brain disorders.

Is there a waiting period before Social Security disability benefits kick in?

Normally, you have to wait for five months after the approval of your application to start getting your benefits. That means, your benefits will kick in on the sixth month. However, if your disability is caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), your benefits may kick in almost immediately.  

Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I already receive veteran benefits?

Veteran benefits do not limit your eligibility for SSDI. You can benefit from the two programs, but you will have to apply for each program separately.

Social Security denied my initial application. Can I appeal?

If SSA declined your application, you can appeal the decision within 60 days after receiving the denial notice.

Process for Appealing Your SSDI or SSI Disability Denial

If SSA denies your application for disability benefits, you have 60 days to appeal. There are four ways of appealing an SSDI or SSI disability denial.

  • Request for reconsideration.
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge.
  • Appeals council review.
  • A U.S. federal court hearing.

Request for Reconsideration

A request for reconsideration varies depending on the reason for denial. SSDI or SSI can deny a disability benefits application on medical or non-medical grounds.   

Appeal for Denial Based on Medical Reasons

If SSA rejects your application on medical grounds, you must file a new application with updated medical information. SSA will provide a checklist to help you correct errors in your previous application. A Social Security disability attorney in New Orleans can help you clarify the paperwork to improve the chances of approval. The appeal is online and takes 40 to 60 minutes. If the appeal needs further corrections, Social Security will contact you.

Appeal for Denial Based on Non-Medical Reasons

When SSA rejects your application on non-medical grounds, such as income levels, you can appeal by calling your local Social Security office or filing an online appeal. You can also call Social Security toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, and request a review. Applicants with a hearing impairment should call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge

If SSA denies your application at the reconsideration stage, you can request a hearing by an administrative judge. You can file an online request for a hearing and follow the Social Security’s directions. You will receive the hearing date and the venue.

Appeals Council Review

You can proceed to the Appeals Council Review if you are not satisfied with the decision of the administrative law judge. The Appeals Council Review may uphold the administrative law judge’s decision or rule in your favor, depending on the medical and non-medical evidence provided.

A U.S. Federal Court Hearing

You can file a civil action in a federal district court if you feel the decision of the Appeals Council Review was unfair. The federal court is the last level of the appeal process.

How Long Does a Social Security Disability Appeal Take in Louisiana?

If SSA denies your initial application, it may take up to one year to get a decision on your appeal. However, this period could be shorter, depending on the nature of your appeal.

Find the Right Social Security Disability Attorney, New Orleans

Paperwork makes the application for SSDI benefits long and tedious. In addition, application errors can also expose you to a lengthy appeal process. Dudley DeBosier New Orleans Injury Lawyers can help you add information to your paperwork to improve your chances of getting approval on your first application.

Dudley DeBosier is an experienced law firm that can help you get a successful outcome for your SSDI claim. Whether you are filing an initial claim or an appeal, our lawyers are here to help. Contact us for a free case assessment or to get help with your SSDI or SSI paperwork.

Social Security Disability Resources in New Orleans

*Resource links are informational only. Dudley DeBosier does not endorse or sponsor businesses listed.

Reviewed by Chad Lederman at the New Orleans Dudley DeBosier office.