You probably know how serious a car accident or workplace injury can be. Once it happens to you, though, you gain a whole new perspective, don't you?
Suppose you've been so seriously injured that you can't work -- and it's starting to look like you may never work again. How will you support yourself and your family? Where can you get help?
You may have heard of Social Security disability, but do you know if you're eligible for benefits? If so, how much can you expect -- and when? Here are a few basics.
SSDI vs. SSI
There are two Social Security disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Generally, SSI is for people who have permanent disabilities that mean they've never really been able to work, so let's take a closer look at SSDI.
Have you been working consistently for most of your life?
As soon as you began working, you started paying into the Social Security disability programs through your FICA taxes. This is important, because both eligibility benefit levels depend in part on your work history.
The Social Security Administration uses a system of "work credits," and most working people earn all four work credits available each year. To qualify for SSDI, most people need 40 total credits -- and 20 must have been earned in the past 10 years. Young workers can still qualify with fewer credits.
Will your injury keep you from working for at least a year?
Social Security disability doesn't offer benefits for partial disability or short-term disability. It only provides benefits for people who are considered totally and permanently disabled, which basically means:
- You have a severe, disabling condition expected to last at least a year;
- Your condition prevents you from doing work you've done before;
- The Social Security Administration agrees that your condition will keep you from adjusting to other work.
If you meet those criteria, you probably qualify for SSDI. A lawyer isn't required, but you do have the right to hire one. Moreover, the law specifically limits attorney fees to no more than 25 percent of any past-due benefits the SSA awards you.