If you’ve recently become disabled, you may find certain things difficult to do, such as daily living activities, working, and financially supporting yourself. Luckily, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has financial resources available for those who are unable to work.
Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for adults with a strong work history. You need to have worked a job that paid Social Security (FICA) taxes, generally for the five of the last ten years, although the amount of work you’ll need will depend on the age at which you apply for benefits.
The SSA figures out your monthly disability payment by averaging your past annual incomes. Approval for your claim can take up to two years depending on if you are approved immediately, so you may be eligible for a lump-sum payment known as back pay for the missed months. Two years after your first check, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. Parts B, C, and D are available at additional monthly premiums.
Supplementary Disability Insurance (SSI) isn’t funded by Social Security taxes, so it’s the option available for children or adults who haven’t worked. SSI is awarded based on financial need. An individual is limited to $733 in monthly income and $2,000 in assets, and a couple is limited to $1,100 monthly income and $3,000 in assets. Examples of assets include cash, stocks, and life insurance policies. Once you are approved for SSI, you will automatically be approved for Medicaid in Florida.
Florida has an additional benefit for SSI recipients called SUNCAP. SUNCAP is a food stamp program that most SSI recipients are automatically enrolled in after disability approval. SUNCAP benefits can be spent on most household grocery items, aside from non-food items such as soap or pet food, or specialty items such as hot food.
The SSA has a listing of impairments that are eligible for disability benefits called the Blue Book. In order to be approved for disability, you typically need to meet or equal a listing in the Blue Book.
Some disabilities are clearly severe and will be approved for benefits quicker. These include terminal stages of cancer, or an ALS diagnosis. Because of some applicants’ obvious need for financial assistance, the SSA created an additional Compassionate Allowances List (CAL) with severe disabilities that will be approved for benefits much faster than the typical application.
If you don’t meet a listing, you can still apply for disability benefits. The SSA will look at the limitations your disability causes you in work-related and daily living activities such as your ability to stand, sit, or walk.
Completing the Application
The application process can be long and complicated, because there are many forms that need to be filled out and many supporting documents needed. The main reason for denials of initial claims is because the application wasn’t filled out correctly or there wasn’t enough medical evidence included.
You’ll need personal documents, such as a birth certificate and tax information, as well as a lot of medical evidence, depending on what your condition is. If you have medical evidence that clearly shows you meet a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book, you may not need a wealth of medical documents. But if you are applying without meeting a Blue Book listing, you need to prove to the SSA that your condition meets their listings and makes you unable to work any job.
Where to Apply
You can apply for benefits on the SSA’s website or you can call them at1- 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment at your local office or over the phone. You can start SSI applications online, but you must finish them at your local SSA office. There are over 50 offices in Florida. The SSA has a handy Office Locator tool which finds the office nearest you.