People Are Dying While Waiting for Disability Benefits Hearings

Q: Is the wait for a Social Security disability insurance benefits (“SSDI”) appeal nearly two years?

People are literally dying while waiting for a decision on their Social Security disability benefits applications.

An initial application for Social Security disability benefits can take about 8 months—a hardship in itself as most Americans’ “rainy day funds” may not last that long. Appealing a disability benefits denial is far worse.

The ever-increasing backlog of appeals awaiting a hearing by a judge has pushed the waiting time for a decision on appeal from the “unacceptable” to the “incredibly unacceptable”. So long, that people are losing their homes and even dying while waiting.

Here are some frightening statistics on the current state of the disability benefits application and appeals process:

  • an initial application for disability benefits decision can take up to eight months
  • the average processing time for an appeal is 602 days—some close to 2 years
  • 7,400 people died while waiting for their disability cases to be heard in 2016
  • about 2/3 of disability applications are initially denied
  • the average payment for disability recipients is only $1,171 per month
  • more than 1 million Americans are awaiting an appeal hearing
  • 38% of claims heard by a judge were denied in 2016.

How have things gotten to this point and what can be done to fix it?

Almost all problems with government programs are connected to a lack of funding, and the Social Security disability benefits system is no exception. Congress needs to “appropriately fund Social Security so it can hire more administrative staff and judges” to tackle the backlog and streamline the process for future applicants.

In addition, the position of Social Security Commissioner has been and continues to be unfilled for several years, leaving the program the adrift on a stormy sea without a captain. To continue the analogy, the ship is sinking and people are drowning.

Now more than ever, it’s important to give your initial Social Security disability benefits application its best shot. Hiring a Social Security disability benefits attorney to handle your initial application could be the difference between an approval and a denial. In light of the current backlog and the unacceptable waiting time for an appeal hearing, letting an experienced disability law attorney navigate the process for you may not only improve your outcome but will allow you to focus on healing rather than the stressful appeals process.

If you need help applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of your application for benefits, the Social Security disability attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC can help you. There’s no fee unless we win your case, so contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled individuals in all Arizona cities and counties.

 

The Impact Tightening Medicaid Eligibility May Have on Disabled in Arizona

Q: How would work requirements for Medicaid impact disabled Arizonans?

Anyone who has gone through the process of applying for Social Security disability insurance benefits in Arizona (“SSDI”) knows how difficult and time-consuming the application process is– – especially if the initial application is denied. Some people take months and even years to get through the appeals process as their personal, financial, and medical situation worsens. In one month alone recently, 63% of initial disability claims nationwide were rejected.

If the sobering statistic above is not enough incentive to seek the advice of the skilled Arizona Social Security disability law firm to increase the odds that an application could be stronger and the process could be streamlined and the approval rate may be greater, then the potential impact of some recent proposed changes in Arizona Medicaid guidelines might change your mind.

Arizona’s Medicaid system –known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”) –has been generally seen as an effective model for other states. However, the alarming statistic that “one in four Arizonans is on our AHCCCS program” has stretched resources and caused critics too call for change.

Arizona is one of the first states proposing to add work requirements and a five-year lifetime limit on “able-bodied” adult enrollees in Medicaid. While no state has yet to obtain federal approval of work requirements for Medicaid, “clear signals” reportedly exist that the current administration may look favorably on the reform–and that prospect has disabled people understandably worried.

The term “able-bodied” is defined as “anyone over age 19 who is mentally and physically capable of working”. Exceptions reportedly include:

  • high school students over age 19
  • sole caregivers of children under 6
  • those qualified for the Arizona Long-Term Care system ALTCS
  • long-term disability insurance recipients.

While proponents insist that the most vulnerable people will be protected, there is reportedly troubling language in the proposal which critics argue “does not specifically exempt people with disabilities and mental health issues”. That language– another exception to the “able-bodied” definition–reportedly excludes those “determined to be physically or mentally unfit for employment by a healthcare professional in accordance with rules adopted by the administration”.

As previously noted, long-term disability is an exception to the work requirement, however many people with chronic health issues don’t qualify for long-term disability at all, while others wait for what could be years to qualify.

The alleged intention behind work requirements is to generally make Medicaid more of the temporary safety net and “bridge out of poverty “it was originally intended to be and to stop most able-bodied people from choosing not to work so they can maintain free health insurance. This change will thereby make the program more efficient and contain costs—which is literally incorporated into the name of the AHCCCS. Disability advocates are understandably concerned.

If you or a loved one is disabled and need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits for appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law, can help you any step of the way. Contact us for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we fight for the rights of the disabled throughout Arizona.

 

How Disability Benefits Are Calculated

What Are Work Credits?

Social Security Disability benefits are distributed, with very few exceptions, to adults who have had a working career before they became disabled. The recipient has to have worked for a minimal amount of time in order to be eligible; the time period is measured in blocks called “work credits.” The number of work credits you need in order to receive benefits depends on the age at which you became disabled. This system is based on the fact that each paycheck you have received has been tapped for a FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) contribution which funds Social Security and Medicare.

Typically, you need 40 work credits, 20 or which you’ve earned during the last 10 years before you became disabled. Some younger workers, however, may qualify with fewer credits. The system is a complicated one and complications are the last thing you need when you have recently become disabled and lost income. At such a time it is essential to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable disability attorney, one who will be able to guide you through the process of obtaining disability benefits as quickly and painlessly as possible.

In the event that you stop working before you have accumulated enough credits to qualify for benefits, your existing credits will remain on your record so they will be added to later credits if you return to work in the future. In spite of this flexibility, no benefits will be paid to you if you don’t have enough credits at the time you become disabled.

How Work Credits Are Recorded

During periods when you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn up to a maximum of four “credits” annually, though the way credits are earned has evolved over recent decades. Prior to 1978, employers reported earnings quarterly. At that time, the credits were called “quarters of coverages (QCs). You were credited with a QC if you earned at least $50 during a calendar quarter.

In 1978, employers started reporting workers’ earnings just once annually. Now, credits are based on your total wages and self-employment income over the course of the year; it is not consequential during which part of the year you have earned that income. What this means is that it is possible to earn four credits in only a few months if your income is high enough. As one would expect, during the nearly 40 years that have elapsed since the way of recording has changed, the amount of money necessary to earn a credit has increased a good deal. Now, in 2017, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,300 of wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,200, you’ve earned your maximum of four credits for the year.

Are you likely to accumulate all the credits you may need?

The chances are that you will earn more than the minimum number of credits you will need in order to be eligible for benefits. Unfortunately, these extra credits will not increase your benefit amount; that amount will be determined by your average earning over the entire period of your working years.

The number of work credits you must accrue to get disability benefits depends on the age at which you became disabled. Typically, you need 40 credits, 20 or which must have been earned during the last 10 years before you became disabled. If you are a younger individual, however, you may qualify with fewer credits. If you become disabled before age 24, for example, you need only have earned 6 credits in the 3 years prior to the onset of your disability.

By the Numbers…

If you are only 24 years of age when you apply, you can qualify for benefits if you earned 6 credits in the 3-year period ending at the time you became disabled. If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you may qualify if you have credits for working half the time between the age of 21 and the time you became disabled.

If you are between 31 and 42 years old, you need the 20 work credits. Between the ages of 44 and 60 years, you will require two more work credits for every two years of age until you turn 62. Once you are 62 years or older, you will need 40 work credits no matter how old you are. Unless one of your disabilities is blindness, you have to have earned at least 20 work credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

Having an experienced and compassionate disability attorney is invaluable when you are seeking benefits to help you and your family recover from the trauma of your disability. Your disability attorney will help you regain your footing and help you to get your cash flowing again.

 

Disability Benefits: Too Little, Too Late?

Can you depend on disability payments when you need them?

Suffering an accident or illness that results in permanent disability is life-altering as well as traumatic. Most people are under the impression that here, in the United States of America, we can count on our government to help us when we become unable to support ourselves and our families. Unfortunately, while the Social Security Administration has a well-established program to provide benefits to workers who have become disabled, bureaucracy gets in the way of processing those benefits in a timely manner. As a result, more than 1 million Americans wait an average of almost 2 years (longer than some of them will live!) to get a hearing that will decide whether they are eligible for benefits.

Delays Built into the System

Most applicants for disability benefits are denied coverage at least once, so they will, almost certainly, spend time waiting, first for a rejection, and then for an appeals hearing. In the meantime, they may use up savings, borrow at high interest rates, lose their homes or have to declare bankruptcy. This awful scenario need not be the case. If you find yourself in need of disability benefits, it is essential that you engage the services of a competent disability attorney who has the experience and the clout to navigate the system efficiently and effectively. Having a knowledgeable professional at your side can make a tremendous difference in getting your case handled more quickly and in getting positive results.

How Social Security Disability (SSD) Works

Unlike veterans’ benefits and workers’ compensation which grant awards according to percentages of disability, in order to be awarded SSD benefits, you must be considered completely disabled, not only unable to perform the duties of your previous position. If you are unable to perform your previous job, officials will evaluate whether you can adapt to a new type of employment.

The government defines complete disability as disability lasting at least a year or expected to result in death. Also, to receive SSD, rather than SSI benefits, applicants over the age of 31 must have accumulated a total of 20 work credits within the past 15 years. The only other way you can be eligible for SSD is if you are the unmarried child (under the age of 18) of a disabled parent, a full-time student up to the age of 19 (no higher than grade 12) of such a parent, or have yourself become disabled before the age of 22. If you are not entitled to SSD because you have never worked and don’t fit into any of the previous categories, you still may be eligible to claim disability through the SSI program if you are found to be medically disabled and also have limited income and resources.

How Much Will Social Security Pay if You Become Disabled?

If and when you are awarded SSD benefits, you should not expect the payments you receive to pay all your bills or to support your family. Though Social Security pays out almost $200 billion in disability payments to about 10.5 million people annually, the average recipient receives a check for only $1037 per month, not enough for a single individual to survive on, let alone a family.


Efforts To Improve the System

The Social Security Administration reports that it is working hard to reduce the dangerous backlog of disabled individuals who, in spite of dire need, are not yet receiving benefits. Efforts to remedy the situation include hiring 500 new administrative law judges and more than 600 new support staff members. These judges are expected to join the current 1600 judges who hear appeals from those who were initially denied benefits.

 

In addition, the agency is attempting to expand a program that will move more quickly to award benefits to individuals with the most serious conditions and illnesses, including certain cancers. Nonetheless, budget cuts over the past few years have interfered with the progress of this plan.

An illustration is that the agency’s budget for 2017 was $12.6 billion, about the same as it was in 2011, even though during the intervening years an additional 6 million people are receiving either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Seek Legal Counsel
For some, the benefits come too late. Believe it or not, last year 7,400 people whose names were still on waitlists for SSD benefits had already died. When the two-thirds of original applicants for assistance have their claims denied by state agencies, they can ask the same state agencies to reconsider, though usually to no avail. The next step for people in most states is to file an appeal with an administrative law judge. At this point, the backlog of cases increases to 1.1 million applicants waiting for a hearing. Though this year there has been a slight decrease in those waiting, the number is 31 percent higher than it was in 2012.

Don’t lose out on disability benefits you need and deserve. Get in touch with a skilled Social Security Disability attorney who has a comprehensive knowledge of the the laws surrounding SSD benefits and the agility to move you through the process as quickly as possible.

How Might a Repeal of the Affordable Care Act Impact the Disabled in Arizona?

Although recent efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) in favor of what has been promised to be a better national healthcare system have failed to pass to date, some Arizonans are worried about the fall out that may follow any plan that cuts services. In particular, the 1.9 Million people covered by Arizona’s version of Medicaid – – the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”)—stand to lose a lot.

How will this affect those receiving or applying for disability benefits in Arizona?

The federal government offers two different disability insurance and benefits programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) is a work credits-based program available to individuals who meet the government’s definition of “disabled” and who previously paid into the Social Security system through income tax deductions for a certain length of time. In contrast, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is a mean-tested program available to those with extremely limited financial resources who are of advanced age or are disabled. Depending on your particular situation, you and your family members may qualify for either program or both. In addition, pending on your situation, you and your family may qualify for health care coverage through the government’s Medicaid or Medicare programs.

What does the face of the potential crisis among disability benefits recipients in Arizona look like? Consider a single Arizona woman unable to work due to a debilitating condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome who is raising two significantly disabled young children on food stamps and her SSDI payments. Her and her children’s exorbitant medical care costs, including a feeding tube and about 24 medications among the three of them, are covered through AHCCCS.  She fears her children will “be lost” if her medical benefits are cut. She is not alone, as 42% of those covered by AHCCCS are children under 17.

The AHCCCS system has been recognized as a “highly efficient” model of healthcare for other states, yet 74% of its expenditures are paid by federal funds which may be in jeopardy if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. AHCCCS differs from other states’ Medicaid programs in that it reimburses insurance companies based on the number of people they ensure rather than the number of health services provided.

If the federal funding is cut, not only may Arizonans lose their coverage, but hospitals may lay off workers to offset lost federal money. In addition, funds that would be allocated to services such as education and transportation infrastructure may need to be diverted to partially fill the void in healthcare funding. Further, if people need to use personal funds for healthcare costs, the local economy may be negatively impacted by reduced consumer spending.

While the future of the Affordable Care Act is not in your control, finding the right attorney to assist you with SSDI and SSI benefits applications and appeals is.

If you need assistance applying for SSDI benefits, SSI benefits, or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us for a free initial consultation and assessment of your claim. From our offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we represent clients throughout Arizona.

Disability Insurance Appeal Backlog Time Skyrockets

Q: How long does it take to get a federal disability benefits appeal hearing date?

Getting it right the first time you are applying for Social Security disability benefits is critical because the appeals process for denials is excruciatingly-long and it’s getting longer each day.

The federal government offers two different disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Both require that an applicant meet the government’s definition of “disabled”, but the similarities end there.

To oversimplify a very complex topic, SSDI is a work-based program available to certain applicants who, in addition to meeting other qualifying criteria, previously worked and paid into the Social Security system through their payroll taxes for the requisite number of work years and work credits. In contrast, SSI awards do not require any work history, but are need-based and only available to those who, in addition to meeting other qualifying criteria, have extremely limited economic situations. Sometimes applicants may be eligible for both benefits programs, so seeking advice from an Arizona disability insurance attorney on how to apply is advisable.

Not only can a social security disability attorney counsel you regarding which benefits to apply for, they know how to put the strongest and most complete initial application together– which may increase the chances of it being granted the first time around.

Why is it important to have the initial application granted?

Here are some frightening statistics to answer that question:

  • initial application decisions take an average of 4 months
  • only 1/3 of initial applications are approved
  • reconsideration decisions take another 4 months
  • only 12% of reconsiderations are approved
  • only 46% of people who apply for a hearing win.

And the most sobering statistic of all: “from the date of their initial application, many people end up waiting for 2 1/2 years or longer for a judge’s decision.”

That means that those who have been denied twice are then waiting about 596 days or 19 1/2 months for a hearing with a judge–among a backlog of cases estimated at 1.1 million. And while retroactive benefits are available to those who do ultimately win on appeal, that’s hardly a consolation to those disabled applicants struggling financially for so long.

Can you afford to wait that long?

Not only is the physical or mental disability hard on the applicant and their family, but the financial burden caused by the wait for benefits is unbearable for most. By hiring a skilled attorney whose practice is devoted exclusively to helping people secure federal disability benefits, an applicant can increase the likelihood of a successful initial application and expedite the application and/or appeals process. They also unburden themselves from the complicated paperwork and red tape of the process.

If you or a loved one is applying for Social Security disability benefits or is appealing a denial of your initial application, the Social Security disability experts at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we represent disabled clients and veterans throughout Arizona.

Social Security Disability vs. Long-term Disability Insurance

Q: Do I need Long-term Disability insurance if there is Social Security Disability insurance?

No one wants to think about becoming disabled and being unable to provide for yourself or your family financially, because the prospect is frightening and applying for long-term disability benefits is complicated. However, 1 in 4 people will suffer a long-term disability during their lifetime and the average length of a long-term disability is 2 1/2 years. Can any among us survive financially with medical bills and no income for 30 consecutive months?

Arizona disability insurance attorneys are knowledgeable in all aspects of Long-term Disability (“LTD”) insurance as well as Social Security Disability (“SSDI”) insurance and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) programs and can help with filing and appealing denials of all of these benefits.  

Some employees have Short-term Disability (“STD”) insurance and/or LTD through their employers. If you become disabled and can’t do your job, STD insurance generally covers you during the first 30 to 120 days. LTD generally kicks in after STD insurance is exhausted and may last a number of years or through retirement age, depending on the policy’s terms. If it’s not offered through an employer, workers can purchase their own LTD policy, but STD policies can’t be purchased privately, so building a nest-egg to cover the initial disability period is advisable if possible.

SSDI and SSI are two very different government programs designed to financially assist the disabled. While they are similar in defining what constitutes “disabled”, the other program qualifications differ. In a nutshell, SSDI benefits are work – based, meaning they are only available to people who have worked and paid into the Social Security system for the required number of years and hours before becoming disabled. In contrast, SSI benefits are means– based and are generally available to those with extremely limited financial resources and who are of advanced age or disabled. Some people qualify for both SSDI and SSI benefits.

The government’s definition of “disabled” for purposes of qualifying for SSDI or SSI is as follows: “a person is disabled if here she suffers from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or result in death.”  LTD policies may define “disabled” differently.  And many LTD policies require the holder to apply for SSDI and/or SSI and may then reduce the percentage of LTD benefits if government benefits are granted. SSDI and SSI benefits are not guaranteed and, even if received, may be less than the amount available through a customizable LTD policy.

Both LTD claims and SSDI/SSI claims involve submitting often-complicated and extensive medical and other documentation and can take months in the best-case scenario or even years, depending on the appeals process. That’s why many hire a skilled disability attorney who understands the process and can often expedite moving a claim through the system.

If you or a loved one is disabled and needs assistance filing an initial claim for or appealing a denial of Social Security disability or long-term disability benefits, Roeschke Law can help you. Call us today at 800-975-1866 for a free consultation. From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we fight to get disabled clients throughout Arizona the benefits they deserve.

The Social Security Disability Insurance Appeals Process

Q: If I win a Social Security Disability Insurance appeal, are my benefits retroactive?

If you thought that applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits was complicated and time-consuming, wait until you hear about what’s involved in appealing a SSDI or SSI denial in Arizona in the event your initial application is denied.

If you are unable to work, you may qualify for one of the federal government’s two disability benefits programs – – Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Both programs are different, but each requires the applicant to meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled” which is “suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or result in death.” Some people may qualify for both benefits programs, depending on their particular situation.

A skilled disability law attorney will be able to help you with the complex application as well as determining which program to apply for. In general, SSDI is a work-based program available only to those who have paid into the Social Security system through income tax contributions over a required period of time before they became disabled.  The other disability program, SSI, is a means-based program generally available to those of extremely limited financial resources and are of advanced age or disabled.

Appealing an SSDI or SSI denial in Arizona can be up to a four-step appeals process depending on how many unfavorable rulings may be made along the way. It is important that you don’t miss the deadline for filing an appeal.

The 4 stages of the appeals process are:

Stage 1: Request for Reconsideration. Where a third party reviews the initial application and decision. If denied again, move on to stage 2.

Stage 2:  Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. Information and medical evidence is exchanged and made part of the administrative record before the hearing.  During the hearing, witnesses are questioned and additional documents may be submitted. Then the Judge will either affirm or overturn the denial. If affirmed, move to stage 3.

Stage 3: The Social Security Appeals Council Review Request. The Appeals Council can review the record and grant the benefits or send the case back down for another hearing.  They can also agree with the denial, refusing to review the case at all. If you fail here, move to the final stage.

Stage 4: Start a Federal lawsuit. This Court’s decision is the final outcome of your claim.

As you can see, the initial application as well as the multiple levels of the appeals process can take an enormous amount of time. And during that time, the applicant and their family is likely struggling financially waiting for those benefits. Having Disability Attorneys of Arizona on your side may make the difference in receiving benefits or not. Fortunately, retroactive benefits are available if your application or appeal is granted.

If you are unable to work and are anywhere in the Social Security Disability application or appeals process, Roeschke Law can help you. Call us at 800-975-1866 for a free initial consultation and assessment of your claim. From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients throughout Arizona.

Social Security Disability Benefits Vulnerable to New Budget Cuts

Q: How will President Trump’s proposed budget affect Social Security disability benefits?

Federal safety net programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and others can expect significant cuts and reforms if President Trump’s proposed budget passes in its current form, Social Security Disability lawyers warn.

The disability benefits legal experts are watching with interest for not only how the changes will impact those applying for SSDI disability benefits but also for any limitations on or cuts to the amounts of benefits disabled recipients are currently receiving.

The message from the top is “get a job, not a government handout”.  In an effort to cut down on fraud that is presumed to be widespread in government safety net programs and to encourage self-sufficiency, The White House Budget Director warned “if you are on disability insurance and you’re not supposed to be, if you are not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.”

Forcing those who are able to work back to the workforce will not only cut back on the amount of money paid out to those no-longer-disabled-and-actually-employable workers who are milking the system, but they will again be paying into the system to support the future claims of legitimately-disabled workers.

In addition to SSDI, there will be cuts and or changes other programs which impact the disabled such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (“SNAP”).

The proposed budget “would cut $72 billion by reforming disability programs”. The monthly benefits for the 10.6 million SSDI recipients total $11 billion. Reforms would focus on cracking down on recipients who are “exaggerating the extent of their ailment or staying on the program after they recover” by getting more enrollees off SSDI and back to work”.

Few would disagree with this concept on paper, but what will the reality of its implementation look like? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, honest people currently receiving disability benefits for legitimate and ongoing disabilities may be understandably uneasy about how the methods to root out the so-called fraudulent recipients may negatively impact the continuation of their rightful disability benefits.

If you need help applying for Social Security disability benefits or with appealing a denial of your application for benefits, the Social Security disability experts at Roeschke Law can help you at any stage of the process. Call us at 800-975-1866 for a free initial consultation and assessment of your claim.

Our Social Security lawyers represent clients in all counties and cities in Arizona from our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson.

Extra Benefits Available to Social Security Disability Recipients

Q: Can my student loans be forgiven if I receive Social Security disability benefits?

Facing a disability is frightening. It could happen to any of us at any time through an illness or an injury. In addition to being painful, long-term disabilities are often accompanied by stress over providing for our families. Specifically, we worry about paying mounting bills for basic things like food and shelter and other bills like student loans.

Social Security disability attorneys can help those who have become disabled obtain government benefits like Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). An experienced attorney can help streamline the rigorous administrative process of applying for disability benefits.

SSDI benefits are available to those under 65 who satisfy the government’s definition of “disabled” and who have accumulated the required minimum number of work credits prior to becoming disabled. Essentially, the person must’ve worked for a certain number of hours for a certain number of years and paid into the Social Security system through payroll taxes in order to qualify for SSDI. The disability can be physical or mental or both. A person is considered “disabled” if they “suffer from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or result in death.”

Unlike SSDI, SSI is a needs–based program for those who are either over 65, blind, or disabled and who have extremely limited financial resources. Sometimes people may qualify for both disability benefit programs.

In addition to helping you through the disability benefits application process or handling a disability benefits appeal, a skilled attorney devoted to practicing disability law can advise you about other benefits you might be entitled to as a disabled person.

One such a benefit is the forgiveness of certain federal student loans in the case of a total and permanent disability. That means Social Security disability benefit recipients may be able to have the balance of their unpaid federal student loans forgiven—a potentially huge relief for those already financially challenged by an unexpected permanent and total disability, especially given the increasingly high costs of a college education.

In related news, legislation has been proposed that would offer similar federal student loan forgiveness to veterans who become totally and permanently disabled and unemployable due to a service-connected condition. The legislation is aimed at cutting “bureaucratic red tape” and proactively identifying and notifying veterans who have incurred a total and permanent disability and also have outstanding federal student loans that they are eligible to have those loans discharged.

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits or appealing a denial of those benefits, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you. Call us today at 800-975-1866 from our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients throughout Arizona.