There has been a lot of discussion on the news recently about abuse within the Social Security Disability system. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concluded a two-year study that uncovered fraud that resulted in numerous individuals receiving benefits to which they were not entitled. The investigation discovered a law firm in Kentucky that it termed a “disability claim factory” and alleges that the attorney paid doctors and judges to approve disability claims on behalf of his clients. Investigators believe this is only one example of widespread abuse that has resulted in a large balance decline in the Social Security Trust Fund.
The Solomon Law Group is very concerned with these alleged fraudulent practices by individuals and unethical attorneys. Social Security Disability benefits exist to provide a safety net for individuals who are truly disabled and unable to support themselves due to their disability. Claims by individuals who are not disabled cause harm to those who truly need these benefits; indeed, the fraud impacts all Americans, since it is our tax dollars supporting the system. We encourage anyone who is aware of fraud cases within the Social Security Disability system to report the fraud to the Office of the Inspector General.
So, who is really eligible for Social Security Disability (DIB) benefits? In order to be eligible for benefits, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have a medical condition that prevents you from working AND is expected to last at least 12 months or is terminal. If you are able to work even part-time, you are not eligible for benefits. If your disability is short-term, you may be eligible for other benefits like workers’ compensation or private short-term disability coverage through your employer.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict definitions of what it terms “disabling conditions.” The disabled individual is responsible for proving that he or she meets the qualifications. There is a short list of conditions that are terminal or so severe that the SSA will “fast-track” the application, though in most cases the initial application process takes six or more months.
- To receive DIB benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to have earned a sufficient number of work credits. This number varies based on your age. In general, you must have earned 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned during the last 10 years. To see how many credits you need, check out the SSA’s benefits planner at http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/credits.htm.
- In certain cases, there are slightly different requirements and benefits. These may cover those who are blind or have limited vision, disabled children who reach adulthood, and wounded warriors.
- If you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits but have other benefits coming in—for example, workers’ compensation payments or monies from a car accident that resulted in your disability—your Social Security benefits may be reduced, or offset, to account for these other benefits. Please be honest about any other monies you are receiving.
The SSA does a periodic review of disability benefits to ensure that you are still entitled to receive them. Due to a backlog of cases and staffing challenges, not all cases are reviewed. It is up to the individual to let the SSA know if and when he or she is able to return to work so that benefits may be discontinued.
If you are truly disabled and meet the criteria above, the Columbia disability lawyers at Solomon Law Group are here to help you. We offer a free consultation and would be happy to speak with you about your situation. Please call or contact us online today to learn how we can help.