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What Is Social Security?

Social Security means income from the Federal Government (through the Social Security Administration) for:

  • People who have retired
  • People who have a Disability
  • Survivors of worker who have died
  • Dependents of people receiving benefits

Social Security was an act signed into law by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1935

The law allowed for taxes to be taken out of people’s income. That money could be claimed by people when they retired or if they became disabled. It also provided for spouses and children of workers who had died.

When people say Social Security they are usually referring to money that they get in the form of a monthly social security check. It is also sometimes called benefits, Social Security Income, or Social Security Benefits.

Some Common Myths About Social Security

  1. Not all Disabilities allow you to collect Social Security:
  2. True, there are all manner of disabilities that do not allow someone to claim social security income.
  3. If you have a disability you will get Social Security automatically:
    False, the Federal government has no way of knowing that you have a disability unless you show them through documentation.
  4. Anyone can say they have a disability and get Social Security:
    False, The Social Security Administration has very strict criteria for who qualifies and who doesn’t and they need to see proof in order to make sure you meet the criteria.

Definition of Disability 

Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Social Security disability rules are different from private or other government agency rules. Qualifying for disability from another agency or program doesn’t mean you will be eligible for disability benefits from Social Security. Having a statement from your doctor saying you’re disabled doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Federal law requires a very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.

The key words here are “Can’t work”. Social Security is designed to help support people who cannot earn enough money working in the on their own because of their disability. If an individual is unable to earn more that $1,260 per month  (in 2020) because of a disability then Social Security is designed for them.

SSDI or SSI: What’s the Difference?

SSDI = Social Security Disability Insurance

  • Someone who retired after working enough years
  • Someone who became disabled after working enough years
  • Someone who has a disability and whose parent or spouse worked enough years and then passed away

SSI = Supplemental Security Income

  • Someone who is retired and considered low income
  • Someone who has a disability and is considered low income
  • A child with a disability whose family is considered low income

The terms worked enough and low income are specifically defined by the social security administration, but there are a lot of rules and they are complicated. The best thing to do if you are wondering if you meet these criteria is get in touch with someone at the Social Security Administration and ask them.

You don’t have to know which one you qualify for! Apply for both!

The rules are complicated and you do not need to understand them fully in order to apply. Simply make sure that your application for benefits is for both programs. That way you can make sure to get the full amount of money that you are entitles to if you are approved for Social Security.

If you apply and get approved, it can be helpful to pay attention to which program you have been awarded. If you are receiving SSI then the Income and Assets requirements remain in effect the entire time you are receiving this income, but if you are receiving SSDI then you only have to worry about not exceeding the SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity level). Remember that the social security administration bases its definition of disability on whether or not you can support yourself through work. So if you earn too much, then you are no longer considered to have a qualifying disability!

It’s a Process…

  • Social Security Applications can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.
  • It is common to be denied the first time you apply.
  • The application paperwork is long and often repetitive.
  • Don’t give up!

Social Security is not easy and it is not quick. Some people believe that their disability is obvious so they do not work very hard to show documentation of their disability to the SSA. This usually leads to people being denied which can make the process even longer and more frustrating. However, with a little effort and patience you can be successful! Don't give up! This information is not to discourage you, it is to help you be prepared and know what to expect.

Next: What To Expect If You Apply

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