Each year, 2.5 million people apply to get some of that money back, in the form of disability benefits. But most applicants are denied.
A two-month investigation by CBS News found that this safety net might not be there when the most vulnerable of Americans need it most.
The following are resources about disability insurance compiled by our Investigative Unit.
Check out the official Web site of the Social Security Administration. For the Veterans Administration, click here. Find out more about housing for people living with disabilities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Labor has information about working with a disability here. More resources are available at the American Association of People with Disabilities. Check out the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, which provides representation and advocacy on behalf of those seeking Social Security and Supplemental Security income. Also, check out the Web site of the National Association of Disability Representatives here. Seeking help from a community of people living with disabilities? Check out the Handicap and Awareness Support League. For Information about Applying for Disability, visit the Social Security Administration disability Web site. To get more general information about Social Security Disability, click here. The SSA also has information about efforts to identify and implement compassionate allowances for children and adults. Learn more here.
Information for specific injuries or illnesses
Check out the Social Security Administration plan to reduce the hearings Backlog and Improve Public Service or its 2007 end-of-year fiscal report (.pdfs). The Social Security Disability Coalition offers free information and support, with a focus on SSDI reform. Check it out here. For information on the Fullerton - Edwards Social Security Disability Reform Act, click here. Think it couldn't happen to you? Read a first-person account of injury (graphic content) here.
Getting the Benefits you Deserve
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes MS as a chronic illness or "impairment" that can cause disability severe enough to prevent an individual from working. Check out what the MS Society is doing to help individuals in trying to prevent difficulties in securing SSDI coverage. Or, check out the Muscular Dystrophy Association. For mental health resources, visit the Web site of the National Mental Health Association. The Invisible Disabilities Advocate is another resource. Visit it here.
Allsup, Inc., is a for-profit company that helps individuals in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The company's Web site includes several resource sheets, including:
1. Determine eligibility. To be eligible for benefits, claimants must have been disabled before reaching full retirement age (65-67) and meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled, which generally means being unable to work due to a medically determinable mental or physical impairment expected to result in death or last for at least 12 months. Individuals must be under age 65 and also have worked and paid into the program for five of the last 10 years.
2. File immediately. If an initial claim is denied, Allsup notes that the wait for an appeals hearing now takes an average of 524 days. There is no time to lose.
3. Obtain doctor's agreement. Claimants need written medical confirmation of their qualifying conditions when they apply. According to Allsup, not having a doctor's agreement when filing could delay the process a month or more.
4. Get help. Filing for disability benefits is a complicated process akin to preparing a difficult income tax return. Allsup emphasizes that the earlier applicants seek help, the more support they can get to help put them back on the right track.
5.Prepare an accurate medical record. A comprehensive factual record is required to convince the government to provide benefits.
6. Establish your work history. Compile records of dates and tenure of previous employment. As noted above, individuals must have worked for five of the previous 10 years to qualify for benefits.
7. Meet deadlines. If benefits are denied at any stage of the process, claimants have only 60 days to file an appeal. If the deadline is missed, the process starts over from the beginning.
8. Reduce spending. The long wait for benefits means that people lose their savings, their cars and sometimes even their homes. Cut out unnecessary spending as quickly as possible and prepare for the long haul. And don't use credit cards. Allsup reminds applicants that high-interest debt will add to long-term problems. There may be other, more affordable options for handling expenses.
9. Maintain health insurance. There will be a temptation to cut spending on insurance, but Allsup notes that even after individuals begin receiving disability benefits there is a two-year waiting period for Medicare eligibility.
10. Don't give up. The Social Security Administration denies more than 60 percent of all initial applications, but two-thirds of the people who appeal eventually will receive their benefits.