“SSDI” Social Security Disability Insurance: More Available Than You Might Think


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You can learn something new every day... all you have to do is listen to the right people. I was fortunate enough to be in the company of such people this week. What I learned could benefit many a veteran and their family. I know it surprised me.

Social Security Decides If I Am Disabled How

By law, Social Security has a very strict definition of disability (


). To be found disabled you must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s), and; your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in your death. Nothing new there.

But Exactly How Do They Decide

To decide whether you are disabled, they use a step-by-step process involving five questions.

1. Are you "working?" If you are "working" in 2008 and your earnings average more than $940 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. (For the time being note my quotes around working).

2. If you are not working, is your condition "severe?" Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.

3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? For each of the major body systems, there is a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, they have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will find that you are disabled. If it is not, they then go to Step 4.

4. Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then they must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does, they then proceed to Step 5.

5. Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did in the past, they see if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. There is more to this than I am going into here. As example, if you are approaching age 50-54, they consider your age along a severe impairment that may seriously affect your ability to adjust to other work.

Now Here Is What I Had Not Realized

Say you're a service member or a veteran in a hospital or at home convalescing. Let's say your monthly pay is greater than the $940. You do not qualify, right? WRONG! The operative word here is "working." (There are those quotes again). Just getting a paycheck is not considered "substantial gainful activity" or "SGA." If you do not have SGA, then regardless of the amount of any paycheck you receive, you could qualify for SSDI.

To Be Very Specific

How does military pay affect eligibility for disability benefits? Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of disability benefits. If you are receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, you will be evaluated for your work activity to determine your eligibility for benefits. The actual work activity is the controlling factor and not the amount of pay you receive or your military duty status (



'Nuf said.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt