Do I really want to be on Social Security Disability for the rest of my life? This actually is the one question you won’t have to ask yourself if you are dealing with a disability. When you get to the point you can’t work to pay your bills, you can’t cook proper meals for yourself, or you have trouble taking care of personal needs like using the toilet or bathing without assistance, that question will already be answered. But there is hope for those who have come to terms with the inevitable. Remember the deduction on every paycheck you’ve ever received labeled FICA tax? This is money deducted from every paycheck you receive, to help you if you become disabled. So you pay into this FICA tax system every paycheck and when you retire or get disabled, you get it all back like a savings account. Sounds simple right? Well it is a little more complicated than that. And ask anyone who has been through the process of applying and getting denial multiple times by the Social Security Administration, it is not fun.
The first question you should ask yourself is, “Have I worked enough to be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?” If you have worked most of your life (on the books) and are middle aged or above you, will probably be fine. But if you don’t fall in that category here are some guidelines to consider. You need to have 6 credits earned in the 3 year period immediately preceding your disability if you are under the age of 24. From ages 24- 31, you need credit for 3 years of work out of the 6 years immediately preceding your disability. Anyone 31 to 42 years of age will need a total of 20 credits. And every 2 years after that the credits needed increase by 2. If you are confused about how many credits you would need to be eligible, than you are right along with most Americans today. But if you ask your attorney this question, she will be able to let you know whether you qualify or not after you answer a few questions.
The next question you need to ask yourself is, “How are credits for Social Security Disability earned?” We know Social Security takes money out of every pay check but how does this money transform into credits? Credits are based on the amount of your earnings. “In 2011, you receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for credits goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase. The credits you earn remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or have no earnings for a while.” (Source: Socialsecurity.gov)
Now that you have this information you can decide whether or not you are eligible. So you can apply and just sit back to wait for your monthly checks to start rolling in. Right? Wrong. Most Orlando, Florida, cases take an average processing time of 502 days. (Source: socialsecuritydisability.tv/state-socialsecurity-disability/florida) And this is just after a hearing has been requested. At the Initial Application and Reconsideration levels, each case can take as long as 7 months to be processed. The whole process takes about 3 years if done correctly; it can be longer if not.
The question you need to ask your attorney is: “Are you qualified to do it correctly?”