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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

How does "substantial gainful activity" affect SSD benefits?

Many people in Missouri who are considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are uncertain if a return to work will mean that benefits will terminate. The answer depends upon the concept of "substantial gainful activity" as defined in the federal regulations that govern SSD claims.

The rule is easily stated: a person may work while receiving SSD benefits as long as the amount of income does not exceed the limit for SGA. SGA is defined by the Social Security Administration as being able to earn a specified gross amount of monthly income. A person who earns more than this figure is deemed to be engaging in SGA and is not entitled to disability benefits. A person who earns less than the SGA amount is deemed to be disabled and eligible to receive SSD benefits. The SGA amount may vary from year to year depending upon economic conditions in the country as a whole. The SGA amount for blind people in 2017 is $1,950 per month and $1,170 for non-blind people.

How do work credits affect eligibility for SSDI benefits?

Most Missourians understand that a person must be totally disabled in order to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but the federal regulations that govern the SSDI claims process impose other requirements on applicants. One of the most important of these requirements is the number of work credits that a person has earned. This post will explore the effect of work credits on an SSD claim.

In general, work credits are earned whenever a person pays what are commonly called FICA or Social Security taxes. (FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act.) Prior to 1978, work credits were earned every quarter of the year. After 1978, work credits are earned on an annual basis. A person earns one credit for every $1,260 in earnings subject to the Social Security tax up to a maximum of 4 credits per year.

Obtaining SSDI benefits for traumatic brain injury

A traumatic brain injury can be devastating. Among the effects caused by a brain injury are loss of sensory perception, loss or interference with the ability to speak, and loss of memory and interference with cognitive processes. Missourians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits if they can submit medical and employment records that document the nature of the injury and its effect on their ability to perform work functions.

A successful SSD claim for a traumatic brain injury requires documented medical evidence of the effects of the injury. Qualifying effects fall into two categories. The first is disorganization of motor function in two extremities (both arms, both legs or one of each) that results in "extreme limitation" in the ability to stand from a seated position, maintain balance while standing or walking or use of the arms, hands, wrists and fingers. "Extreme limitation" means the complete inability to do any of the listed functions.

Can SSDI benefits be terminated?

When Missourians have their applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits granted, they rarely wonder about the chance that those benefits might end someday. Unfortunately, the federal regulations that govern SSD claims provide two grounds on which benefits may be terminated. This post will summarize each of those reasons.

As noted in prior posts, a person may continue to receive SSD benefits and also work if the amount of income is less than $1,130 per month ($1,820 for blind persons). If the amount of income exceeds that limit, the Social Security Administration has the right to terminate benefits. The second basis for terminating benefits is an improvement in the recipient's medical condition to the point where the recipient's condition no longer satisfies the SSA's definition of disability.

Does eligibility for SSDI benefits require a workplace injury?

Many people in Missouri who suffer disabling injuries are unsure if they can obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Often, this uncertainty is caused by confusion between the state's workers' compensation system and the federal program for SSD claims. This post will provide an overview of differences between eligibility under the two programs.

Eligibility for workers' compensation benefits in Missouri requires that the injury be suffered on the job or be related to the recipient's employment. Benefits may be awarded for temporary injuries and for partial and total permanent disability. Benefits cover specified medical expenses, lost income and rehabilitative care.

SSDI benefits for paralysis

Among the most severe injuries suffered by people in Missouri are injuries to the spine and brain. The Social Security Administration has adopted regulations that prescribe the conditions under which such injuries may allow victims to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. This post will summarize those provisions.

The federal requirements governing SSD claims do not explicitly provide benefits for paralysis. Instead, the regulations identify various forms of neurological impairments that qualify for benefits; such impairments are referred to as neurological disorders that cause disorganization of motor function. Some disorders, such as brain injuries, may cause a variety of impairments, including both limitations on motor functioning and cognitive impairment. Spine injuries, on the other hand, usually result only in disruption of motor functioning in the arms and legs. The disorder can result from either illness or trauma.

Obtaining SSDI benefits for disability caused by a stroke

As many Missourians know from the experiences of their friends or family members, a stroke - a clot or burst blood vessel in the brain - can be a devastating condition that prevents the victim from working and interferes with daily living activities. While the likelihood of experiencing a stroke increases with age, persons in their 30s and 40s can suffer from a disabling stroke. This post will address the criteria for proving an SSD claim for a disability caused by a stroke.

The Social Security Administration classifies strokes as a neurological disorder, along with conditions such as epilepsy, benign brain tumors and Parkinsonism. Strokes are specifically called vascular insults to the brain. The SSA regulations define a vascular insult to the brain as "brain cell death caused by in interruption of blood flow within or leading to the brain"; brain cell death can also be caused by a ruptured blood vessel or aneurysm in the brain.

Understanding compassionate allowance SSDI claims

Many people in Missouri are aware that applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can take months or even years to be approved or rejected. In recognition of this fact, the Social Security Administration has established the "CAL" program to expedite the approval process for certain kinds of SSD claims based on serious illnesses.

The SSA has recognized that certain diseases and other medical conditions produce symptoms that are almost certain to be included on the agency's Listing of Impairments, i.e. diseases and illnesses that automatically qualify a person for SSDI benefits. The SSA has published a list of diseases that qualify for a Compassionate Allowance. Illnesses on the CAL list generally produce a qualifying disability that satisfies the requirements for an award of disability benefits.

How work credits affect SSDI eligibility

Most people in Missouri are aware that a person must be totally disabled in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. However, eligibility for SSDI benefits also depends upon whether the person filing an SSD claim has accumulated a sufficient number of what the Social Security Administration calls "work credits."

The federal regulations that govern the SSDI program require that an applicant must have paid in a specified amount of money in order to be eligible for benefits. These payments are called "work credits," and they are accumulated when a worker pays a portion of their wages in Social Security taxes (usually identified as "FICA Taxes" on a paycheck). Starting in 1978, employers are required to report their employees' earnings on an annual basis. The Social Security Administration uses this information to calculate a person's work credits. In 2016, a person earned one work credit for every $1,260 in covered earnings up to $5,040 or four credits in one year.

Helping injured workers make up for lost wages

Aside from the pain and suffering and the medical expenses, one of the biggest stresses Columbia, Missouri, residents might face because of a serious work-related or other injury is lost wages. Such occurrences are never expected, but unfortunately they can happen. If the injury leaves a person permanently unable to work, the financial consequences can be devastating.

Although some injuries may be the responsibility of an employer or negligent party to pay for, in many cases, there is either simply not enough money available to cover all losses or the injury simply does not qualify. In these types of cases, Social Security disability benefits may be an injured person's only hope for replacement income, unless of course the person was also carrying private insurance.

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