One question I sometimes hear from potential clients is "How do I even know I should apply for benefits? What are the requirements to initially file?"
Here are the four main requirements you should meet before you submit a Social Security Disability application.
1. You must be 18 years of age or older.
This requirement is fairly straightforward - but did you know that this minimum age requirement is not the only age-specific rule for Social Security Disability claims?
Social Security has special rules for 55-60 year olds and for people 60 to full retirement age. (The basic idea is that an older worker cannot make a vocational adjustment as easily as a younger worker, so the rules are changed to accomodate their situation.)
Here is a chart from Social Security that illustrates the various medical-vocational rules: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-app-p02.htm
2. You must be unable to work because of a medical condition expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
There is some technicality to the phrase "unable to work". Many people have the misconception that disability means you are completely incapacitated. This is not the case. A large amount of those who receive disability benefits are still physically able to do some work.
The rule of thumb here is that your earnings cannot exceed the limit set by Social Security called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Substantial Gainful Activity for 2016 is $1,090.00.
More on this topic: Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance: 5 Frequently Asked Questions
3. You must not have been denied for Social Security Disability benefits in the past 60 days.
If you have submitted an application and been denied within the last 60 days, you should file an appeal rather than starting the application process all over again.
If you were denied for medical reasons, you can request an appeal online and submit scanned documents to support your appeal here: https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/appeal.html
Disclaimer: I highly recommend involving a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability lawyer before filing an appeal (if you have not already!). A lawyer will look at your documentation and make suggestions to strengthen your claim and increase your chances of being approved.
4. You must have a valid Social Security number.
If you have lost your Social Security card or don't remember your number, you can request a new card from the Social Security Administration here: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/
For a list of information to have at hand while filling out your application, visit this page. https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/apply.html#&a0=2
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative.