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A Look at How Income Affects Social Security Disability

People often use term “entitlements” or “entitlement program” when they are speaking out against the state and federal social service programs that allow people to take care of their families and make ends meet. While there are many misconceptions about the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, it is not a program that anyone could rightfully call an entitlements program.

money-problemsThe reason for this is because the Social Security Disability Insurance program works a lot like a private insurance policy that covers a long term disability. In order to qualify for SSDI, a worker must be employed for enough consecutive fiscal quarters to earn the requisite number of credits. If an employee has enough quarterly credits at the time of becoming disabled, he or she is said to have paid into the system. This is much like paying a premium in a private long term disability plan.

The amount of quarterly credits an employee must earn to quality for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits depends on the employee’s age at time of disability. In addition to having the requisite number of quarterly credits, an employee must also the requirements of being disabled. While this may seem like common sense, the way in which the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) runs the program is far from common sense. In reality, the program uses an archaic Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to determine if a claimant meets the requirements of being disabled.

It is not a question of whether you can work your old job, or even a comparable job, it is question of whether you can work any job in the local or national economies. This means that if you were a nuclear engineer making over a hundred thousand dollars per year when you became injured, the administrative law judge (ALJ) could determine you are not disabled because you can work part time as a grocery bagger.   The ALJ will often call on the assistance of a so-called vocational expert to determine if you have a residual functioning capacity that allows you to work in any way.

While this is supposed to be an independent expert witness, he or she is an employee of the Social Security Administration and, in most cases, will find that a claimant is not disabled. For that matter, the ALJ is supposed to be neutral but is also an employee of Social Security Administration and will find against a claimant whenever possible. This is especially true in the case of a claimant who does not have a Boston disability lawyer to represent him or her during the hearing, as the decks are stacked very much against unrepresented claimants.

One of the common misconceptions about the Social Security Disability Insurance program is that you will not qualify if you do not live in a very low-income household or if you own your own home. As discussed in a recent news feature from the Grand Forks Herald, the SSDI program is not income dependent. However, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is another disability program SSA administers, is only available for certain disabled Americans who live in a low-income household.

If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

SOCIAL SECURITY Q&A: Can I own a home and receive SSA disability?, December 27, 2015, Grand Forks Herald, By H. Koss

More Blog Entries:
Hanson v. Colvin: A Critical Look by a Court of Appeals on a Denial of Benefits, August 14, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog.