Dear R.E. Rourke,
I very much appreciate your sentiments and advice.
I think, however, that other reasons might be a little confused
about how the SSDI system works. I have some experience with this
which may help other people either receiving Social Security
Disabilty Insurance, or who might want to apply.
SSDI is similar to receiving regular Social Security benefits,
except that instead of becoming eligible due to age, you become
eligible due to having a disability which is sufficiently severe
enough to prevent you from working in either a conventional wage
employment or self-employment situation.
Both SSDI and regular Social Security yield the exact same benefits:
a pension based on previous work credits, if any, plus Medicare and
Medicaid. Disabled people who have no work credits are deemed to have
some minimal amount.
SSDI is not to be confused with SSI. SSDI eligibility is based on
disability but SSI is based on poverty, in other words, SSI is a
government welfare program that provides some minimal amount of
To receive SSDI a person has to be examined by medical care
professionals and other personnel contracted by the Social Security
Administration who will verify that the disability is severe enough
to render a person unemployable. In the event of physical
disabilities the application process can be easy enough.
Disabilities caused by developmental disabilities or severe mental
illnesses can sometimes provide sufficient proof to SSA and sometimes
not, and we have a whole tangled mess of case law to show for that.
It took a recent Act Of Congress to cut through some of the mess by
declaring that severe mental illnesses having a physical cause of
origin were to be considered physical disabilities for the purpose of
To keep the benefits the recipient must remain incapable of
performing conventional wage employment or self employment. This is
typically shown by income, but in can also happen as the result of a
periodic medical review where the recipient’s capabilities are
For practical purposes while receiving benefits, the recipient must
not gross more from wage income or self-employment any amount of money
more than the threshold amount which triggers the Trial Work Month
regulation, presently $740.
If the recipient grosses more than a higher threshold amount,
currently about $900, the recipient is deemed capable of performing
Signficant Gainful Activity, and this will trigger a medical review
that re-examines the recipient’s continued eligibility.
(NOTE: Medical reviews are also required to be performed
periodically, depending on the nature of the disability. For some, a
3 to 5 year cycle, for others a 5 to 7 year cycle, and for others
still 7 to 11 years. These are called Continuing medical reviews).
The recipient must also not perform any work or work-like
activities, such as self-employment, attempted unpaid
self-employment, training, or volunteer activities, in excess of 80
hours per month, as then the recipient would again be deemed capable
of performing Significant Gainful Activitiy.
Housework and hobbies are typically not considered work-like
activities. However, some activities are considered hobbies if
performed only on a casual basis but could be considered by SSA as
attempted unpaid self-employment if the amount of time is excessive.
(As an example, the amount of time I put into jewelry as a hobby is
about 3 hours per day, 4 days per week. This works out to 48 hours
per month, an amount far below what could normally be deemed a
Significant Gainful Activity.
This is because the bulk of my day is typically spent on homemaking
and childrearing chores.)
Each Trial Work Month must be reported to a Social Security
Administration agent. The recipient may only perform 9 Trial Work
Months across any 60 month period. If the recipient continues earning
money beyond this time period this will trigger a discontinuation of
There are special programs, offered by both State and private
Vocational Rehabilitation branches, involving what is known as
"Ticket to Work", which is a work incentive program by SSA that
allows the recipient to earn unlimited funds or exceed 80 hours of
work-like activity for a limited amount of time, typically 2 to 5
years, that shields the recipient from Continuing Medical Reviews. It
is intended to transition the recipient into full time work and to
replace SSDI benefits with full employment.
So that is Social Security Disability Insurance, from a lay
perspective. SSDI IS NOT WELFARE! It is the disabilty equivalent of
old age pension, and is intended to allow disabled people and thier
dependents the ability to live independent and dignified lives.
Andrew Jonathan Fine