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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Hiring freeze imposed on Social Security Administration

The newly-appointed and confirmed Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a hiring freeze that will affect some quarters of the Administration. This affects Californians looking to work for the SSA or applying for benefits from the SSA.

The Commissioner indicated that the freeze will mostly affect the national headquarters and also will affect certain regional offices. While they perform important work that can affect those applying for Social Security Disability benefits due to a disability, the staff in these offices do not directly interact with constituents, including those applying for disability on a regular basis.

Measure may help Californians affected by ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a terminal condition that affects a victim's nervous system, specifically in the brain and around the spinal cord. This condition forced the famous baseball star, Lou Gehrig, in to retirement and ultimately killed him, which is why it is called Lou Gehrig's disease.

As the disease progresses, the brain will no longer be able to communicate with the rest of the body, meaning that a person will gradually lose all motion. It therefore is no surprise when those affected with ALS is no longer able to work at all or even take care of herself without help.

May I work and receive Social Security benefits?

Many people in San Diego may think if they get disabled, then they are not allowed to ever work again, if they want to keep their benefits. There is some truth to this in that Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits typically get awarded once a Californian is unable to hold a job due to an illness or injury. However, this does not mean that a person can never work after receiving disability.

In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a number of options for people who wish to return to work that do not involve the loss of benefits. For example, for those drawing Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, the SSA is able to offer a trial work period. What this means is that during any 5-year period, a person can in any 9 months earn more than $880 a month by working. Of course, the person will still have to continue to qualify as disabled in other respects.

Can you get SSD benefits for depression?

Many people suffer from the symptoms of clinical depression. Far from being just a rough patch in life, a person with clinical depression may not feel the same for weeks or even months. Depression can also cause physical problems, like headaches and stomach aches. Depression can also affect a person's sleeping and eating habits, as well as a person's ability to concentrate on a task.

Not all forms of depression are debilitating. Moreover, in many cases, the symptoms can at least be controlled with the appropriate treatment. However, in severe cases, depression can make it hard for a person to even get out of bed in the morning, much less go to work and hold a job.

Average wait time in San Diego well over a year for SSD benefits

Many people in San Diego who apply for disability benefits wind up having their applications denied, even when they do have an injury or illness that keeps them out of work. In these circumstances, an applicant who needs benefits may need to request to have a review hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

How long it takes to get in front of a judge depends to a large extent on where a person lives. For example, in San Diego, many people will wait for 17 months before getting a hearing. Compared to other sites in California, including Los Angeles, Fresno and San Francisco, the wait time in San Diego is relatively short. In North Los Angeles, for instance, the average wait time is 20 months, more than a year and a half.

Understanding eligibility for SSDI benefits

A number of studies have demonstrated that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming totally disabled before reaching full retirement age. That percentage is likely to grow as Congress increases the full retirement age from 65 to 67 and beyond. Total disability can be a financial disaster because it almost always causes a large drop in a person's earning capacity. Fortunately for disability victims, the Social Security Administration administers a program that provides significant financial support for permanently disabled persons: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

The eligibility requirements for these benefits can be simply stated. First, the applicant must suffer from an injury or illness that is permanent or is likely to result in death in 12 months. Second, the injury or illness must prevent the person from engaging in substantial gainful activity, which is defined as the ability to earn more than $1220 per month. Third, the applicant must have made sufficient "contributions" to the Social Security Trust fund while working.

Compassionate Allowances for certain conditions

As this blog often notes, it isn't easy to successfully apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration rejects a majority of first-time applications, and although applicants get chances to appeal this rejection, getting through the bureaucracy can be difficult.

This is not to say the Social Security Administration is heartless, however. The SSA has a list of certain conditions that merit special treatment. The list is known as Compassionate Allowances and includes certain types of cancer, brain disorders and rare childhood conditions.

Unexpected disability can wreck a retirement plan

As they get older, Americans must think about saving up for retirement, and many come up with a simple plan: Work longer. Many Americans are working past age 65. Staying in the workforce longer can, of course, help a person to save up more money. There are also tax advantages to this strategy, as workers can save their money in a 401(k) or other retirement account that avoids or defers taxation.

One problem with this strategy is that it leaves people unprepared for the possibility that they might become disabled before they reach the target age when they planned to retire.

Can mental illnesses be considered disabilities?

It is a common misconception that disabilities only affect individuals' physical conditions. In reality, however, a disability can be invisible to the naked eye. Millions of men and women in California and throughout the nation suffer from mental illnesses and disorders that are seriously disabling and life-altering.

The Social Security Administration recognizes a range of mental illnesses and disorders as potentially disabling. For example, depression and anxiety are identified as mental conditions that may result in a disability. Schizophrenia, personality disorders, bipolar disorders and other more specific conditions can also affect individuals to such degrees that they are unable to work and support their own needs.

Ticket to Work Program and Social Security Disability benefits

Disabilities can impact different individuals in different ways. While one person may suffer from a permanent physical ailment that limits their capacity to move, another may suffer from a mental illness that prevents them from successfully interacting with other individuals. California residents who suffer from disabilities may be able to secure disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration does offer disabled individuals opportunities to find gainful employment that accommodates their physical, mental and emotional needs. The Ticket to Work program exists to help men and women who receive disability benefits with finding job training and placement services that may help them work toward self-sufficiency.