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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

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.

Could social media affect your disability benefits?

California residents may endure a long wait to find out if they have been approved for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Disability benefits are an important source of support for men, women and children who cannot work due to disabling illnesses, injuries or conditions, and who do not have other sources of income or funding. Once they are issued, disability benefits can be reviewed and evaluated to determine if their recipients still qualify for them.

Regular reviews of disability benefits are normal, but a new method of investigating individuals who apply for disability benefits may be on its way into practice. In a recent report regarding the Social Security Administration's budget, a proposal was made to use applicants' social media accounts to determine if they really need disability benefits. In other words, the Social Security Administration may go through applicants' Instagram, Facebook and other social media profiles to look for evidence that they may not qualify for disability support.

How to know if you could qualify for SSD

Many California residents may have heard about the difficulties of applying for Social Security Disability benefits and how the process can be overwhelming for someone who is already suffering from a medical condition that is preventing them from performing many basic functions. The rejection rate shows that only about one-third of first-time applicants get accepted, which is cause for alarm for those who are applying for SSD benefits.

Social Security Disability benefits can provide a crucial safety net for those who are struggling to make ends meet because they are unable to work any longer due to a medical condition. For many, it is the reason they have a roof over their head, food on their table and electricity switched on. That's why a denial of benefits can be so harmful for California residents. Without these benefits, people may not be able to keep their houses, much less get the medical treatment they need.

What do you need to know about SSI eligibility criteria?

As a previous post here mentioned, it is important to understand which disability benefits plan administered by the Social Security Administration an applicant might qualify for. Otherwise, California residents may find themselves wasting time and effort applying for benefits they could not receive and then becoming too disheartened from applying from the ones they potentially could. The differences between Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security income were pointed out in a previous post, but it is important to understand the specific criteria of eligibility for SSI benefits.

Similar to SSD benefits, SSI is available to those who are disabled. However, SSI is not dependent on a person's work history. People who have limited income and limited resources are eligible to receive SSI benefits if the applicant is either an American citizen or a national, or in certain categories of aliens. Additionally, the applicant should be residing in one of the 50 American states, District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands and should not have left the country for a full calendar month or 30 consecutive days or more.

Should you apply for SSD or SSI?

Payroll taxes are the main source of funding for Social Security Disability benefits. SSD benefits are available to those who have worked for a certain number of years and have made the necessary contributions to the Social Security trust fund through various taxes. However, the Social Security Administration also administers disability benefits through another program-Supplemental Security Income.

SSI is a means-tested program. Payments are provided to disabled individuals who have few resources and low income, regardless of their work history. California residents who are considering applying for benefits must understand the SSA's strict definition of "disability" and meet it by providing the necessary medical and financial documents.