When filing a claim for Social Security benefits, it's wise to understand the main types and how the process works. The system is intended to address the needs of two distinct groups of people. Social Security SSI is there for those who've hit retirement age. Social Security Disability Insurance, often called SSDI, is meant to protect those who are not able to work and cannot be cared for through any other part of the larger social safety net. SSDI filers, in particular, frequently end up in situations where they might need to retain counsel in order to defend their rights to benefits.
For the vast majority of folks who get to retirement age, obtaining benefits is largely a case of submitting a form and then usually doing a bit of follow-up paperwork. The legal challenges in getting Social Security benefits in this group usually hinge on proving they've earned a certain level of benefits or that they're allowed to file a certain way. For example, a widowed spouse might elect to take early retirement based on their partner's benefits eligibility. Retirement benefits, though, are rarely rejected outright.
There are a number of questions that arise in Social Security Disability cases. The first concern in most cases is whether someone has worked long enough to be eligible. The government typically expects someone to have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 years. When an individual is awarded SSDI while heading toward retirement age, meaning 60 years or older, the proposed benefit awarded will usually be the equivalent of what they would have received at full retirement age.
Some people can file claims if their partners have already been approved for SSDI benefits. For example, a survivor's benefit may be sought if a spouse has reached 60 years of age. If someone remarries before age 60, survivor benefits may be denied.
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
One question that tends to come up is whether a person should actually be seeking SSDI benefits. For example, the government may encourage a filer to seek money through the workers' compensation system, if at all possible. At this point, a review may be requested if the claim is denied or seems too low. The process is similar to workers' compensation cases, where you'll be expected to show evidence that a claimed disability prohibits you from functioning in a productive manner.