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How To Get Approved For Disability The First Time

It’s hard, but not impossible, to be approved for disability benefits for the first time through the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs. According to the Social Security Administration, about one-third of the submitted applications qualify disability benefits during the initial review process. That still leaves about 67% of the claimants struggling financially because their claims for SSI or SSDI benefits were denied.

This article explains what you can do to improve the chances of your application for disability benefits being approved without having to go through a lengthy appeal process. It also looks at the types of mistakes people make that can result in a denial or, at the very least, cause a delay in processing a claim.

Choose The Right Disability Benefits Program

The SSDI and SSI programs may sound similar, but essential differences affect eligibility. For example, the SSI benefits program is need-based. To qualify for SSI benefits, you must have no income or meager income and limited resources to be eligible. You probably do not qualify for SSI benefits if you have income and resources above $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

Unless you worked long enough and recently enough at jobs where you paid Social Security taxes on the earnings, you will not qualify for disability benefits through the SSDI benefits program. Working and paying into the Social Security retirement system through payroll taxes makes you eligible to collect SSDI benefits when you become disabled and unable to work before reaching the age when you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

The amount of SSDI benefits you receive each month is determined by your lifetime earnings. The maximum monthly SSDI benefit for 2024 is $3,822, and the average is $1,537. If a person receives very little from SSDI because of limited lifetime earnings, they may also qualify for SSI benefits. This is referred to as concurrent eligibility.

Concurrent eligibility does not result in a windfall with a claimant receiving full SSI and SSDI benefits. Whatever a person gets in SSDI benefits reduces the SSI benefit. For example, if a person qualifies for monthly SSDI benefits of $700, only $680 counts against their $943 SSI benefits. A $20 unearned income exclusion reduces the monthly SSDI benefits.

The $680 SSDI benefits reduce their 2024 monthly maximum SSI federal benefit of $943. Their combined monthly benefits are $680 from SSDI and $263 from SSI.

Providing Accurate And Complete Information

A key to having an application for disability benefits approved is ensuring that your application is complete and contains accurate information. The easiest way to do this is to know what goes into the application and have the information available when filling it out.

The following is some of the information you’ll need when completing a claim for disability benefits:

  • Your date and place of birth, including the country where you were born.
  • If you are not a citizen of the United States, have your permanent resident card available so you can provide the permanent resident number that appears on it.
  • Your spouse's name and date of birth, including the date and place of your marriage. If you are divorced, you must have a divorce date and your former spouse's name and date of birth.
  • Names and birth dates of your children.
  • Military service information, including dates and branch.
  • Current and two prior years of employment information, including names and addresses of employers.
  • The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all health care providers who treated you for the medical condition causing your disability.

The Social Security website provides a complete list of what you’ll need to complete an application.

Get help from a disability lawyer or advocate to improve your chances of success

According to the Social Security Administration, people who used the services of a disability lawyer or advocate were three times more likely to be approved for disability benefits than claimants who filed for benefits without seeking assistance. A disability lawyer or advocate knows what it takes to complete an application and the medical evidence to support it.

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