Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility is determined using medical criteria in the Blue Book (Officially: Disability Evaluation Under Social Security). The impairments include the most common medical conditions that are severe enough to keep an individual from working. If you match the requirements of an impairment that is listed, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. SSDI pays benefits to people who are unable to work for at least one year.
An ounce of prevention, the old saying goes, is worth a pound of cure. That’s certainly true about disability. You can immediately reduce your odds of becoming disabled by making a few commonsense improvements in the way you live.
To learn more about disability insurance and how it works, check out Disability Insurance Basics!
Embrace a healthy lifestyle
Oh, you’ve heard this one before? It’s still true. Shedding bad habits and adopting healthier ones creates an abundance of benefits – not just for you, but for the people who love you and want you to stick around a long time.
It’s no secret that nicotine use has been linked to a variety of life-threatening illnesses, from cancer to heart disease and stroke. If you’re a smoker, make quitting your top priority. Need help kicking the habit? The American Cancer Society can help.
Get regular checkups
Think of your doctor as an ally who helps keep you well, not just the person who treats you when you’re sick. Regular checkups and screenings are vital, especially if you or your family are predisposed to certain medical conditions. Wondering about which screenings and immunizations you need? Ask your primary healthcare provider or visit the US Department of Health and Human Services website.
Get regular cancer screenings
Early detection saves thousands of lives every month. Your family history and certain risk factors sometimes indicate that a person’s screenings should start at a younger age. Ask your doctor, or visit the American Cancer Society website for more information.
Watch your weight
Those extra pounds can cause big trouble. They strain your heart, raise your blood pressure and significantly increase your risk of a heart attack. Eat more high-fiber, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, and fewer high-fat foods. For more dietary information visit the US Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate Website. Calculate your body mass index (BMI), to assess your personal situation, with this tool from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Get regular exercise
A healthy life requires periodic physical activity. To prevent heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity, the American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of exercise at least four times a week.
Avoid excessive drinking
While drinking in moderation is usually fine, heavy drinking can lead to liver damage and other serious health risks. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can answer your alcohol questions.
Disability-causing incidents can spring up when you least expect them. Stay alert for possible dangers. Drive defensively. Wear your seatbelts. At work or play, always use the recommended safety equipment. For more information, visit the National Safety Council.
Watch your back
Back injuries and arthritis are the leading causes of disability. You can reduce your chances of injury by losing weight, do gentle stretching exercises before a rigorous workout, and practice sound weightlifting techniques. The Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center is an excellent source of information.
Cultivate your mental and emotional health
Good relationships and a positive mental attitude really help. Maintain contacts with family and friends. Stay active and involved through work, recreation and perhaps volunteer work in your community. Yes, it’s a 24/7 world but no one can work 24 hours a day. Take time for relaxation and doing things that make you happy. Reducing stress reduces the likelihood of some physical illnesses.
For more information, visit Mental Health America.
You’ve worked hard to get where you’re at. Your hard work allows you to earn an income and pay for things you need – or want – in life. If you suddenly became unable to work, your paycheck would most likely stop – making it difficult to pay your mortgage, car payment, utilities, etc. Disability insurance protects your income and […]
Disability and the ensuing loss of income has huge financial implications that few are prepared for. Without the ability to maintain a steady income, workers may fall behind on payments.
In fact, about 77 percent of consumers (shareable infographic) said they would not be able to pay their bills for more than a year if they suffered a loss of income, according to the Council for Disability Awareness. However, the time those who are disabled are out of work is often more than two years, according to the CDA.
The recent Disability Insurance Awareness Month highlighted the importance of coverage in case you are unable to work. If you have to spend days, months, or even years away from the office, disability insurance could give you the funds to cover that loss of income and pay your bills.
Here are 10 expenses you need to prepare for in case of a disability:
1. Medical Costs
Once you experience a disability, you may be required to visit specialists, perform medical tests, and buy medications to help you recover and treat your condition.
If you don’t have enough funds in your savings, you may end up resorting to putting charges on your credit card—and you could go into medical debt.
2. Loss of Income
In the case of disability, not only would you have to cope with medical bills stemming from your injury or illness, you would also have to deal with income losses from missing work and recovering.
The loss of several paychecks—or more, depending on how long you are out of work—is not to be taken lightly.
3. Utility Bills
A leave of absence from work and the subsequent loss of income may make it harder to pay for gas, heating and electricity.
Do you have enough emergency savings to cover what could potentially be many months of utility bills?
4. Rent or Mortgage
Housing is usually the biggest single expense for consumers. You could risk eviction or foreclosure if you fall behind on your rent or mortgage.
Since a disability stretching for more than two-and-a-half years could equal 135 weeks of missed paychecks, you may have to dip into your savings to pay for your housing.
5. Internet and Phone
If you were disabled and couldn’t work, you would still need to account for the services provided by your Internet and phone companies.
You could choose to cut your service package or switch to a lower-cost plan.
6. Food Expenditures
Disabilities often bring on a change in both your budget and your health situation. In this case, you may need to either reduce your food or your dining out expenses.
Consider, too: Depending on your diagnosis and the recommendations of your doctor, you might have to switch to a special diet to accommodate your medical condition.
7. Transportation and Gas
If you were disabled, you would need to take into consideration how you would get to and from doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, and other places. If you were to find a car too expensive, you might opt to take public transportation instead.
Although insurance—health, car, home, renter’s, and other policies—often only makes a small dent in your regular paychecks, in the case of a loss of income, you would still need to take this expense into consideration.
Add up how much you would require in cash reserves to stay current on insurance for a yearlong disability or longer.
9. Child Care
If you were disabled with a condition that would mean you needed more child care services, you would need to budget for this higher cost.
For example, if you were disabled, you may need someone else to watch over your children while you visit doctors and other medical appointments.
10. Fees and Interest
While you could put all your household bills on your credit cards, this may be an unsustainable way to pay your expenses in the case of a loss of income.
Not only would you have to deal with rising payments from interest, you also risk having fees from overdrawing on your limit.
All of these considerations make a loss of income resulting from disability a big challenge. But if you carry the proper income protection coverage, you could get back on the job without the added stress of bills piling up in the background.
“Who would have expected to be permanently disabled from a broken arm?”
Delayed Social Security Disability Benefits forced Monica to use her retirement savings after a simple broken arm turned tragic.
Monica had it all by the age of 37: A successful career in the financial field, a wonderful son, and big dreams for the future. She never dreamed a disability would change her life forever.
But, in January 2003, Monica stepped off a porch and slipped on the wet ground. She went down, trying to brace her forward fall by stretching out her arms for support. Her right elbow, shattered in a dozen places, needed to be surgically repaired.
After initial recovery, Monica developed osteonecrosis, a condition known as “dying of the bone.” Monica’s humerus bones started to crumble and she became confined to a wheelchair. Monica eventually hired a caretaker to help her do basic daily tasks, such as bathing, eating, and dressing.
There are a lot of things to consider when buying disability insurance. Just like other types of insurance, the decisions you make will affect your disability insurance benefits, coverage and premiums. The best way to make sure that you’re making responsible decisions is to evaluate your situation and long term needs. Below are important factors from www.LifeHappens.org that can help you when buying disability insurance.
Amount of Coverage
While there’s no substitute for a thorough needs analysis conducted by an insurance professional, you’ll find that most policies cover between 50% and 70% of your income. When thinking about how much coverage you need, consider both short-term and long-term expenses, as well as any other sources of disability income, such as investment income or group disability income coverage.
Group Disability Coverage
Some employers, including most larger ones, offer group disability insurance. However, an employee may still need to consider individual disability insurance because the coverage offered by the company might be insufficient. In this case, the amount of individual insurance you can obtain will be affected by the amount of group coverage you receive.
This is the amount of time you are required to wait after a disability occurs before you can receive benefits. It can vary from as short as 30 days to 90 days or longer. Longer elimination periods generally translate into lower premiums. However, you should be certain that you could afford to meet all of your immediate needs for that period of time if you were to become disabled.
Another policy option concerns the amount of time you will receive benefits. They can last for between one and five years, up to age 65, or even for life, depending on your specific needs. The benefit period will directly impact your premiums—the longer the period, the higher the premium.
Taxable or Tax-Free Income
When employers pay your insurance premiums, the benefits you receive will be taxable because they are considered income. If you pay your premiums with after- tax dollars, then your benefits will be tax free (according to current IRS regulations).
When considering the amount of coverage you need, keep in mind that you will probably want to continue funding your retirement needs, even if you are not working.
Definition of Disability
Some plans pay claims if you can no longer perform the duties of your current occupation, while other plans will pay benefits only if you are unable to perform the duties of any occupation. Still others will pay benefits based upon loss of earned income. Each option offers a different level of cost and benefit.
Content reproduced with the permission of Life Happens, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers make smart insurance decisions to safeguard their families’ financial futures. Life Happens does not endorse any insurance company, product or advisor. © Life Happens 2015. All rights reserved.
Many people believe that social security disability insurance (SSDI) will pay out cash benefits if they’re unable to earn a paycheck. The truth is – only 36% of SSDI applicants ever get approved. You’re more likely to find a unicorn in the forest than you are an SSDI check in the mail. However, knowing the social security disability insurance eligibility requirements and applying early will improve your chances of getting approved.
SSDI vs. SSI
There are two types of social security disability insurance: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration manages both programs and both require a medical need for eligibility but that’s where the similarities stop. SSDI is only available to those who have worked and contributed via payroll taxes. On the other hand, SSI is an income and asset-based program and eligibility is not based on your work history. To qualify for Supplemental Security Income, your income cannot exceed $735 per month ($1,103 for couples)1.
Social Security Disability Insurance Eligibility Requirements
Financial Eligibility Requirements
You’ve probably noticed the FICA Social Security Tax deduction on the bottom of your paycheck. That is the amount you pay into the Social Security program every paycheck. A portion of this tax goes towards the SSDI program. After a certain number of years paying in to the system, you’ll have earned enough work credits to be financially eligible for SSDI. Work credits are based on the number of years you’ve worked. As of 2016, you have to earn $1,300 to earn one work credit.
Medical Eligibility Requirements
Aside from financial eligibility requirements, you must also have a qualifying medical condition to receive social security disability benefits. There are quite a few medical conditions or impairments that qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some of the more common medical conditions include back injuries, cardiovascular conditions (heart failure, coronary artery disease, etc.), respiratory illnesses (asthma, COPD, etc.), vision and hearing loss, mental disorders, etc.
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance
As with many government programs, the application process can be tedious. Luckily, the Social Security folks have made applying for Social Security Disability Insurance easier (for most applicants) with an online process. Aside from the basic info – name name, date, social security number – you’ll also need to provide information about your medical condition including diagnosis, doctor contact information, patient ID numbers, list of prescriptions, etc.
Oh yeah… and don’t forget the information about your work history! Social security disability insurance is based on your income. You’ll need to provide details about your income and the name and address of your current employer. The Social Security Administration will also need a list of your employers for the 15 years prior to when your disability began. You should try to gather all the stuff you’ll need prior to applying for benefits, however, you can stop and save the application and come back later if you’re missing something. The Social Security Administration created this Checklist For Online Adult Disability Application (PDF) which lists everything you’ll need to apply for social security disability insurance.
An accident at work left Joshua without the use of his legs, and left his family with tremendous financial strain.
“Being in my twenties at the time of the accident, protecting myself from disability was not on my mind.”
Ever since he was young, Joshua had a talent for mechanical work. After graduating from high school, Joshua soon found work at a local elevator repair company and he quickly mastered the trade and excelled in his job.
One day, after five and a half years on the job, a dumbwaiter fell on him, dropping more than 700 pounds onto his back. At first he was not in a lot of pain, but he soon lost feeling in his legs and was rush to the emergency room.
At the hospital, doctors confirmed Joshua’s initial fears-he had suffered a total spinal injury and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
While he has been aided by workers’ compensation, his disability has had significant financial stress on his family. After the accident, his mother temporarily left work to take care of him, further lowering the family’s income during a time in which medical expenses were rapidly piling up. It took three years until-through tremendous determination, rehabilitation, and a positive spirit-Joshua was finally able to get around on his own.
Looking back on the accident, Joshua says, “You never know from one day to the next what will happen.” He continues, “Being in my twenties at the time of the accident, protecting myself from disability was not on my mind. Protecting yourself from a disability should be on everyone’s mind, regardless of age.”
Source: Council for Disability Insurance
As with many application processes, the disability insurance application process can be daunting. A series of questions – medical, personal and financial – designed to give the insurance carrier enough information to assess your risk for disability. Your answers will be used to decide whether you will be issued disability insurance, in what amounts, with what coverage and at what cost.
Age and gender
Your disability premium, in part, will be based on your age and gender. The younger you are, the less your premium tends to be. If you are female, you will sometimes pay a higher premium than if you are male (unless the insurance company offers unisex pricing). It’s not necessarily a sexist thing, historically women file more disability insurance claims than men so insurance companies usually consider women a greater risk.
What you do for a living also plays an important role in determining what kind of disability coverage you can buy and how much your premium will be. The underwriter will consider your job duties as well as your title. Statistically, certain occupations pose less risk to the insurance company. For instance, if you are an architect, an engineer, or a CPA, you are less likely to file a disability claim than if you have a more hands-on career such as a mechanic or high-rise window washer.
Insurance companies group occupations together and assign them a rating class based on how hazardous the occupation is, how much income is earned and history of claims filed by others in the same industry. These ratings vary between insurance providers but most of them use a number and/or letter system to classify risks (such as class 1, 2, 3, and 4, or A, B, C, and D). You’ll most likely see classifications such as these on your disability insurance quote.
How healthy you are now and how healthy you’ve been in the past are the single most important factor when determining eligibility for disability insurance coverage. The application lists a series of questions designed to expose current and past health conditions. If you’ve had health problems, you’ll need to provide details including the name and address of your physician, duration of treatment and dates of the illness or injury. You’ll probably be asked to take a paramedical examination, including a blood test and a urinalysis. Depending on the situation, some people may be asked to undergo a full physical examination. You may also be asked questions about your family’s medical history to determine whether you are at high risk for developing certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
While health is the most important component of disability insurance, income is a very close second. Disability insurance – also known as income protection – replaces part of your paycheck so your income becomes very important. The amount of money you earn affects the type of coverage you can buy, what your monthly disability benefit will be (how much you’ll get) and how high your premium will be. High-income professionals generally fall into higher ratings classes. If you have relatively high earnings, you may be able to buy a policy that has a more liberal definition of disability and more comprehensive coverage. Additionally, the benefit amount you may purchase is based on your gross earned income before taxes.
Each insurance company has a table that is used to determine how much monthly benefit you can receive based on your earnings. In general, the insurance company will try to replace 50 to 70 percent of your pretax earnings. This percentage may be higher if your income is low or less if your income is high.
Skydiving Means Higher Need for Disability Insurance… and Premiums
So, you like skydiving? Great, we love exciting lifestyles and hobbies just as much as the next guy! People in this situation need disability insurance more than ever but they should be aware that their premiums will reflect their adventurousness. Insurance carriers want to determine the likelihood that they’ll have to pay a claim. The higher the likelihood – like for a sky diving instructor – the more likely a disability claim will be filed.
Insurance carriers have to factor in risk factors prior to issuing a policy. They’ll ask supplemental questions like: have you ever been declined for other disability insurance, are you a pilot, do you travel out of the country, etc. Be truthful. Insurance companies have access to a lot of information. If your lifestyle or occupation is riskier than most, it may not affect your ability to buy disability insurance. It’s just one point insurance companies consider.
Other Disability Insurance Coverage
Insurance companies want policy holders to get better and return to work as soon as possible. To create incentive, they limit the amount of coverage you can buy, based on the amount of coverage you already have. They take into consideration if you own other private disability policies, if you’re covered by group insurance disability benefits through work and if you’re eligible for Social Security or other governmental disability coverage. Your new policy will be designed to supplement, not add to, the benefits of any other coverage you have.
TIP: answer all questions completely and truthfully – documentation will be required during underwriting and the insurance company can cancel coverage or deny a claim based on misrepresentations on your application.
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