Private disability insurance may cover either short-term or long-term disability, but Social Security disability is intended only for those who will be unable to perform basic work functions for a period of at least 12 months.
If you do suffer from a severe medical condition that impairs your ability to earn a living and is expected to last for a year or more, you will want to begin the Social Security disability application process as soon as possible. The application process itself may take three to five months, and the time to approval may be considerably longer if you must challenge the determination in federal court.
In Florida, approval rates at the initial application stage and in connection with Requests for Reconsideration are low, meaning that the process will not move quickly for most Tampa applicants.
Qualifying for Long-Term Social Security Disability
To qualify for long-term Social Security disability benefits, you must meet two requirements. The first requirement relates to your work history, and the second to the seriousness and duration of your disability.
Disability Benefits Earnings Requirement
For most disability applicants, the earnings test involves two separate components. Most applicants must satisfy both a “recent work” test and a “duration of work” test. The specific requirements for each test vary depending upon the age at which you became disabled. Naturally, younger workers are not required to have worked as much as older ones.
The recent work schedule generally requires that an applicant have worked for half of a period of time leading up to his or her disability. For workers under the age of 24, that means 1.5 years of work in the three-year period ending with the disability. For those under 31, the requirement is three years out of the most recent six, and for older workers, five of the 10 years leading up to disability.
The duration of work requirement may impose a higher standard for some workers. For example, a worker who becomes disabled at age 54 will be required to have worked five of the most recent 10 years, but also to have worked for at least eight years in total.
Note that the actual calculation for recent work is based on quarters, not years, so the above breakdown is only a rough guideline. A Tampa Social Security disability attorney can help you determine the precise requirements in your case and compare them with your work history.
In addition to meeting work requirements, a successful Social Security disability applicant must demonstrate that he or she is unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last for one year or longer or to end in death.
Proving that you are disabled is generally the most difficult and time-consuming part of the application process, and it is that portion of the determination that you are most likely to have to fight.
The Social Security Disability Application and Appeal Process
When you file an initial application for disability benefits, you’ll be required to provide basic identifying information and documentation, along with certain employment records and medical records. You will also be required to authorize doctors and other health care professionals to provide information to the Social Security Administration.
The initial determination may take three to five months. In Florida, just over ¼ of initial applications are approved, meaning that most applicants must take further steps to secure their benefits.
The next step is a Request for Reconsideration, during which a different reviewer within the agency looks at the case and confirms the denial or approves benefits. In Florida, fewer than 10 percent of Requests for Reconsideration result in benefits being granted.
The next step is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. While many people pursue the initial application and even Request for Reconsideration on their own, most applicants will want an experienced Social Security disability attorney to assist with the hearing and any necessary appeals beyond that point.
Get Help Appealing Your Florida Social Security Disability Denial
Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help protect your rights and pursue your benefits. Just call 1-800-253-5523 or fill out the contact form on this page.