One of the most common questions we hear from the U.S. myeloma community is "Do I qualify for social security disability?"
Often, especially in the cases of delayed diagnosis, side effects are affecting every aspect of the patient's life. Though income is still needed, the patient could lose their ability to work because of said side effects, multiple doctor's visits, a long stem cell transplant procedure, or other complications that multiple myeloma might bring.
While not all cases are like this, there are some myeloma patients who would benefit from the aid of social security disability insurace as a source of income during a difficult phase of their life.
Read about how you can successfully apply for Social Security Disability (or appeal if needed) below.
Understanding Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program in the United States that provides financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a qualifying disability.
The program is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and is intended to provide a safety net for individuals who have paid into the Social Security system through their work history but are now unable to work and earn a living due to a severe disability.
Many people get Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income mixed up. Both are offered by the Social Security Administration; however, eligibility is determined differently for the two programs.
Social Security Income (SSI) is determined by need and is income-based. Your income needs to be below a certain threshold in order to qualify and you can qualify whether or not you paid into the Social Security Disability System.
Social Security Disability Insurance is based on your work record. In order to qualify, you must have worked for a minimum amount of time depending on your age when you became disabled, and your benefit amount can be higher or lower depending on your income history and work duration.
Each program has its own qualifications and application process.
For Social Security Disability Insurance, you must establish you have a medical disability and cannot maintain gainful employment. The Social Security Administration has a list of illnesses that automatically and immediately qualify you for benefits, as well as a list of other illnesses that may qualify you based on your ability to work.
There are many things you need to be aware of when considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Approximately 70% of those applications are denied every year. This makes the process tedious and time-consuming. Unfortunately, obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can be rather difficult.
Therefore, it’s important to understand the ends and outs of the application process and prepare to be as information-inclusive and thorough as possible to ensure approval of your application.
Who is Eligible for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) Benefits?
The two main requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for benefits are:
- Have what the Social Security Administration considers to be a mental or physical condition.
This means you are unable to work in the same position you held prior to becoming disabled, and you are incapable of performing work where you can earn at least $1,260 per month.
It is also expected that your disability is expected to last for a period of at least one year or that your disabling condition will result in death.
- You must have earned enough work credits.
You earn one work credit every time you earn a specific amount of income.
The amount of income you need to earn a work credit will vary slightly from year to year. There is a limit on the number of work credits you earn per year, which is 4.
That means only the first $5,640 of income per year will be used to earn work credits. The exact number you will need to qualify will depend on how old you were when you became disabled.
The number of work credits you will need typically increases as you get older.
As an example of this, if you became disabled at the age of 40, you would need 20 work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. But, if you didn’t become disqualified until age 50, you would need 28 work credits to qualify.
Why are So Many SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) Benefits Denied?
You must prove you meet the legal definition of disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration.
In order to do this, you must provide to the Social Security Administration medical documentation and in doing so provide enough medical evidence to prove you are actually disabled so that the Social Security Administration has no reason to deny the application.
There is no such thing as too much medical documentation.
This documentation can include:
- Official diagnosis
- Diagnostic testing and results
- Hospital room visit logs
- Lab results
- Medical treatment history
- Prescription medication history
It is recommended that you also ask your physician to prepare a statement that explains the severity of your condition and how it affects your ability to work. Make sure that they explain the severity of the disease in as much detail as possible. This will increase your likelihood of being approved the first time.
You could also be denied because of your monthly income. Too much income over the threshold will automatically disqualify you.
Another way that you could be denied is if you refuse to cooperate with the Social Security Administration. For instance, failing to provide additional information when requested in a timely manner.
Your claim can also be denied if you are not compliant with your doctor's orders regarding treatment for your disability. Failing to follow your doctor’s orders indicates to the Social Security Administration that you are not fully committed to recovering because you want to be approved for benefits.
Should You Seek Help From a Disability Attorney?
It depends on how thorough your medical records are and how complicated your illness is.
Seek an initial consultation with an attorney to assess your needs and the process. Because they are well-experienced, they can help eliminate rejections and speed up the process.
Also, the cost associated with legal representation is covered by your benefit when you are approved. Generally, no money comes out of your pocket initially to retain an attorney.
As mentioned before, applying for Social Security Disability Insurance is not an easy process, but you have the ability to reduce being denied by providing thorough medical records and doctor's statements proving your disability and inability to work as a result of that disability.
Seeking the assistance of an attorney is a very good option as they can help improve your odds because they know what to look for. They can access your case in an initial consultation.
Make sure you are letting all your doctors know your symptoms and how it is affecting your ability to work. If you see multiple doctors, make sure this information is consistent and documented because those records will be pulled and reviewed by the Social Security Administration.
Your goal is to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits if you qualify as soon as possible.
If you have more questions on this subject, please register for our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, September 5th: How to File for Social Security Disability and Tips to Getting Approved the First Time
You can ask your live questions during the webinar and receive access to the recording to review more information.
Financial Resources for the Myeloma Community
about the author
Diahanna is the Financial Program Manager for the HealthTree Foundation, specializing in financial help for multiple myeloma and AML patients. As a professional financial consultant and former caregiver of her husband who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Diahanna perfectly understands the financial issues facing myeloma patients.