7 Common Misconceptions about Social Security Disability Benefits

Many people have certain ideas and assumptions when it comes to Social Security Disability Benefits. It’s important to understand how the program works and what assumptions are just myths. You want to get the most out of Social Security when you reach that point, so you need to know the best way to proceed and a large part of that is knowing the truth.

Misconceptions about Social Security Disability Benefits

7 common misconceptions about Social Security Disability Benefits:

  1. Assuming that you will be denied benefits.
    Sometimes people wonder why they should bother filing because they assume that they will be denied. If you are denied, you can always appeal.
  2. Social Security Disability benefits will replace most of your work income.
    The program is designed to help people pay for basic needs. It is not designed and will not replace all of your work-related income.
  3. If your doctor says you’re disabled, you will qualify.
    The decision is technically a legal one, not a medical one. The final decision is up to the Social Security Administration, but your doctor’s documentation will help prove your case.
  4. Once you qualify, you’re in for life.
    This is possible, but it’s not an automatic thing. Your medical condition will be reviewed periodically for any improvement.
  5. The first step is hiring a lawyer.
    It may be beneficial to work with a lawyer, but the first step is talking to your doctor. You also need to make sure that you’re following the treatment suggestions from your doctor to assure that you’re trying to improve your condition.
  6. Your payments will kick in automatically.
    You should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits as soon as possible. You don’t want to run out of money while you’re waiting. The processing of your file will take three to five months. Then, your first payment will be for the sixth full month after your disability effective date.
  7. The possibility of becoming disabled is low.
    This possibility is actually higher than you think. One in four 20 year old workers who are insured for these benefits will become disabled before retirement age hits.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits can be an intimidating process, so it’s important to understand how it works. Please contact us with any questions about the best way to move forward with your case.

How long should it take to find out if you are eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Because every claim is different, there is no time frame that can be set to determine how long the SSD benefit process will take. There are numerous variables that need to be considered when figuring out how long an applicant should expect to wait, which includes how many times an applicant has been through the process already. There is no guarantee that you will be approved right away and each level of the SSD benefits process takes a considerable amount of time.

Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits

Average time span for each level of the process

Generally, it takes 30-90 days to receive a decision from Social Security on your first claim. If you do receive a denial after your initial claim, you can appeal and expect to hear back within 60 days. If you are denied again, you can appeal and fill out a request to have a hearing with a disability judge. Unfortunately, because this is a tedious process, it is the most overwhelming and longest of the levels. Because hearing’s happen so often when it comes to filing for SSD benefits, applicants wait at least a year before having a hearing. Though it is a time costing process, it is the level that is most likely to receive an approval.

How to get fast answers with disability claims

Though some of the levels in the process take time, some disability applicants don’t have to go through this entire process their first time. There is a process called TERI, which designates certain cases such as a terminal illness and will approve the claim in 30 days or less. There are other programs that make for a quick turnaround time — quick disability determination and Compassionate Allowances. The quick disability determination program will analyze certain parts of the claim if it is likely that it will be approved. The compassionate allowances program helps SS determine claims that involve conditions that meet the qualifications in the Blue Book impairment listings.

Generally speaking, almost, if not all, disability applications that are approved are processed in 90 days or less. Even if an applicant is denied initially, but the reconsideration is approved, the applicant is likely to be approved in 6 months or less. It is important to understand that roughly 65 percent of the initial claims are denied at first.

If you have chronic alcoholism, can you receive Social Security Disability benefits?

Like any Social Security Administration — SSA — disability, your chronic alcoholism needs to meet requirements that are in the listed section in the Blue Book. If your impairments meet a medical condition that is listed, then you may be eligible for SSD benefits. If you did quit drinking alcohol, but meet the requirements, you will still be considered disabled.

Disability Benefits for Chronic Alcoholism

Unfortunately, your diagnosis of chronic alcoholism will not prove that you are disabled according to SSA. Though, there are many people with chronic alcoholism that end up having physical and mental changes due to alcohol that have limited their ability to function at work and perform basic daily skills. If you are still drinking, the SSA will advise that you stop drinking because that will help improve your condition to where you will no longer be disabled and no longer need to be on disability benefits.

What Qualifies As a Substance Addiction Disorder

  • Neurocognitive Disorders: This disorder is a decrease in mental function that is caused by damage to your brain because of a disease or injury. Chronic alcoholism frequently causes neurocognitive disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder as decrease in judgment, memory loss, poor social judgment, and a lack of coordination, just to name a few. Your deficits should limit you in work and performing daily duties that you were once able to perform.
  • Depressive Syndrome: Depressive is oftentimes caused by alcoholism and can be evaluated in mood disorders in the Blue Book.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Alcoholism can lead to long-term anxiety, whether people believe that or not. There is more information on anxiety disorders, but it is the most common emotional disorder.
  • Peripheral Neuropathies: This happens when there is damage that has been done to your peripheral nervous. This system is involved with transmitting information from your brain to your body. Alcoholism can cause what we call peripheral neuropathy.
  • Liver Damage: Most of the liver disease that is in the U.S. is caused because of alcoholism. Liver damage that is done because of an excessive amount of alcohol consumption is a common listing for disability.
  • Gastritis: A common cause for gastritis is extreme alcohol abuse. The excessive amount of alcohol inflames the lining in your stomach and that is how this disease is caused. This will be listed under the digestive system in the Blue Book.
  • Pancreatitis: The pancreas is a main target when consuming a lot of alcohol. This will cause the pancreas to inflame.
  • Seizures: Sometimes referred to as “rum fits,” heavy drinking can lead to seizures, whether a person is epileptic or not.

It is critical to stop drinking to help improve your disorder. This will give you a faster turnaround time so you can not be considered disabled anymore. At times, SSA will require that you quit drinking for at least 30 days so they can see if your symptoms have improved at all. If applying for disability benefits for chronic alcohol, please consult with a lawyer.

How Does the SSA Determine Retirement Benefit Payment Amounts?

Most American’s spend their entire adult lives working hard at our jobs. Our reward at the end of our long careers is the right to collect Social Security retirement benefits. These benefits are meant to provide income for people after they stop working so they have a means to pay their bills. You can be eligible for retirement benefits if you worked enough quarters at a job that requires you to pay into the Social Security system. Your monthly retirement benefit amount is determined by the amount you have paid into the system throughout your working years. Here is some important information about how your Social Security benefit is determined.

How Much Will Social Security Pay Me

Qualifying for Benefits

You must have earned at least 40 credits to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.
You earn one credit for every $1,300 you earn. But, you can only earn a maximum of four credits per year.

Factors that Affect Your Benefit Amount

The primary factor for determining your retirement benefit is the amount of money you earned while you were working. The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at the average amount of money you made in your 35 highest-earning work years before you turned 62. The SSA also looks at the age at which you start taking your benefits and any other sources of income you may have, such as a pension, when determining your benefit amount.

Factors That do not Affect Your Benefit Amount

Your benefit amount is not necessarily determined by the number of years you have worked and paid into the Social Security system. The SSA only looks at the 35 years in which you made the most money. Similarly, adjusting the amount of hours you work or accepting less pay as you near the end of your career will not negatively affect your benefit amount.

Calculating Your Social Security Amount

You can estimate the amount of your monthly retirement benefit by following these five steps:

  • Determine your total earnings. The SSA looks at the 35 years in which you made the most money, up to a maximum of $127,200 annually. Any years that you did not work count as zero income.
  • Divide the amount in step one by 420 months (35 years X 12 months a year) and round down to the nearest dollar. This number is your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME).
  • Determine your benefit amount at the age you are first eligible to receive full benefits. (90% of your first $885 of AIME) + 32% of AIME above $885 and through $5,336) + (15% of AIME above $5,336)
  • Determine your Benefit if you retire early. If you retire early and want to collect benefits, the amount you receive will be reduced.
  • Determine any reductions for earned income while you receive benefits. If you make any kind of income while you also receive retirement benefits, your payment amount will be reduced. For every two dollars you make, your retirement benefit will be reduced by one dollar.

If you have any questions about the amount of retirement benefits you will receive, contact the Clauson Law Firm today.

Can drug addicts and alcoholics get disability benefits?

If you’ve suffered from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or you know someone who has, then you already know the devastating effect it can have on your ability to live a full, normal life. Because of addiction, many people find it difficult to hold down a full-time job. In this situation, you might be wondering if a program like Social Security Disability (SSDI) could help you. You might be wondering, are there disability benefits for drug addicts?

Disability Benefits for Alcoholics and Drug Addicts

In short, the answer to this question is no. While there are benefits available for a great many things, an addiction problem like drugs or alcohol is currently not covered. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no hope. While the addiction itself might not be covered – even though it has severely impacted your life – it’s possible that there are physical or mental side effects to your addiction that are, in fact, covered.

It is well-known that chronic drug use can cause damage to your mind and body. Even if you are finally able to break the addiction, these impairments might never go away. It’s these conditions that SSDI might still be able to cover. While the SSA no longer carries a specific list of drug-related conditions that qualify, you can still apply for SSDI benefits if you can show you suffer from any of these long-term conditions. This list of conditions includes, but is not limited to, brain damage, liver damage, gastritis, pancreatitis, peripheral neuropathy, seizures, depression, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder.

To be considered eligible, however, the same conditions apply as for anyone applying to receive benefits. You must first be able to prove that you suffer from this condition. This is done through the submission of medical records and documents. You must also be able to show that this is a long-term condition (lasting for at least 12 months) and that it has severely impacted your ability to work or make money – in fact, your income can not exceed the limit of $1,170 per month.

This information is crucial if you are going to build your case, and it is vital that you keep thorough and complete records. Once you have them, you file your claim like everyone else and wait for an answer.

So, while there might not be specific disability benefits for drug addicts, you can still qualify for SSDI payments under certain conditions. If you would like to know more, please contact us today.

Mental Illness and Disability Benefits

There are many different conditions that qualify for SSI disability benefits. Many times people may think of physical conditions first, but mental illnesses can be just as, if not more, debilitating. There are a variety of mental illnesses that are covered and qualify for SSI disability benefits. It’s important to know which of these qualify and how to go about proving that yours does as well.

Mental Illness and Disability Benefits

When evaluating your condition, whether it is mental or physical, it is imperative to consult the listings on the ssa.gov website. This lists many of the conditions that will qualify. If yours is not listed, you may still qualify, but you will need to prove that your condition is as debilitating as others that are listed. In terms of mental disorders, there are 11 different categories.

What mental illnesses qualify for disability benefits?

  • Neurocognitive disorders.
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.
  • Depressive, bipolar and related disorders.
  • Intellectual disorder.
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders.
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders.
  • Autism spectrum disorder.
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders.

How to prove that your condition qualifies:

  • Duration of condition.
    In order for your condition to qualify, it needs to be expected to last for at least a year or result in death.
  • Qualifying condition.
    Your condition must be one of the ones listed or be of equal severity.
  • Severity of condition.
    Your condition needs to be severe according to Social Security Administration standards.
  • Affect of condition on ability to work.
    Your condition needs to prevent you from being able to work. This is the main point of qualifying for SSI disability and collecting benefits. It has to be because you’re unable to work and provide for your own living.
  • Medical evidence.
    In order to prove the points above, you need to have medical evidence to back them up. It’s imperative to be organized in your documentation. You will need to provide information on the health facilities you’ve visited, your official diagnosis, treatments and medications you’ve tried and dates of visits. You should also obtain a statement from your doctor about your condition as well as provide one from yourself that states why your condition prevents you from working.

Many mental illnesses qualify for SSI disability, but it’s important to understand the process. If you have any questions, please contact us.

What Will Social Security Look Like in 20 Years If Congress Does Nothing?

Millions of Americans depend on money from the Social Security system to help make ends meet from month to month. Whether it’s collecting retirement money after a life of paying into the system, or collecting money for disability after an accident or illness made working impossible, that money is essential for living. In the next twenty years, more and more Americans will be depending on the SSA for their income needs. But what will happen over the course of those twenty years? Can Americans today expect the same level of benefits two decades down the road? As you can probably expect, the answer to that isn’t easy.

Social Security Look Like in 20 Years

As things stand right now, Social Security is in danger. While there is plenty of money now, and even a little bit of a surplus, recent changes mean that the surplus will slowly start to run out. If recent projections hold out, then the surplus of money in the Social Security fund will run out in 2034. At that time, there could be an issue.

Social Security was originally designed to take in as much money as it pays out. Over the years, though, the program has stretched to the point where this isn’t true. So, when the existing surplus finally runs out in 2034, Social Security will not be able to bring in enough money to completely fund itself. Current projections estimate that the SSA will only be able to bring in about 79% of the money that it needs to pay out to retirees, the disabled and other beneficiaries.

This is where it gets complicated. Because this possibility is still almost twenty years in the future, nothing about it is truly certain. As that deadline appears, who knows what sort of measures might be enacted by the government to fix the issue? Because of that, everything is uncertain. However, without those changes, it’s very possible that beneficiaries will see their payments cut by as much as 21%. In addition, the retirement age could be increased, making it take longer for people to start collecting their benefits. Or, the scope of Social Security could be lessened to stop as many different types of payments from going into effect.

Basically, as it stands right now, the SSA faces a potential problem. While there is plenty of time for the government to fix the issue, the real question is, will they? Or will they let this issue drag on to the point where it’s too late to do anything about it?

When Do Most Americans Claim Social Security?

Every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) increases the full retirement age at which you can collect benefits. This began several years ago to help the beleaguered benefit system. In 2018, the age will increase by two months to age 66 and four months. SSA bases it on your birth year, so the 2018 adjustment affects people born in 1956 and later—and there are a lot of them.

The vast number of baby boomers who are retiring creates a financial challenge for the SSA, but so is the fact that most Americans are electing to claim SSA retirement benefits before reaching the full retirement age. Over 60 percent of men are and nearly 75 percent of women are, too. No one is claiming benefits late, either. If they don’t claim early, they’re claiming benefits at the exact retirement age possible.

One of the main reasons that people are claiming benefits early is because the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) hasn’t kept up with rising inflation. In 2018, seniors are expected to get the largest COLA adjustment they’ve seen in years, but it is still not enough to keep up with rising costs, particularly in health care. While any increase is welcome, seniors will never be able to catch up on COLA increases alone. They’re on fixed incomes, and that’s why people are opting in for early retirement benefits.

Your overall SSA retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings. SSA applies a formula for inflation and then determines your primary payout amount that you’ll receive at the full retirement age. Just know that SSA offers an eight year window from age 62 to 70 for claims. Claiming early comes with fairly strict penalties. Let’s say your age is 67 for the full benefit, but you claim early at age 62. The compounded effect is that your benefits are reduced by 30 percent. While an early claim can get you short-term cash, the long-term reduction in your overall retirement income can have a significant impact.

It’s even better if you can claim your benefit late, after you’ve reached full retirement age. This can mean an eight percent permanent increase in your income.

Every individual is different, and has reasons for claiming early or late. Just consider where you are in life and work out the pros and cons of claiming early, on time or late.

Social Security in Five Years

Social Security is one of the most important programs in this country. Since its inception, it has existed to provide retirees with a livable income and to provide financial assistance through disability benefits for those who can no longer work due to severe illness or injury. Recent statistics indicate that currently more than 60 million people receive Social Security benefits. Most retirees who collect Social Security benefits earn approximately $16,500 per year, which is a substantial amount of income. It can be hard to determine what the future of Social Security will look like. But, experts believe that the information below is a good indication of where it will be in the next five years.

Social Security in Five Years

Is Social Security in Trouble?

For many years, there has been a fear that Social Security is running out of money to dole out to retirees. The reason why there is less money than before is that the Baby Boomer generation is continuing to age and collect their benefits. Also, the more affluent retirees are living longer and their share of Social Security is larger than their lower-income counterparts. At the same time, there are fewer employees available to pay into the system to keep up with the money that is going out in monthly payments. Trustees project that the $2.85 trillion dollars in Social Security’s Trust may be exhausted by 2034, leading to severe cuts in Social Security payments for future retirees.

Upcoming Trends for the Next Five Years

The year 2034 is still a long way away, here are some projections that are possible within the next five years.

A surge in the number of eligible retired workers

There is no doubt that the number of eligible Social Security recipients is on the rise. By the year 2022, there can be as many as 50 million eligible retired workers who are claiming benefits.

Higher Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs)

During the span between 2010 and 2016, there were three years when Social Security gave no COLAs. In 2017, the COLA was a meager .3%. However, in the coming years, you can expect to see a rise in annual COLAs in Social Security payments thanks to a marked rise in the economy.

No real benefit growth

Even though there will be steady COLAs over the next few years, there will be no actual growth because of it. Medicare B payments are automatically withdrawn for most people, and the COLAs will do little more than covering the rise in those payments.

Lower interest income from Old-Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI)

OASDI is set to see some big changes starting in the next three years. In 2020 OASDI will be paying out more in benefits than it takes in from payroll taxes and the interest it earns on its asset reserves. So, by 2022, there will be a noticeable drop in the money it has with which to work.

Minimal progress from Washington

It is unlikely that the politicians in Washington will make any changes to improve the Social Security situation. This assumption is purely based on the fact that no significant changes have been made to the Social Security system in the last 34 years.

For more information about how Social Security will change over the next five years, contact the Clauson Law Firm today.

What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

You’ve probably heard the terms “Medicare” and “Medicaid” mentioned quite a bit when talking about healthcare, but — like many Americans — unless you’re actually on either of these programs, there’s a good chance you’re not entirely sure what each program is, or what the difference is.

Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid

Not to worry; we’ve got you covered. In many respects, Medicare and Medicaid are similar healthcare programs. They were both created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s commitment to social reform. In addition, they are both designed to help Americans afford medical care. After that, though, certain differences begin to emerge.

Medicare is a program designed to provide health insurance for all Americans who are 65 or older. It also provides healthcare for people with severe disabilities. In both situations, Medicare is available to everyone who qualifies, regardless of their income. Patients who are on Medicare pay for some of their medical costs through deductibles and small premiums (in some cases). Medicare is run by the federal government, and is basically the same wherever you go in the country.

Medicaid, on the other hand, was specifically created to assist those who have a very low income and limited resources. Because of this, it’s much harder to qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is run by both the federal government as well as individual states, so qualifying for benefits can vary depending on where you live. Once you qualify for medicaid benefits, though, you typically pay nothing out of pocket.

How do you qualify for Medicaid?

To qualify for Medicaid benefits, the first and most important thing to do is provide evidence of your financial situation. Since Medicaid is an income-based resource, it’s relatively easy to know if you are eligible. To do so, simply go to the Medicaid website to get the process rolling. Here you can find specific information on each state’s eligibility requirements, and you can begin your application procedures.

If you qualify, you’ll be covered for a wide range of healthcare options, including doctors visits, hospital stays, long-term nursing home care and more. About the only things not covered by Medicaid are prescription drugs. So, if you do qualify for Medicaid benefits, you can look forward to good, high-quality health coverage.

To learn more, please contact us today.