Thoughts About Social Security Disability

There are many issues to consider in pursuing Social Security Disability. Getting the forms is the easiest one.

I. The Relationship Between Short-Term Disability Insurance, Long-Term Disability Insurance, and Social Security Disability.
Many employers provide, as a bonus to their employees, a short-term disability insurance policy. These policies provide payments for periods of time anticipated to be “short” under the meanings and definitions of the policy itself. Also, it is important to understand that the insurance company provides the definition of what constitutes “disability” and what constitutes “short-term.” Most often, the period of time specified by the insurance company does not coincide with the period of time required by Social Security for Social Security Disability (at least one calendar year) and their definition of what constitutes disability does not necessarily coincide with the requirement under Social Security Disability, defined as, “unable to engage in substantial gainful employment.”
However, due to unforeseen circumstances and reversals in the healing process, short-term disability may be extended, becoming long-term disability which may also be covered under company-provided long-term disability insurance.

II. Long-term Disability Insurance vs. Social Security Disability.
Once again, the insurance company may define what constitutes “long-term.” The term itself may be limited by certain milestones and may in fact be less than the period of the rest of your life. Likewise, as noted above, the definition of what constitutes disability under the insurance policy again may be different from that which is required under the Social Security Disability provisions.
A person under long-term disability may be required by the terms of the insurance policy to apply for Social Security Disability. The insurance company requires this since Social Security Disability would be an offset to the payments of the insurance company under the long-term disability provisions. It may also be beneficial to the employee (insured) since the granting of Social Security Disability will also provide health care coverage.
Many times, the employee believes that it is not necessary for him or her to put forth an effort in obtaining the Social Security Disability since they may believe that they will continue to get the long-term disability insurance regardless of whether Social Security accepts or rejects the application. This perception may or may not be true, but can cause irreparable damage to the employee in terms of a later filing for disability under Social Security as well as the consideration of the “onset date” of disability to be considered by Social Security, and coverage issues under Social Security. There may also be effects with respect to medical coverages under Medicare.

III. What Constitutes Disability Under Social Security?
The Social Security Act provides for a full definition of what constitutes disability. Social Security says that you can be disabled under the act if:
a) You could not do work that you did before;
b) Social security decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s);
c) Your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least one calendar year, or to result in death.
In considering the medical issues and the physical problems resulting, it is important to consider all medical and physiological issues. It is permissible to list all conditions that individually, or in combination, cause the individual to be unable to engage in substantial gainful employment. This also includes exertional as well as non-exertional problems, emotional conditions, fatigue, and pain.

IV. The Difference Between an Early Retirement and Social Security Disability.
Social Security currently provides that an individual may retire at age 62 for an early retirement period. Many people accept this early retirement without ever considering the fact that they are giving up monetary benefits by not filing for Social Security Disability rather than, or in addition to, the early retirement period. It is permissible to file both for an early retirement and a Social Security Disability, and to elect the disability benefits if they are grander.

V. The Years Between an Early Retirement at Age 62 and Full Retirement Age.
Under the Social Security Act, persons born between 1943 and 1954 must now wait until they are 66 years of age, or greater, before they can apply for full regular retirement. This gap of four years may be crucial in terms of benefits provided for persons with physical, emotional, and pain issues, which may prevent them from substantial gainful employment for those four years. As noted above, people may take the option of the early retirement and forego the paper work involved in filing the Social Security Disability during the four-year period between the early retirement and full retirement eligibility. Once again, this may be detrimental in terms of economic benefits as well as the onset date provisions of Social Security Disability.

VI. Why Should I Consider Representation?
The Social Security Administration will provide all of the necessary forms to apply for benefits. It may send a request to your treating physicians for medical records and may also send questionnaires about your current condition. However, if these questionnaires are not returned and the medical records are not provided, the Social Security Administration does not follow up with additional requests, nor does it supplement your record. The Social Security Administration attempts to be fair in its administration and evaluation of your claim but it is not your advocate.
It may become necessary to evaluate, both medically and vocationally, the impact of a combination of medical, emotional and vocational issues in order to make the best presentation of your claim before the Social Security Administration.

VII. Conclusion.
Many issues and questions may arise in considering whether or not to apply for Social Security Disability. If you already have an attorney, please contact that attorney before filing for disability under Social Security. If you already have filed for Social Security Disability and have been denied, it may be important to contact an attorney to discuss your appeal rights prior to the running of the statute of limitations.
If you do not have an attorney or wish to further discuss issues with me, please feel free to contact me using the contact methods noted in this website.