Work Credits and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

earning enough work credits for disability benefitsAside from meeting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of a disability, you need to have worked long enough to have earned enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits. The number of work credits required varies by age. You must also have a certain amount of credits earned in the years before you became disabled.

For help with your disability claim, set up a free case review with one of our reputable Social Security Disability lawyers in Oshkosh today. We are ready to help determine if you have earned enough work credits and discuss your options if you do not have enough credits for Social Security Disability.

What is a Work Credit?

Work credits are credits earned throughout your work history. Every year that you earn wages and pay Social Security taxes, you are receiving work credits. These work credits are required in order to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, retirement benefits and Medicare benefits.

How Are Work Credits Earned?

You can earn up to four work credits every year. The amount of work credits earned will depend on your employment activity and earnings. The minimum income needed to earn work credits typically changes on an annual basis, based on national wage trends. In 2021, you can earn one work credit for every $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. This is an increase of $60 from $1,410 in 2020.

This means that once you have earned $5,880, you have earned your four credits for the year and cannot earn any more credits until next year.

It is important to note that the number of credits only impacts your eligibility for disability and not the amount of benefits you receive. Your average earnings over the years you work will determine the amount of your monthly benefits. 

Work Credits Needed for SSDI Benefits

The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits will depend on your age. Generally, you need to have earned at total of 20 work credits within the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled. However, there are age exceptions to this rule. Younger workers may be able to qualify with less credits.

If you are disabled at age 31 or older, you must have at least 20 work credits within the last 10 years immediately prior to becoming disabled. The number of credits needed will increase by one each year until aged 62 or older, maxing out at 40 work credits required for retirement benefits.

If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you may qualify if you earned work credits at least half the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled. For instance, if you become disabled at age 27, you will need three years of work, equivalent to 12 work credits, within the past six years to qualify.

If you are under 24, you need to have earned at least six work credits in the three years before you became disabled.

In addition to earning work credits, you must also pass two different earnings tests to qualify for disability benefits – a recent work test and a duration of work test.

What If I Do Not Have Enough Work Credits?

If you do not have the proper work history, you will not be able to qualify for SSDI benefits. However, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you meet the financial limits of the program. There is no work requirement for this program.

Reach Out to Our Legal Team Today

Sigman Janssen is here to help you obtain the disability benefits you need. We know how intimidating the application process can be, which is why we are prepared to guide you every step of the way to ensure that you have the necessary documentation to strengthen your application.

Our legal team is also prepared to advise you of the initial steps to appeal a denied disability claim during your free consultation. You are under no obligation after this meeting to hire us and we charge nothing up front if you decide to work with our firm. We only get paid if we help you obtain benefits.

Gives us a call at (877) 888-5201

What Should I Do If I Receive a Disability Overpayment?

a disability recipient managing an overpaymentIf you receive a monthly disability payment through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may be overpaid at some point. When this happens, you are responsible for paying back any extra funds to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Below, Sigman Janssen further discuss the cause of SSDI/SSI overpayments and how to proceed to avoid it impacting your disability benefits. For help with applying or appealing a disability claim, reach out to our firm for a free consultation. There is no obligation after this initial meeting to retain our services.

Understanding Disability Overpayments

An overpayment is when a disability recipient receives more money from Social Security for the month than the amount he or she should have been paid. The amount of an overpayment is the difference between the amount received in disability benefits and the amount actually due on a monthly basis.

How to Avoid an Overpayment

Overpayments can sometimes happen due to clerical errors made by the SSA, but usually it is because disability recipients fail to inform the SSA about a change in their situation.

Changes that can impact one’s eligibility or monthly benefit amount include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical condition has improved
  • Work hours have increased, if still able to work in some capacity
  • Income or financial resources have increased over the limit, if receiving SSI
  • Any adjustments in current living situation or marital status 

That is why it is in your best interest to remain in regular contact with the SSA regarding changes that may impact your monthly disability benefits. When in doubt, we recommend speaking with a Social Security representative for clarification on anything. You do not want to have to owe an overpayment.    

Catching an Overpayment When it Occurs

Catching an overpayment used to be a bit easier when disability recipients received their monthly disability payments in a mailed check. Now, these payments are sent electronically and automatically deposited into a banking account or benefit card, so it is even more important to check the amount of your disability benefits every month to catch an overpayment when it occurs. 

Any extra funds received should not be spent and need to be paid back as soon possible. Social Security will send you a notice explaining the overpayment amount and the reason you were overpaid. Social Security will also ask for a full refund within 30 days from the date of the notice.

Depending on your situation, you may have the option to repay the funds in monthly installments.

Reporting an Overpayment to the SSA

Should you notice that your monthly benefit amount is greater than normal, it is important to speak with a Social Security representative to make sure that this amount is accurate. He or she will investigate your concerns to determine if you have been overpaid and your options for repaying any extra funds. 

For instance, for those receiving SSDI payments, Social Security will withhold your full benefit amount every month, unless you request a lesser withholding amount. For those receiving SSI payments, Social Security will withhold 10 percent of the federal benefit rate every month to recover the overpayment.

If you think you should not have to pay the funds back because it was not your fault, you may be able to file a waiver. Although there is no limit to file, the waiver must show that the overpayment was due to a clerical error and that having to pay back the extra funds would cause you financial hardship.

Disability recipients who feel they were not overpaid or disagree with the overpayment amount also have the right to file an appeal. The appeal must be done in writing within 60 days from receiving the overpayment notice. You need to explain why you were not overpaid or why the amount is inaccurate.

If your request for a waiver or an appeal is denied, one of our experienced Oshkosh Social Security Disability lawyers is prepared to inform you of your rights and legal options moving forward.

It is important to note that not paying back the extra funds without filing a waiver or an appeal may result in Social Security recovering the overpayment from your federal income tax return or work wages or withholding funds from future SSDI or SSI benefits. It can also be reported to the credit bureaus.

Sigman Janssen is Here to Help

Our lawyers at Sigman Janssen have decades of experience representing Social Security Disability applicants and helping them obtain and maintain their benefits.

Contact us anytime, day or night, to schedule a free initial consultation. You are under no obligation to have us represent you, but if you do, we charge nothing up front unless we help you obtain benefits.

Trusted. Local. Lawyers. Ph: (877) 888-5201

How Social Security Evaluates a Disability Applicant’s Ability to Work

evaluating disabled applicant ability to workTo determine your ability to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must know how severely your disability limits your activities. Through a Residual Function Capacity (RFC) assessment, the SSA will evaluate if you are able to do work after accounting for your physical or mental disability. This assessment along with other documents could help show that you qualify for benefits.

Below, Sigman Janssen further discusses why this assessment is important for getting approved for disability benefits and how asking your treating doctor to fill out an RFC may help prove your limitations.

Understanding Your Residual Functional Capacity

Your residual functional capacity refers to your ability to perform certain work duties, given your limitations due to a disability. The SSA needs to get an understanding of what you can or cannot do. 

Prior to your disability, you were able to perform at your full functional capacity. Then, your disability diminished that functional capacity in some quantifiable way. Your RFC will inform the SSA whether your disability prevents you from engaging in any gainful employment for at least one year.

The RFC assessment can be completed by a Disability Determination Services (DDS) physician who will review your medical records and identify the restrictions your condition places on the jobs you can perform. It might be more beneficial, however, to have your treating doctor fill out an RFC for you.

Process for Completing an RFC

When making a disability determination, a claim examiner will assess your claim and complete a write-up. In the write-up, the examiner will explain why your application was approved or denied. He or she will also present your claim to a DDS specialist who will complete the assessment and rate your RFC.

However, it is important to note that the DDS specialist will likely not inform you that your treating doctor could complete this assessment. To do so, bring a copy of the RFC form to your next doctor’s appointment. Depending on your disability, this could be either a physical or mental RFC form.

Let your doctor know that you are applying for disability benefits and ask that he or she fill out the form. Once completed, you would need to submit the assessment to the SSA with your other documents.

Physical RFC

Your physical RFC will help the SSA identify the amount of physical activity you are able to perform. The assessment will show how long you are able to sit, stand, walk, or crouch, how much you are able to lift, carry, push or pull and how well you are able to grasp or reach items overhead.

A physical RFC assessment will determine if you can perform one of the following work levels:

  • Sedentary work – You are unable to lift over ten pounds at a time but can occasionally lift and carry small items. Sedentary work requires sitting with some ability to walk or stand sometimes.
  • Light work – You are able to lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and you can lift 10 pounds on a frequent basis. Light work often requires frequent walking, standing, and the ability to push and pull using your arms or legs. If you are able to perform light work, you could do sedentary work.
  • Medium work – You are able to lift up to 50 pounds at a time and can lift or carry up to 25 pounds on a frequent basis. You can also perform light and sedentary work.
  • Heavy work – You are able to lift up to 100 pounds at a time and can lift or carry up to 50 pounds on a frequent basis. If you can do heavy work, you can do all the other work levels.

If your physical RFC aligns with the physical demands of your job, the SSA may assume that you are not totally disabled and can get back to work. The SSA may also determine that you could work in some capacity despite your disability if your physical RFC lists other issues that may limit your ability to work.

Mental RFC

If you file a claim for a mental or emotional condition, a mental RFC form would need to be submitted. Your mental RFC would assess, but is not limited to, your ability to perform the following:

  • Understand, remember and follow instructions
  • Remember locations, work procedures and routine job tasks
  • Pay attention and concentrate on tasks for extended time periods
  • Work with others or in close proximity without getting distracted
  • Respond appropriately to your employer’s direction and feedback

Can the SSA Determine Your RFC Without a Doctor’s Support?

Having your treating doctor fill out your RFC could increase your chances of being approved for disability benefits. He or she will have better knowledge of how your physical or mental disability impacts you and your ability to work. An RFC assessment from your doctor also carries more weight with the SSA.

However, without support from your doctor, the DDS will use a medical or psychological consultant to complete the assessment. He or she can go over the medical evidence you submitted and prepare your RFC rating. Generally, these assessments are not as helpful and result in more denials than approvals. 

Contact Sigman Janssen for More Information

Get help with your disability application by consulting a reputable Appleton Social Security Disability lawyer from our firm today. Our firm is prepared to evaluate your disability claim during a free, no-obligation consultation. We charge no upfront fees and only get paid if we recover disability benefits for you.     

Sigman Janssen. Free Case Reviews. (877) 888-5201.

Do Veterans Automatically Qualify for Social Security Disability?

veterans qualify for social security disabilityThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) help provide benefits to those with disabilities. However, these government benefit programs work differently, requiring separate applications and eligibility requirements. While you may be eligible for VA benefits, you could be ineligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and vice versa.

Our Oshkosh Social Security Disability lawyers discuss the eligibility requirements for each program and why receiving VA benefits does not automatically qualify you for SSD benefits. If you need help obtaining disability benefits, reach out to schedule a risk-free, no-obligation legal consultation.

Qualifying for Veterans Benefits

To qualify for VA benefits, you must be a disabled veteran and your disability must be related to your active duty service. However, you do not have to be completely disabled to receive these benefits.

VA benefits are awarded using a percentage-based system. You must have a disability rating of at least 10 percent to be eligible for financial compensation.  

Should your condition worsen, you have the right to ask to be re-evaluated and your disability rating could be adjusted accordingly. Some medical conditions that may be covered by VA benefits include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic back pain
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Cancers caused by toxic chemicals
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Severe loss of hearing
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Each disability rating is meant to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity caused by their service-connected condition.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

To qualify for SSD benefits, you must be completely disabled and unable to earn income. Your disability can result from several medical issues. It does not have to be related to your military service, but it can.

For instance, say you have a 40 percent VA disability rating for a lung condition, but you also suffer from diabetes and severe carpal tunnel syndrome unrelated to your military service. When you combine all of these conditions, you may meet the SSA’s requirements to be deemed totally and permanently disabled.

As of 2017, the SSA no longer takes VA disability approvals into consideration when determining SSD benefits. The SSA will, however, consider all evidence that the VA considered when making its determination whether to award you SSD benefits.

Two of the main eligibility criteria for SSD benefits include:

  • Evidence of a physical or mental health condition that results in functional impairments that limit your ability to work full-time. You cannot earn more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit set by the SSA. For 2020, the SGA limit is $2,110 a month for blind applicants and $1,260 a month for non-blind applicants.
  • The disabling condition has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

However, it is important to note that just because you are approved for benefits from one government program does not necessarily mean that you will be awarded benefits from the other. Your claim might be denied and you might need to file an appeal. If this happens, a lawyer from our firm is here to help.

Expedited Benefits For Certain Veterans

Those who are VA-rated 100 percent permanent and totally disabled may be eligible for expedited claims processing for SSD benefits. The expedited process is generally open to veterans who became disabled while on active duty on or after October 1, 2001.

Although expedited processing does not guarantee any veteran disability benefits, it is important for veterans to identify themselves as such when applying for SSD and provide their VA rating notification letter to the SSA.

There is also no fixed timeline for approval in these cases. Processing times may be impacted due to the nature of the VA-rated disability, how responsive doctors are in supplying supportive medical evidence, or whether a medical examination is required.

Need Help Getting Disability Benefits?

At Sigman Janssen, our lawyers have helped many applicants obtain the disability benefits they need through the initial claims process and appeals process if a claim is denied.

An initial consultation with a member of our legal team is complimentary and confidential. There is no risk in calling us to get answers to your questions and no obligation to hire our firm after this meeting.

Contact our office today at (877) 888-5201.

How Are Disability Applicants Notified After a Benefits Decision?

notification of disability benefits decisionAfter applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you may be anxious as you await a decision and worry whether you have provided all the information needed to make a disability determination. You may even be wondering when and how you will be notified about the status of your application.

Below, learn how disability applicants may be notified about a benefits decision and what to do if you disagree with the decision. If you have questions about Social Security, do not hesitate to contact our firm. We have helped many Wisconsin residents file initial disability applications and file appeals. 

Getting a Letter or Phone Call

If your application for disability benefits is approved, you will get an official letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) detailing this information. The letter should include a heading that either states the agency name or the notice type along with the SSA’s contact details and local office address.  

For instance, if you live in Brown County, the Green Bay Social Security office would be 1561 Dousman St. If you live in Outagamie County, the Appleton Social Security Office would be 607 W Northland Ave. If you live in Winnebago County, the Oshkosh Social Security Office would be 400 City Center B, and so on.

The letter is sent to inform you of your rights and responsibilities and will generally state the following:

  • The purpose of the letter
  • Any action the SSA plans to take
  • The SSA’s decision and reasoning behind it
  • Starting date of disability payments
  • Changes in benefit status
  • Changes in payment amount
  • Any action you may be required to take
  • Details on how to dispute a decision

You may receive the approved letter up to two weeks after receiving benefits direct deposited into your bank account, if you already gave the SSA your banking information.

For blind or visually impaired applicants, they could receive a letter in the mail with a follow-up call from the SSA. An agency representative may also reach out to begin an application for your child, which would mean that your claim for disability benefits has been approved.

Checking Your Bank Account

If the SSA has your banking information for direct deposit, you will likely receive benefits in your bank account before receiving the letter. For many disability applicants, an unexpected deposit is an indicator that they have been approved. You can always contact the SSA if you are unsure about the deposit. If you think it is time to get a decision, be sure to check your bank account every few days for a deposit. 

Looking Up Application Status Online

The SSA’s website is also a good place to check the status of a pending application. Whether you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can find out the date the application was received and if a decision has been made.

Creating an online account is free of charge and usually takes a few minutes. You also have the ability to update your mailing address and set up or change direct deposit.

What If I Disagree with the Decision?

If you receive a letter of denial instead of an approval, you have the right to appeal this decision. A Green Bay Social Security Disability attorney from our firm is ready to guide you through the appeals process.

The first step in the appeals process would be filing a Request for Reconsideration. You have 60 days from the date of receiving the letter to file this motion. Otherwise, the SSA will only allow an appeal after the 60-day period within good reason. Your attorney can discuss your options in great length.

Contact Our Firm for Help Today

Need help obtaining disability benefits?

If so, Sigman Janssen may be able to assist you. We know what it takes to receive an approval letter from the SSA. Let us review your situation in a free, no-obligation legal consultation today. We charge no upfront fees and only get paid at the end if we help recover benefits on your behalf.

Contact our office today at (877) 888-5201.