Many readers in Pittsburgh may have heard of Social Security disability insurance but are not sure what the difference is between those benefits and the Social Security benefits that people receive after they reach a certain age. In a nutshell, Social Security is intended as a pension for people after they retire. On the other hand, Social Security disability, sometimes referred to as SSDI, is for people who are living with a disability that prevents them from supporting themselves in the workforce.
Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. While the majority of benefits distributed by the SSA are retirement funds, the SSDI program is also a significant percentage of the budget. For that reason, SSA rules often make it difficult for a disabled person to obtain benefits. For example, the agency rejects the majority of applications. That means that thousands of people who are clearly unable to work due to a disability must appeal their claim to an administrative law judge.
It is also important to note that SSDI benefits are available for people whose conditions could improve in time, allowing them to return to work someday. But the SSA requires people to apply for SSDI within about five years after their last period of substantial work, so it is generally a good idea to apply sooner than later.
The SSA usually demands detailed documentation of the claimed disability. This can be complicated and difficult to do, especially if the applying person did not have health insurance. Hiring an attorney experienced in Social Security disability issues can make a big difference.
Source: The MetroWest Daily News, "Examining estate planning options," Christine Keane, Oct. 20, 2012