Social Security disability benefits provide a literal lifeline to people in northeastern Ohio whose physical or mental health renders them unable to work. The federal program, which is technically known as Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, is also open to children whose parents would be eligible to apply for benefits if they became disabled themselves.

No one automatically qualifies to receive SSDI, however. The first hurdle to clear is that only adults who have paid into the Social Security program or children whose parents have done so can even apply. In Ohio, this most basic eligibility rule can exclude a lot of people. State government employees, city and county workers, public school teachers, state university professors, and public safety personnel like police officers and firefighters do not participate in Social Security unless they have other jobs outside the public sector.

The second major SSDI eligibility requirement is suffering from a permanent disability. Workers’ compensation, retirement plans, and various forms of private insurance exist to assist individuals who can return to work after recovering from an illness or injury.

Under the rules of SSDI, a person is considered permanently disabled if he or she suffers from a condition that will soon prove fatal or which has imposed significant limitations on the person’s ability to work for at least 12 months. The program considers each disability benefits application separately, but it uses standard criteria to determine whether a physical or mental condition is significantly limiting. Some of the questions the program considers are:

  • Can the SSDI applicant see?
  • Can the SSDI applicant speak so others can understand him or her?
  • Can the SSDI applicant hear and understand what other people say?
  • Can the SSDI applicant walk without difficulty?
  • Can the SSDI applicant bend over and lift objects?

Applicants must submit extensive medical documentation of the disabling condition, including diagnoses and prognoses, prescriptions, and therapist notes. The SSDI program will also ask that each of its questions about the extent of the claimed disability is answered by a recognized expert.

People who apply for SSDI should then prepare themselves to appeal a rejection. Many first-time applications get denied, often for purely technical reasons. Partnering with a Cleveland disability attorney from the beginning of the application process will help avoid errors and omissions upfront while also providing a ready ally should reapplying become necessary.

A final consideration is that SSDI benefits can be reduced or withdrawn when a person’s health improves or when earnings from work increase past a certain dollar amount. Checking with a disability lawyer about what working part-time while receiving federal disability payments will mean can protect a person from experiencing financial shocks and from being accused of committing fraud.

You can learn more about qualifying for Social Security disability income by meeting with a disability attorney at the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. Schedule a free appointment online or call us at (800) 678-3318. If your health leaves you unable to visit us, we can come to you.