So, you received a denial of your disability application in the mail. Now what do you do? The first thing to realize is that you should not give up. The majority of people who apply for disability benefits are denied multiple times, but in order to keep your chances of obtaining disability benefits alive, you will need to appeal the denial. The first thing you need to do is read the denial letter. It will tell you that you have 60 days in which to appeal the denial. That is a serious deadline. It shouldn't be hard to appeal the denial within a 60 day time frame, especially now that you can appeal online at ssa.gov. If you don't have access to the internet, you could go to your local library and go to SSA's website and appeal there. If you don't have access to the internet at all, you can still appeal by going into the local SSA office and completing the forms by hand. If you cannot physically go to the local SSA office, you can call Social Security's 1-800 number, which is 1-800-772-1213, and they will send you the paperwork that you need to appeal. The reason you want to appeal is that eventually, you will be able to have a hearing in front of a judge and you will be able to explain your disabling impairments to that judge. But that will never happen unless you appeal.
Social Security disability benefits are monthly payments that support disabled individuals who cannot work a full-time job. There are two different government programs that pay disability benefits: Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Although both programs use the same basic definition of "disability," there are fundamental differences between the programs. The benefits and qualifying requirements differ, because SSI includes a component of financial need and can be obtained by those who are disabled but did not pay into the government system.
SSD, on the other hand, is the program that pays monthly benefits to people who are disabled and have paid into the system through working and paying their taxes. Many people confuse these two programs, which is easy to do because one person can receive payments from both programs. For example, if you worked for 20 years, became disabled, but you worked at a low paying job, your monthly benefit amount under SSD may be low enough that you also qualify for some SSI money, depending on the state in which you live.
The main thing to understand about the programs, is that when you apply for disability benefits with the SSA, you are applying for both types of benefit. The SSA will determine if you are not eligible financially for SSI. They will also determine, under their rules, if you are eligible and are disabled for SSD. Eligibility for benefits begins when you apply for benefits. If you do not apply, you are not eligible and you cannot go back in time and receive past benefits. Many people think that if they apply and they haven't worked for the past 5 years due to disability, if their application is approved the SSA will pay them for the entire time they have been off work. That is simply not true. SSI begins on the date of application, if one is found disabled. Under the SSD application, the most a person can receive in past due benefits is payments one year prior to their application date, as long as they were not working and they are found disabled for that past period of time.
The important thing to understand from this information is that no matter what type of benefit you are eligible to receive if you are disabled, you can receive nothing unless you apply. Therefore, if you become disabled and are no longer working, the sooner you apply, the better off you will be.
DIANNA CANNON, J.D.