In the United States, there are two federal programs designed to provide people with a monetary safety net that protects them if they are too impaired to provide for themselves. These programs come in the form of social security disability insurance and supplemental security income. Although they sound similar, they are still distinct enough to serve as two separate programs. Whereas social security disability insurance is designed for people that have worked long enough and paid enough taxes to qualify for aid, supplemental security income is instead assigned based on demonstrated need.
Applying for these programs is similar across each state, but West Virginia has developed a particular reputation for rejecting applications at a rate far above the national average. While an SSI attorney can certainly help to ensure that an application survives the claim process, it also helps to have a deeper understanding of these programs and how they work in West Virginia.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Although most people tend to think of social security as being a retirement program, in reality it serves multiple functions. In the case of social security disability insurance in West Virginia, it helps to alleviate the financial strain on people that are incapable of continuing to work.
Unlike other disability programs, federal regulations require that a social security disability insurance recipient be severely limited in their functionality, whether that be due to mental or physical limitations. As a result of this limitation, applicants can not expect to be accepted with a minor impairment or disability as they potentially could with worker’s comp or a similar program.
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance in West Virginia
In order to begin the claim process in West Virginia, an applicant will need to initially pass two different earnings test. The first earnings test is to prove that an applicant worked for a sufficient period of time before becoming disabled. This period of time is further defined based on when the applicant became disabled. If the impairment began before the applicant turned 24, they must prove that they worked for at least 1.5 years in the 3 year period before they became disabled. For those that became disabled before turning 31, but after 24, they must prove that they worked for at least half of that time leading up to their impairment. Any applicants that became disabled after turning 31 need to simply prove that they worked for at least 5 out of the last 10 years leading up to their disability. It’s worth mentioning that blind applicants are often excused from meeting this test’s requirements.
The second test is a duration of work test, to prove that an applicant worked long enough under social security to be entitled to its benefits. The requirements for this test are a little harder to define, but generally require that a person worked for a certain number of years up to the age of 28. Roughly every 4 years after that, an applicant must have at least an additional year of work in their history.
Anyone that meets these requirements can then submit their work and medical history online at socialsecurity.gov or file a claim with a local social security office. Once the application process has begun, West Virginia’s Disability Determination Services will pass the case on to an evaluation specialist to review all of the case’s associated materials. At this point, they’ll decide to either accept or reject the claim.
If the claim is accepted, the applicant will be entitled to benefits on a monthly basis that are the average of the claimant’s lifetime earnings. In addition to receiving their own benefits, other family members in an applicant’s life may be entitled to the social security disability insurance benefits. This includes any spouse that is older than 62, a spouse of any age that is raising a child younger than 16, and any child that is unmarried and younger than 18.
How to Appeal the Decision
In the case of a rejection, the applicant has 60 days to decide whether or not they wish to pursue an appeal. Once the appeal process has begun, it is not considerably different to the original application process. Assuming nothing of significance has changed between the original and secondary process, the case can then be moved on to a hearing. At this point, a hearing is much more in favor of a claimant has long as they’ve been keeping proper records at each stage of the process and can prove that they are sufficiently disabled.
What is Supplemental Security Income?
Although the process is very similar to applying for social security disability insurance benefits, supplemental security income is different enough to warrant a separate discussion. Unlike social security disability insurance benefits, applicants seeking supplemental security income do not need to provide proof that they’ve worked for a specific period of time. This is because supplemental security income is not actually derived from social security, but is instead generated from general federal taxes.
Supplemental security income is primarily designed to help adults and children that are incapable of working due to their age, blindness, disability, and also have a general lack of income. It is awarded to successful applicants at a base monthly rate of $733, which is then adjusted based on the federally calculated cost of living. From this base income, additional payments can be added at each state’s discretion. In the case of West Virginia, no additional payments are awarded to supplemental security income. It’s also important to remember that the base value does not include subtractions from other benefits programs, or any other subtractions that can result from a recipient’s countable income.
Applying for Supplemental Security Income in West Virginia
The supplemental security income application process in West Virginia is not significantly different from its social security disability insurance counterpart. Despite this, it is still recommended that applicants seek out the experience of a professional SSI attorney, as West Virginia is much stricter in its evaluation process than many other states. To help make the application process run more smoothly, the Social Security Administration has a tool that allows applicants to easily see whether their disability will potentially qualify them for benefits.
How to Appeal the Decision
If an appeal has been rejected, it does not necessarily mean that the claim is completely devoid of merit. Oftentimes, small mistakes in the application process can cause the entire claim to be rejected. Applicants that feel their disability is justified will want to quickly rectify any existing errors and then begin the appeal process before 60 days have elapsed since the rejection. As with the social security disability insurance benefits appeal process, it will likely take a claimant’s hearing to prove the validity of the disability before any benefits will be awarded.
Given the way in which they were designed, both social security benefits programs are effective tools for keeping the disabled out of poverty. Unfortunately, they are also open to abuse, which has understandably made it much more difficult to qualify for these programs. Anyone that is legitimately in need of social security disability insurance benefits can’t afford to suffer through many months of appeal processes, which is why SSI lawyers try to streamline the process as effectively as possible.