What Does “Appeal Under Review” Mean for SSDI?

What Does “Appeal Under Review” Mean for SSDI?

What Does “Appeal Under Review” Mean for SSDI?

The Social Security Administration’s “appeal under review” update in the Social Security disability (SSDI) appeals process can be perplexing. The notification advises you that a decision has been made. You read all of the information you can find carefully, and it contains no clues about what that decision may be. 

You’re not missing anything. You won’t be advised of the decision until the review is complete. Many SSDI applicants think “under review” sounds negative, or just worry about why they’re seeing this update and what they should do. Here’s what you need to know if you receive an “appeal under review” letter or see that status. 

What Does “Appeal Under Review” Tell You?

The short answer is that seeing “appeal under review” doesn’t tell you anything especially useful about your case. It means that a medical decision has been made, but that decision could be positive or negative. It tells you that the SSA has assigned someone to review certain elements of your claim. But, that’s not necessarily a problem for you. It’s just a step in some SSDI appeals.

In other words, you don’t know anything more about the outcome of your case than you did before the status update, except that the process is nearing an end. For better or worse, there’s generally nothing to do but wait. If and when your claim is approved, you’ll be clearly notified. If your claim is denied, you’ll be notified and have an opportunity to take the next step in the process. 

What if the Appeal is Denied? 

The appeals process is a multi-step one, so if you receive a denial after the review is complete, you still have options.  The hearing before the administrative law judge (ALJ) is one of the last steps in the process, but it’s not the end of the road.  The next step is to request a review by the Appeals Council. Unlike the other steps in the process, there’s no right to this review–the Appeals Council decides whether or not to take up the case. 

If they pass or rule against you, the final step is the federal district court. That is a much more complex process that is best attempted with the help of an experienced disability lawyer. 

How a Social Security Disability Advocate Can Help

Most SSDI claims are initially denied, and it can take months or years to work your way through the appeals process and secure benefits. That means it’s especially important to construct a strong application with thorough documentation and to keep the process moving forward if you have to appeal. 

At Disability Help Group, we can assist at any stage of the process, from initial application through the Appeals Council review. To learn more about how we can help, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332. Generally, the earlier in the process you get help, the better.

Know Your SSDI Benefits

Know Your SSDI Benefits

Know Your SSDI Benefits

Most people know that Social Security provides disability benefits for U.S. workers who become disabled before retirement age. But, many people have questions about the details, such as: 

  • Who can get Social Security disability benefits? 
  • How is the amount determined? 
  • Do SSDI recipients get any other benefits? 
  • Can you lose SSDI benefits? 

Here’s a quick overview of the key information. 

Eligibility for Social Security Disability

There are two parts to qualifying for SSDI:

  • The applicant must have sufficient work credits to qualify (there is an exception for those who become disabled as children, who may qualify based on a parent’s work record)
  • The applicant must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medical condition that will last at least a year or be terminal

How are Social Security Disability Benefits Calculated? 

Social Security benefits are based on your average earnings across your working life. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides calculators to help you determine how much you may qualify for in various types of benefits. However, you should be aware that certain other types of benefits, such as workers’ compensation benefits, may impact your Social Security Disability.

In 2023, the maximum possible SSDI benefit is $3,627/month. But, the average monthly benefit is less than half of that.

What Other Benefits are Associated with SSDI? 

Dependent Benefits 

Depending on your family circumstances, your dependents may be entitled to Social Security benefits if you are receiving SSDI. Generally, your spouse must be 62 or older or caring for your child who is under the age of 16 or disabled. These benefits may even be extended to a former spouse if you were married for at least 10 years, they are currently unmarried and they are 62 or older. 

Your children may also be entitled to benefits if they are under 18, or are under 20 and still in high school. Under limited circumstances, grandchildren who are living with you may also be eligible for benefits. 

Medical Benefits

After two years of receiving Social Security disability benefits, you will automatically become eligible for Medicare, regardless of your age. 

How Long Do You Receive Disability Benefits? 

For most people, SSDI benefits continue until the recipient reaches full retirement age. At that point, they are automatically transitioned to Social Security retirement benefits. However, Social Security disability benefits continue only as long as the disabling condition persists. For example, someone who received SSDI due to disabling cancer, but was successfully treated and recovered, would no longer be eligible after recovery.

Some recipients also voluntarily transition off of disability benefits through the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program. 

Get the Help You Need With SSDI

Of course, the most important thing about Social Security disability benefits is securing them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many people wait to seek help until after they’ve been denied, but working with an experienced disability benefits advocate from the beginning can help ensure you submit the strongest application possible. To learn more about how Disability Help Group can help, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332 right now.

What You Need to Know: Widows Benefits and Social Security Disability

What You Need to Know: Widows Benefits and Social Security Disability

What You Need to Know: Widows Benefits and Social Security Disability

When you qualify for two types of Social Security benefits, such as widows benefits and Social Security disability (SSDI), you may be unsure which to pursue or how they might work together. 

Understanding the Two Types of Benefits

Widows Benefits 

Widows benefits, technically known as survivors’ benefits, are available to certain dependents of a deceased worker who earned Social Security benefits. The widow or widower of a qualified worker is entitled to Social Security survivors’ benefits if: 

  • The surviving spouse has reached full retirement age (reduced benefits are available at age 60), 
  • The surviving spouse is at least 50 and has a disability, 
  • The surviving spouse is caring for a child or children of the deceased who are under the age of 16 and receiving Social Security benefits, or
  • The surviving spouse is caring for a child of the deceased who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits

A divorced spouse of a deceased worker may qualify for benefits under the same conditions if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. The 10-year requirement is not imposed if the former spouse is caring for children of the deceased as described above.

Social Security Disability Benefits

SSDI benefits are payable to qualified workers who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a disability that is expected to last at least one year or be fatal. To qualify for SSDI, you must have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, including a certain number of recent credits. The exact number depends on your age when you became disabled. 

Can You Get Both SSDI and Widows Benefits?

You may qualify for both disability benefits and widows benefits. But, you can’t get the full amount of both benefits. Instead, your monthly benefit will be capped at the higher of the two amounts. Here’s how it works: 

Imagine that you are receiving $1,350/month in Social Security disability benefits when your spouse passes away and you become qualified for survivors’ benefits. You qualify for $1,900 in survivors’ benefits, but you won’t receive that full amount. Instead, you will continue to receive your $1,350 in disability benefits and will receive an additional $550/month in widows benefits to bring you up to the amount of the higher benefit.

Need Help Getting Social Security Disability Benefits? 

SSDI benefits provide a crucial source of support for workers who become disabled. But, unfortunately, most claims are initially denied. Working with an experienced disability benefits advocate from the beginning can help avoid common missteps that can delay your claim or lead to denial.

To learn more, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332.

Are My Social Security Disability Benefits Taxed?

Are My Social Security Disability Benefits Taxed?

Are My Social Security Disability Benefits Taxed?

If you’re applying for or have just been granted Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), you may be wondering whether you’ll pay income tax on those benefits. The short answer is “maybe.” Whether or not your SSDI payments are considered taxable income depends on your income. Here’s how the calculation works.

Calculating Income to Determine Whether SSDI Benefits are Taxable

Single SSDI Recipients

If you’re single, you’ll pay income tax on a portion of your Social Security disability benefits if your total income is more than $25,000. But, “total income” here doesn’t actually mean all of your income. It means other income plus 50% of your SSDI benefit. This includes both taxable income and non-taxable interest income.

If you’re single and Social Security disability is your only income, it won’t be taxable–at least, not based on 2023 numbers. The average SSDI check in 2023 is estimated at $1,483/month, or $17,796/year–well below the threshold, even before you cut it in half. The maximum SSDI benefit for an individual is $3,627/month, or $43,524/year. Cut that in half and you have $21,762. So, if you have no income from other sources, your total income is below the threshold and you won’t pay tax on any of your Social Security disability benefits.

But what if you have other income?

Imagine, for instance, that you rent out a home you own for $1,500/month and you receive the average social security benefit of $1,483/month. That’s $18,000 in rental income, plus half of your $17,796/year in SSDI ($8,898). Added together, that’s $26,898–more than the $25,000 threshold. You will be taxed on some of your disability benefits. 

Married SSDI Recipients

The threshold for married couples is $32,000–just $7,000/year more than for a single person. So, if you’re married to someone who is still working full-time, you are more likely to owe income tax on a portion of your Social Security disability benefits. In fact, a married couple each receiving Social Security disability benefits at the higher end of the spectrum could owe taxes on a portion of those benefits. For example, if each partner was receiving $3,000/month ($36,000/year), 50% of that income would be $36,000–above the threshold for a married couple. 

Calculating Tax on SSDI Benefits

If you’re single and the total of your adjusted gross income, non-taxable interest and 50% of your Social Security disability benefit is between $25,000 and  $34,000, you’ll pay tax on half of your benefits. If the total is over $34,000, you’ll pay tax on 85%. If you’re married filing jointly, you’ll pay taxes on 50% of your benefits if total income is between $32,000 and $44,000, and on 85% of your SSDI income if total income exceeds $44,000. 

To avoid getting hit with tax debt at the end of the year, you can choose to have taxes withheld from your benefits. 

Income taxes are just one of the many complicated issues associated with applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits. To learn more about how an experienced disability benefits advocate can help, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332.

Understanding Your Social Security Disability Appeals Process

Understanding Your Social Security Disability Appeals Process

Understanding Your Social Security Disability Appeals Process

The Social Security disability appeals process includes several steps, each very different from the one before. It’s important that you understand the process and don’t miss opportunities, because most SSDI applications are initially denied. That means the appeals process is your best chance to get disability benefits awarded. 

Take Full Advantage of Every Step in the SSDI Appeals Process

One mistake many people make during this process is to treat it as a cursory one, doing only the minimum to move the case along to the next stage of the process. Sometimes, that’s because applicants don’t fully understand the process or don’t know what type of new information would be helpful. This post provides an overview, but your best resource in the process is usually an experienced disability benefits advocate. You have a right to representation in the application and appeals process. 

Request for Reconsideration of Your SSDI Denial

When your SSDI application is denied, you’ll have the opportunity to request reconsideration. This stage in the process is just what it sounds like–another decision-maker reviews your application as if it were a fresh application and makes a determination. This is usually the quickest step in the appeals process. It’s also the one with the lowest success rate. That’s partly because of the type of review, but it may also be partly because few applicants take full advantage of the opportunity to provide supplemental information for this review. 

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

In the appeal process overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the ALJ hearing is the most complex process, and also the one where a Social Security disability claim is most likely to be approved. This is your chance to interact with the decision-maker and provide more detailed information. You even have the opportunity to bring witnesses. If you are well-prepared and approach this hearing properly, it is your best chance for approval. 

Council Review

If you are denied SSDI after the ALJ hearing, you can request review by the Appeals Council. However, the Council declines to review most cases. 

U.S. District Court Review

If you’ve exhausted your options with the SSA, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. This is a complicated and time-consuming process compared with the other stages of the appeals process, and is best pursued with the assistance of a Social Security disability lawyer. 

A Disability Benefits Advocate Can Help

The SSDI appeals process can be confusing and overwhelming, particularly when you may already be facing obstacles based on your disability. An experienced disability advocate can help ensure that you are presenting the strongest possible appeal. To learn more, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332 right now.