SSDI (also known as Social Security Disability) is a wonderful public safety net benefit that you can get if you are unable to work due to a disability. If you are disabled, SS disability will pay you a monthly check that is equal to a portion of the income you previously made before becoming disabled. It won’t be the full amount you were making at your job, but it will help cover your bills in most cases, or at least go a long way toward covering most of them. After you’ve been on SSDI for two years, you can also qualify for Medicare health insurance, which is another terrific benefit of the SS disability program.

But, to get SSDI, you’ve got to go through some red tape and you’ve got to know if you qualify. Here’s what to know when filing for disability to be sure you stand the greatest chance of success in getting that monthly benefit approved!

1.  SSDI–You Have to Have an Employment History to Get It

This is one of the most important things to know when filing for disability. To qualify for SS disability, you have to have an employment history. You earn credits toward disability and Medicare for every year you work, and the amount of money you’ve made over the years is averaged out in your disability award if you are approved. The more years you’ve worked and the more money you’ve made, the higher the amount you’ll be getting in your SSDI check once you’re approved. If you have no work history and are disabled, you’ll have to explore other options, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

2.  SSDI–You Have to Meet the SS Disability Definition to Get Benefits

SSDI has very specific definitions of disability which you have to meet in order to qualify for benefits. One of these definitions is that to be considered disabled, your disability must be expected to either be permanent and/or result in your eventual demise, or it must be expected to last a minimum of one year. The disability must also prevent you from engaging in any meaningful employment. Your doctor and your medical records must support this assessment. If there is any question as to your actual degree of disability, your local SSDI office will have you see one of their doctors for an independent evaluation of your condition. Your condition can be physical or mental or both, but it must meet the definitions of disability according to SSDI in order for you to be approved to get benefits from that agency.

3.  SSDI and Filing for Disability–Be Prepared to Wait

When filing for disability, don’t expect to get immediate approval. Every case must be evaluated, and you may be asked to submit additional paperwork, undergo more examinations, and even re-submit paperwork you’ve already submitted. Even the fastest approvals take a minimum of three to four months to go through. Most cases take a lot longer, even up to a year or even more to get a person qualified. So you have to be patient, and it helps if you have savings or a source of income (like from a family member or spouse) you can turn to while you’re waiting. The good news is that once you’re approved for SS disability, you will likely get a large lump sum check right at the beginning, which is retroactive for all the monthly benefit checks you should have been getting from the time you became disabled. This could end up being thousands of dollars or more, depending on your monthly benefit award and how long you waited to get it.

So if you are filing for disability, keep these things in mind when filling out the paperwork. Some people get lawyers to help them file for SS disability, since approvals are quicker and easier with the help of a lawyer most of the time. Bear in mind, though, that if you use a lawyer, you’ll have to pay him or her their fee out of the proceeds of your lump sum check once you’re approved for benefits. Still, if you are disabled and need a reliable monthly income (and health insurance with Medicare after the waiting period), then applying for SSDI is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family, and you should waste no time in starting your application so you can get benefits as soon as possible to support you.

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