Disability attorney shaking hands with client

Different Stages in the Disability Appeals Process

If your application for Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits got denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you might want to file an appeal. Since the vast majority of applications for disability benefits get denied the first time, most people who end up getting the benefits they deserve have to go through at least one stage of the appeals process.

The good news is that your benefits can be retroactive if your application got denied and you win on appeal. The rules for appeals are strict and unforgiving, so you might want to work with a Michigan SSDI attorney to go after your benefits. Let’s explore the four different stages in the disability appeals process.

First Level of Appeal – Reconsideration

You have 60 days (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your application to file a request for reconsideration. The person who takes a fresh look at your disability claim will not be someone who was involved in the initial denial.

You can file additional evidence and request an appeal online if your claim got denied for a medical reason. If the SSA denied your disability benefits application for a non-medical reason, like your income or assets, you can request an online appeal of the non-medical determination letter that denied your application for benefits.

Second Level of Appeal – Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

You have 60 days (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your reconsideration to file a request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If you are not happy with the results of the reconsideration, you can ask an administrative law judge (ALJ) to take a look at your file and hold a hearing.

Sometimes, the hearings are in-person. Usually, the in-person hearings take place within 75 miles of where you live. Under some circumstances, the applicant can request and receive a video hearing. Since many people have experienced Zoom and other online video conferencing tools during the pandemic, they are less uncomfortable with this option and might find it more convenient.

Third Level of Appeal – Review by the Appeals Council

You have 60 days, typically though sometimes less (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to file a request for a review by the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council looks at your request for review and your file and decides that the decision of the ALJ complied with the applicable laws and regulations, they might deny your request for a formal review.

If the Appeals Council grants you a review, they can either send it to an ALJ to review it more, or they can handle the review themselves. If they send your file to an ALJ and you are not happy with the decision of the ALJ, you can ask the Appeals Council to review it themselves.

Fourth Level of Appeal – Federal Court Review

The fourth level of appeal of an adverse decision on your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is to file a civil lawsuit in federal court. You typically have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision by the Appeals Council to file your case in federal court. However, depending on the facts of your case, and procedural history, your timeline may be different. it is important to contact an experienced Michigan Social Security Disability attorney right away to know your rights and be mindful of any appeal deadline you may have. 

We understand that this four-stage appeals process can be intimidating and overwhelming. You do not have to go through this experience by yourself. A Michigan SSDI attorney can help you at any stage of your appeal. For legal assistance get in touch with our office today, we offer a free consultation.

Person filling out SSDI document

What You Should Know About the SSI Restoration Act

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021 (SSI Restoration Act) is an attempt to patch holes in the SSI program. The purpose of SSI is to provide a safety net so that people living in poverty do not become destitute. Current economic conditions make it harder than ever for people who rely on SSI benefits to avoid going hungry or experiencing homelessness. However, many people do not realize that for individuals younger than full retirement age, can qualify for SSI by virtue of being disabled so long as they meet the strict financial eligibility rules. 

The SSI Restoration Act would bring the financial eligibility rules in line with today’s economic realities. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you navigate the application process for SSI and other government benefits. Here is an overview of what you should know about the SSI Restoration Act.

The Current SSI Program

The maximum federal SSI payment for 2022 is $841 a month for an individual, and $1,261 for a couple, according to the Social Security Administration. The federal poverty guidelines for 2022 are $13,590 a year for an individual and $18,310 a year for a couple. 

Stated on a monthly basis, the federal poverty level is $1,132 a month for an individual and $1,525 a month for a couple. In other words, a person who is elderly or disabled and relies on SSI benefits to survive will be living significantly below the federal poverty level. Consigning people to abject poverty because they are old or disabled is not acceptable.

What the SSI Restoration Act Wants to Do

The SSI program might have been appropriate 50 years ago when the benefits program started, in 1972. The problem lies in the fact that the asset and income eligibility rules have not changed in 50 years. Also, benefits have not kept up with the increased cost of living.

Proponents of the SSI Restoration Act want to accomplish these goals:

  • Raise the asset limit. Currently, an individual can only own $2,000 of countable assets and $3,000 for a couple. The last time this asset limit was increased was in 1989. In the more than 30 years since that increase, the cost of assets has increased substantially. Using 30-year-old numbers means that people can own fewer actual assets to fall within the asset limits.
  • Increase the SSI monthly benefits from below the federal poverty level to match the current poverty level. Also, indexing these benefits to inflation will prevent eligible beneficiaries from seeing the purchasing power of their SSI check dwindle with each passing year. 
  • Allow SSI recipients to earn up to $399 a month from working and receive up to $123 a month in other types of assistance, like Social Security, pensions, and veterans benefits without having those amounts reduce their monthly SSI check. The current income limits have not been updated since 1972. Also, after getting updated, the income limits should get indexed every year to keep up with current economic realities.
  • Get rid of the current marriage penalty that exists in the SSI system. Each recipient should receive the individual benefit level.
  • Eliminate the in-kind help rules that reduce monthly benefits that SSI beneficiaries might receive from relatives or friends, like food or housing.

These improvements to the SSI program would offer motivation to recipients to try to earn some income that could restore their dignity and remove the roadblocks to them returning to employment. More importantly, updating the SSI program would be a fair and moral thing to do.

A Michigan SSDI attorney could advocate for you and handle your appeal if your application for SSI or SSDI benefits got denied. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.

social security attorney meeting with client

Can I Collect SSDI Benefits if I Applied for or Received Unemployment Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Michigan Unemployment are two different benefits programs that have different eligibility requirements that can conflict with each other. If you get approved for both SSDI and unemployment benefits, you will need to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Michigan Unemployment Department.

You might have to repay some of the benefits, or the two programs might partially offset each other, thereby reducing your unemployment benefits. These situations are complicated, so you will want to work with a Michigan SSDI attorney to make sure that you do not get into trouble. Here is some information that could be helpful if you are asking the question, can I collect SSDI benefits if I applied for or received unemployment benefits? 

The Inherent Conflict Between Applying for Unemployment and SSD Benefits

You have to be willing and able to work to be eligible for unemployment compensation. When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you have to declare that a severe illness or injury is the thing that prevents you from working.

If you apply for benefits from both programs and the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Unemployment Department communicate with each other, you might find yourself denied by both programs. If you do happen to get approved for SSDI and unemployment benefits, you have a duty to notify both programs of that fact.

Eligibility Requirements for SSDI Benefits

You must convince the Social Security Administration that all of these factors are true to qualify for SSDI benefits: 

  • You have a severe medical condition that meets the standards of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book and is a long-term condition. For purposes of SSDI, long-term means that the medical condition has already lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months, or is fatal. 
  • Because of the medical condition, you cannot work your previous job or any other type of gainful employment.
  • Your current monthly income does not exceed the substantial gainful activity (SGA) income limit. 

The second factor in the SSDI eligibility requirements usually causes problems when applying for unemployment benefits. You must certify to the Social Security Administration that you are unable to work.

How to Qualify for Michigan Unemployment Benefits

The Michigan Unemployment Department requires you to meet these qualifications before you can receive unemployment benefits:

  • You were employed before you submitted your application for unemployment benefits.
  • You are not employed at the time that you submit your benefits application.
  • You did not become unemployed through any fault of your own.
  • You are looking for appropriate full-time employment, and both able and available to work. 

If you certify that you are able to work, the fourth factor you must meet for unemployment benefits, then you most likely do not qualify for SSDI benefits, which require you to be unable to work. There are legal risks to applying for both unemployment and SSDI benefits. 

Sometimes it takes a while for the two government benefits programs to share information and discover the inherent conflict in the applications. When that happens, you might have a massive amount of money to pay back to the government. 

You should talk to a Michigan SSDI attorney before applying for both SSDI and unemployment benefits. Contact our office today for legal help, we offer a free consultation.

Family member of SSDI client

Are My Family Members Eligible for My Social Security Benefits When I Die?

When you have family members depending on your paycheck, you might worry about what will happen to them if you are no longer alive to be the provider for your loved ones. You might not have enough life insurance to meet the needs of a surviving spouse or disabled child for the rest of their lifetime.

A Michigan SSDI attorney can talk to you and evaluate whether survivors’ benefits will be available in your situation. Let’s address the question, are my family members eligible for my Social Security benefits when I die?

Who Can Be Eligible for Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has several different kinds of survivors’ benefits available, but you must have paid the required amount in Social Security taxes from your paychecks over the years for your family members to be eligible. If you worked jobs that deducted money from your paychecks for Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes, you have paid into the Social Security system. 

If you meet the requirements for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your dependent close relatives might be eligible for survivor benefits. If you are not eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your family members will not be eligible based on your earnings record. They might be eligible for other kinds of benefits (not survivors’ benefits) for some other reason, even if they do not qualify under your work record. 

Does Your Social Security Disability or Retirement Check Get Sent to Your Family Members After You Die?

No, the Social Security administration should not continue sending your disability or retirement monthly check to your family members after you die. If your family members do receive Social Security disability or retirement checks made out to you after you pass away, they should return them to the Social Security Administration. If they do not do so, they will have to pay back the money.

The SSA will calculate the amount of survivors’ benefits for each of your eligible dependents. The amount will not necessarily be the same amount that you received as your disability or retirement monthly check. Your family should notify the SSA at once of your passing and apply for survivors’ benefits.

Who Can Get Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

There are four categories of family members who might qualify for survivors benefits through you:

  • If you were married at the time of your death, your widow or widower might be eligible for benefits. If your surviving spouse is not disabled, they will likely have to wait until they are 60 years old to start getting Social Security benefits under your account. A disabled spouse can start collecting Social Security benefits at age 50. Your surviving spouse’s age is irrelevant if the person takes care of your disabled child who is under the age of 16. 
  • You might have divorced years ago, but if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, your ex could be eligible for Social Security benefits through you, the same as a surviving spouse.
  • Your children could be eligible for some monthly benefits from Social Security through you if they are under the age of 18 and single, or going to high school full-time and not yet 19. If you have a disabled child who is older than 18 and became disabled before turning 22, that individual might receive survivors’ benefits.
  • If you provided at least half of the support for one or both of your parents who are over 62 years old, they might be eligible dependents for survivors’ benefits. Sometimes, adopted children, step-children, grandchildren, and step-grandchildren might qualify for survivors’ benefits through you.

The rules for survivors’ benefits eligibility are strict and sometimes complicated. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you seek the benefits you deserve and appeal a denial of benefits. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.

Types of Medical Evidence to Help Win Your Disability Case

An essential element of having a credible Social Security Disability claim is demonstrating continued medical treatment and care from a medical professional. At Disability Law Group, we are honored to fight for our clients and for their deserved benefits. One requirement we have is that clients are actively in treatment and continue to follow up with their medical providers so that we have what we need to help in the best way possible. Licensed medical providers know their patients best and will add credibility and support to their argument of being considered disabled under law. We will need the names of the doctors, contact information and length of treatment so that all appropriate medical records can be requested in a timely manner. In addition, it is imperative to include hospitalizations, urgent care visits, emergency department records, medical tests, MRIs, CT scans, bloodwork, x-rays and testing results. Having consistent and updated medical records allows us to demonstrate to the Social Security Administration that your current medical status and prognosis.

Documentation is key and a huge advantage if a case goes all the way to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing level. Initiating a conversation with your physician even before submitting your initial application, is highly recommended. Keeping your medical team updated throughout the process will ensure that necessary documentation is submitted in a timely manner and important deadlines are met. Once our office requests medical records from their offices and facilities, they will be aware and take urgency in this matter. Our firm also drafts Medical Source Statements to be presented to your medical providers to help add additional supportive evidence to your case. The more your doctors understand about your symptoms, the more willing they typically are to take the time needed to complete these forms and do so in a timely manner. A statement in support by one of your treating medical providers can be huge advantage in either being denied or approved benefits.

Along the way, it would be helpful to maintain a written record or journal of all treatment dates, locations and additional testing. Rather than estimating or guessing on this crucial information, it is best to know exact dates so that all pertinent records can be obtained and so that nothing is missed in your case. This will alleviate further headaches when filing the application and while it is still pending, awaiting a decision. We recommend all clients contact our office for any changes in medical treatment, surgeries or new physicians.

Updated progress notes and office treatment records exhibit the possibility of a worsening condition and deteriorating health. The Social Security Administration will take into consideration if the claimant is complying with recommended treatment, how they are reacting to prescribed medications and how all of this will affect their ability to maintain employment. Abruptly stopping or ending treatment is not advisable without first consulting with your doctor, and it is best to follow all recommendations from your medical team. Oftentimes, medical conditions are not curable or reversible, but even after all other medical treatment has been exhausted, it is important to still go to all follow up visits. Not only does medicine evolve and, with time and medical advancements, new treatment options become available, but your visits document your continued complaints, including medication side-effects, and response to treatment, all of which must be considered by Social Security in your disability case.

As mentioned above, your own doctors can be more inclined to complete paperwork, and Medical Source Statements, detailing your symptoms and limitations, which can help your case. But, SSA may also obtain these statements from other physicians as well, which may not be favorable for your case. Consultative examinations completed by medical experts will provide an analysis of limitations and impairments that would impact your ability to function in particular jobs. However, oftentimes, these examinations are done quickly, without a full review of your medical evidence and may not be helpful to your claim. This is where hiring a team of disability attorneys and support staff can help, not only in obtaining evidence that would support your allegations, but in raising arguments that highlight your disability. Claims filed on the basis of a mental health condition will require medical treatment records from a mental health provider and show that you are complying with recommended care.

Compiling all of these documents, forms and records can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when maintaining your own busy schedule with doctor appointments and more. You do not need to go through the process alone. At Disability Law Group we have years of experience specializing only in disability claims. We will work alongside your doctors to obtain the necessary medical records in an efficient, effective and punctual matter. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for your free consultation today at 800-838-1100 or https://disabilitylawgroup.com/.

Compassionate Allowance – Conditions that Qualify for Expedited Disability

Compassionate Allowances was established to efficiently identify the health issues that meet standards of being disabled under law. This program is not separate from Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Social Security’s Compassionate Allowance is a special program that expedites the application or disability process for specific qualifying medical conditions. The merit of a claim can be decided solely on the documented and recorded diagnosis. However, medical records will be evaluated to not only confirm a diagnosis, but additional limitations that may be applicable when evaluating the specific criteria.

Medical records can help show that a disability claimant’s conditions and limitations, as well as response to treatment, would be so severe that they would merit consideration of an award of disability benefits based on the Compassionate Allowance criteria alone. In other words, a finding that a claimant’s conditions meet the criteria for one or more of those outlined in the Compassionate Allowance listing would allow for a quicker decision, granting disability benefits, without further waiting and appeals needed.

Overall these conditions include many types of cancers, ALS, neurological disease, rare disorders that impact children, and more. There is an exhaustive list of around 200 conditions that fall under the Compassionate Allowance program. Many of these conditions account for terminal illnesses and incurable diseases. Parameters on the severity of the condition and prognosis are established when deciding the merit of the claim. Below is a link to all of the current diseases listed under the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) Conditions: https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm. Examples of some of the most common conditions for these type of applications are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mixed dementia
  • Breast Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
  • Child Lymphoma
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer – inoperable or unresectable
  • Liver Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
  • Salivary Cancers
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer

If you have a condition(s) on the Compassionate Allowance list, benefits can be approved in as quickly as a few weeks or months. You will want to make sure that all medical documentation is received timely and any letters in support to help confirm the criteria is met are supplied. You will want to make sure that all paperwork is filed and deadlines are met, and communicate any changes or updates regularly. At Disability Law Group, our goal is to help our clients win the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible.

If you or a loved one have one of these qualifying conditions, or another condition not included in this list, please contact our office for a free consultation at 248-838-3000 or https://disabilitylawgroup.com/. Our legal team has personally have had relatives, family and friends, as well as many other clients go through this process. We are here to help you win the benefits you deserve as quickly as possible.

Sources

SSDI attorney meeting with client

Documentation Requirements for SSDI Benefits – What to Know When Applying

One of the most common reasons people get denied when they apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants more documentation from them. Every time the SSA sends your paperwork back to you for more documents or denies your benefits claim because of insufficient documentation, the longer your benefits get delayed.

It could help if you knew the documentation requirements for SSDI benefits, and what to know when applying for the benefits you need when you cannot work because of a disability. A Michigan SSDI Attorney could help you prepare your SSDI benefits application so that you have all the documentation that SSA will require.

Birth Certificate or Other Proof of Birth

The SSA will need to know where you were born, the date of your birth, and your Social Security number. If you are currently married or ever were married, you will have to include your current and any former spouse’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Also, be sure to include the dates and places of each marriage and the dates of divorce or death, if applicable. 

People do not automatically qualify for SSDI benefits merely because they now live in the United States. If you were not born in the United States, you will need to provide documents that prove your United States citizenship or lawful alien status.

U.S. Military Discharge Papers

If you served in the military before 1968, you will need to submit your military discharge papers with your application for SSDI benefits to show your eligibility.

Last Year’s Tax Returns or W-2’s

If you were employed during the last tax year, you must submit your W-2 forms. Self-employed people need to submit their self-employment tax returns for the previous year.

Worker’s Compensation Benefits

Whether you received any temporary or permanent worker’s compensation-type benefits, you will need to include your award letters, pay stubs, redemption or settlement agreements, or any other proof of the benefits you received.

Medical Records

The SSA can obtain many of your doctor, hospital, and other medical records if you sign a records release authorization, but it could help if you submit the medical evidence you already have in your possession. You will want to include recent test results, reports from your doctors, and other medical records that you have on hand when you file your SSDI application.

Can I Submit Copies, or Do I Have to Send Originals?

Some things, like your birth certificate, if requested, will have to be the original documents. You can usually obtain an official “original” copy of your birth certificate by contacting the department of vital records of the state where you were born. The SSA returns original documents after processing applications.

Most other documents, like medical records, self-employment tax returns, and your W-2 forms, do not have to be originals. You can submit scans or photocopies of those papers. 

When you mail documents to the SSA, you have to include your Social Security number inside the packet of documents so that the SSA can connect them with the correct application. You should not write your Social Security number or anything else on any original documents. Instead, write your Social Security number on a separate piece of paper and put it inside the envelope in which you mail your documents.

A Michigan SSDI Attorney can help you with your SSDI benefits application or denial of benefits. Contact our office today for legal assistance, we offer a free consultation and disability is all we do.

Disabled man going over social security disability application

Where do Social Security Funds Come From?

When a person cannot work because of a disability, that person may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. There are two programs available for disability payments. The federal government pays disability benefits from Social Security funds. Our Michigan SSDI attorney can help you determine which program applies if you cannot work because of a disability. 

Where Does the Government Get Funds for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers Social Security benefits for individuals throughout the United States. Social Security benefits include both retirement disability payments. The program is funded through payroll taxes paid by employees and employers. The funds collected through payroll deductions are divided between two accounts – Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI).

For 2021, payroll tax deductions for Social Security equals 12.4 percent of income up to $142,800. Employees and employers split the payment by paying 6.2 percent. Self-employed individuals pay the entire amount owed for Social Security taxes. 

Most of the taxes paid to Social Security go into the disability insurance fund. Only a small portion is paid to the retirement fund. When a person is approved for Social Security disability benefits, they receive payments from the Disability Insurance fund.

How Do I Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

SSDI benefits are disability payments for individuals who cannot work because of a disability. Before you can qualify for SSDI benefits, you must contribute to the system. Individuals contribute to SSDI by working and paying employment taxes to Social Security. The amount of taxes you must pay before you are eligible for SSDI benefits depends on your age, income, and work history. Work credits are used to determine if you have paid enough money into the system to be eligible for SSDI benefits. 

When you pay employment taxes, you receive work credits. The work credits are based on the amount you earn. You can earn up to four credits each year. For example, in 2021, you must earn $1,470 in covered earnings for each credit. So, once you earn $5,880 in 2021, you have earned your maximum of four work credits for that year.

To be eligible for SSDI disability benefits, you must have earned 40 work credits if you were born after 1928. If you are 31 years or older, at least 20 of the 40 work credits must have been earned within the ten years before you became disabled. The number of work credits needed to qualify for SSDI is adjusted for individuals under the age of 31 years.

In addition to your work credits, you must meet the definition of disabled. The definition of disabled used by the Social Security administration may be different from the definition used by other agencies or insurance providers.

You are disabled if you have a medically verifiable mental or physical impairment that will result in your death or will last for one year or longer. In addition, the impairment must prevent you from performing any substantial gainful activity that would earn income. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Michigan SSDI Attorney

If you have questions about SSDI disability benefits, contact our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Michigan SSDI attorney. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do and we are here to help you.

man with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder and SSDI Benefits

What Are the Requirements for Receiving SSDI Benefits if I Have Bipolar Disorder?

It is believed that approximately 5.7 million people across the nation suffer from bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental disorder characterized by extreme changes in mood, energy, thoughts, and behavior.

Bipolar disorder is also commonly referred to as manic depression, due to the sufferer’s ability to alternate between mania or highs and depression or lows.  

Bipolar disorder can make it challenging for those who suffer from it to perform work and daily living tasks. Swings in behavior can lead to employees frequently calling off work when depressed or struggling to control their actions when in a manic state.

For some people with severe bipolar disorder that is not well controlled through medication, it may be a possibility to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

Bipolar Disorder in the Blue Book

The symptoms and severity of bipolar disorder vary greatly among individuals. Bipolar disorder will typically manifest sometime between childhood and adulthood. It is usually diagnosed following a patient, parent, or loved one’s reported behavioral abnormalities.

At times, bipolar disorder can lead to psychosis. For someone diagnosed with bipolar to receive SSDI benefits, their condition must be constant and impair their ability to function in the workplace.  

The Social Security Administration includes bipolar disorder among its Listing of Impairments.  Per the Listing, the SSA requires that a claimant with bipolar disorder have a history of symptomatic depressive episodes, manic episodes, or a combination of both. 

Once this is met, the claimant must demonstrate two of the following:

  • A severe limitation in daily activity;
  • Recurring episodes of lasting decompensation; or 
  • The inability to interact with others in a normal manner.

Those who do not meet these criteria could still qualify under the broader category of chronic affective disorders, of which bipolar is included.  Criteria under this category include at least two years of a documented chronic affective disorder and limitations or prolonged decompensations, despite medication. 

Applying for SSDI benefits can be complex and many claimants are initially denied.

For assistance with preparing your SSDI claim or appealing the denial of your action, contact our experienced Michigan social security disability attorneys at Disability Law Group today for an initial consultation.

widow

Can I Collect SSDI and Widows’ Benefits?

Usually, you cannot collect the full amount of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and widow’s benefits, because SSDI benefits are a form of an early retirement program. You could collect the higher amount of the two programs as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. A Michigan SSDI attorney can guide you through the process of applying for benefits and handle your appeals if your claim gets denied or you receive less money than you deserve.

What Happens if You Already Receive SSDI Benefits Before You Become a Widow

Let’s say that you already collect SSDI benefits because you are too disabled to work, and you meet the other elements of eligibility. When your spouse dies, you could start getting a monthly survivor benefit as a widow. The amount you receive will be equal to the higher of the two benefits. 

If your SSDI check is higher than your monthly survivor benefit, you will simply continue to get your SSDI check. If your survivor benefit, also called widows benefit, is more than your SSDI check, then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will continue to send you your SSDI check plus and an excess survivor benefit. The amount of the excess survivor benefit is the difference between your SSDI check and your widow’s benefit. The total of the excess survivor benefit and your SSDI check cannot exceed the amount of the widow’s benefit in this situation.

By way of example, let’s look at what happens when a person who receives $1,200 a month in SSDI benefits becomes a widow with a survivor benefit of $1,800 a month. The individual would continue to receive the $1,200 a month SSDI check, plus a check for $600 a month as an excess survivor benefit.

If the person collected $1,750 a month in SSDI benefits before the spouse died and the survivor benefit was $850 a month, the surviving spouse would get the higher amount, $1,750. The SSA will not add the two amounts. The SSA will only send you the higher amount.

What Happens if You Become a Widow Before You Become Disabled

Regardless of the order in which the two events occur, you cannot get more than the higher of the two types of benefits. If you already collect widow’s benefits when you later become disabled, the SSA will determine the amount of disability benefits you could receive for your disability. The SSA will then pay you up to the higher amount of benefits, either the SSDI or the widow’s benefits. 

Eligibility for SSDI or Widow’s Benefits

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet these requirements:

  • Have a severe illness or injury that causes you to be unable to work enough to support yourself,
  • Not earn more money than the earnings cap for SSDI,
  • Your doctor expects your impairment to last at least a year or to be terminal,
  • You have worked long enough at jobs that paid into the Social Security system through Social Security taxes that your employer took out of your paycheck.

To qualify for survivor’s/widow’s benefits, you must have been married to someone who paid into the Social Security retirement program through his employment. Some people can qualify for widow’s benefits after divorcing the person who later died.

When you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefit will automatically convert to what the SSA will call your retirement benefit. A Michigan SSDI attorney can evaluate your situation and advocate for you. Contact us today.