As someone who has never “officially” worked before in their life, getting monetary help from the government proves to be very difficult. I fell ill when I had recently turned 14 in 2011. This illness proved to be chronic and condition after condition piled onto my diagnoses chart. I am housebound and have continued to have gotten worse since the day I began to acquire those illnesses. In the government’s eyes, a person who has never worked, did not go to college, and who is not actively trying to get a job is trying to cheat the system. In some cases that is true, but increasingly, with chronically illnesses especially, deserving individuals are being denied when they desperately need the support.
There are two different types of federal government assistance that one can receive for disability aid. The first type is called Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). SSDI “is a federal insurance program to assist disabled (people) who are unable work and support themselves” (Andrew). People are eligible for this type of aid if they are under 65 years old, have a disability that prevents them from working, but who have worked a substantial number of years in the past. This previous amount of work is essential, because it is based on the payroll taxes that the person payed while previously employed.
The second type of government assistance is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI supports the low to no income population of the United States. This includes those 65 years and older and people who have medical and psychological problems. “SSI is supported by finances coming from the federal government’s tax revenues” (Andrew). This is an extremely strict program. If you manage to make it through, a single person cannot have more than $2,000 to their name and a married couple no more than $3,000. They absolutely do not allow for you to save up unused benefits from a month, or you will be kicked off of the program.
As I have never been able to work, I am only eligible for SSI. A person can only apply when they are 18 years of age, so I waited four years until even being able to apply. I am now 22 years old. My first application was denied as it is very often done. The denial rate for initial application of SSI and SSDI in 2010 was 65%. A disability guide claims, “it is very common for someone looking for a lawyer at application for their SSDI or SSI claim to be told to ‘apply and call back when you are denied'” (Social Security). If you decide to appeal the decision like most due, you will be put into the Reconsideration phase. At this point, the denial rate is at 87%. I was denied at this point as well.
The next phase is where you meet with a judge and plead your case, most often with a lawyer. This is called the Hearing Phase. I just completed this phase at the beginning of this year. The Hearing Phase has an approval rate of 62%, because many believe it allows for people to actually put a face and story to all the paperwork. Right now, I am waiting to hear back from my judge (It has been 5 months now). We did not have enough paperwork at the hearing, but he allowed us a month to submit it to be reviewed. This is extremely unheard of and very very lucky for me. I managed to change the judge’s mind by going extremely in depth about my symptoms such as talking about my diarrhea, inability to wear pants because of swelling, and what not. This is crucial. It is your one time to explain how your disability affects your life.
As I am hoping for my case to be approved, I pray it will not be moved to the next level. This is called the Appeals Council, where the denial rate is 74%. If you are denied again, the last level is to take it to the Federal Court where the denial rate is 40%. However these cited statistics are from almost a decade ago. The chance for you to be continually denied is extremely high. I have been in this process for 4 years now and am hoping to end it soon. I am hoping to follow up with a positive end to my case. With the rise of chronic, often invisible disabilities, it is extremely difficult to “show” the existence of said disability. Here is a list of disabilities that are considered to be disabilities under Social Security. Keep in mind, it is subjective to the people in charge of your case.
I really hope to be able to follow up on my case and to talk about SSI in general. It would be resourceful to make this a series of sorts, to help all of you out there starting or who are in the middle of this process. If I had any advice to give right now, it would be to get a Social Security lawyer and to plead your case. All those documents you have from those seemingly millions of E.R and doctors’ appointments, keep them! They will help your case. Submit anything and everything that you can. Lastly, if you get to the Hearing phase, please get graphic. Let that judge know every single little dirty detail of what you deal with and how it impacts you. We are all in this together.
Thanks for reading this article today! Have any of you succeeded in winning SSI or SSDI benefits? Are any of you currently going through the process? I really would love to compare notes. I need all the help I can get! Please subscribe for more great content and I’ll see you next time my Un-imaginables!
Andrew. “Difference Between SSI and SSDI.” DifferenceBetween.com, 6 Jan. 2011, http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-ssi-and-ssdi/.
“Social Security Disability Denial Rates or What Are My Chances to Win SSDI or SSI?” What Are My Chances of Winning an SSDI or SSI Claim?, http://www.ultimatedisabilityguide.com/ssdi_ssi_denial_rates.html.
Photo 3“Judicial Bias in the Courtroom (Prof. Thomas Hornsby) – Coastal Law – 02” by CoastalLaw is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0