There are two kinds of disability benefits the Social Security Administration provides. One is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It covers citizens between ages 18 to 65 and who paid into the Social Security program through payroll taxes. For SSDI the maximum federal monthly amount in 2023 is $3627, but the average benefit is $1483 per month. Disability beneficiaries are not allowed to work above substantial gainful activity and collect benefits. SGA in 2023 is $1470 a month in gross income. SSDI comes with Medicare.
The other program is Supplemental Security Income. SSI is for people who are low income, and have been unable to enter the workforce to sufficiently pay into the SSDI program. Typically, you need to have worked five out of the last ten years to be eligible for SSDI. The monthly maximum benefit for SSI in 2023 is $914. SSI comes with Medicaid.
When applying for disability, adjustors use a five step sequential analysis. 1. Are you working? 2. Do you have a severe medical condition? 3. Does your condition meet a Medical Listing for Disability? 4. Are you able to do your past work? 5. Are you able to do any other work? If the answer to question (1) is yes, and the amount is at SGA, then you will be denied. You cannot work and successfully apply for disability. At question 2, if you do not have current medical records that establish a severe medical condition, then you do not have enough evidence to be successful. At questions 3, if your severe medical condition does not meet a listing, then you are probably going to require a hearing with a vocational expert to assess your ability to do other work.
When gathering vocational evidence, the SSA limits authoritative sources to the outdated Dictionary of Occupational Titles which was created in 1938. The DOT has not been updated since 1991. No other source material is considered relevant, even though better sources exist. Many denials arise from this outdated jobs guide.
Usually, applicants who are fifty-five and older benefit from SSA’s use of a Medical-Vocational Grid which allows that persons over fifty-five are generally not employable for occupations outside their past work skill set. This usually allows for disability if the individual cannot do their past work.
For individuals who do meet a Medical Listing, wait times for a hearing can be two years from the date of filing the initial application.