Author: Social Security Disability Advocates USA

SSDI Benefits and Marijuana: How Smoking Can Affect Your Claim

SSDI Benefits and Marijuana: How Smoking Can Affect Your Claim

Social Security Disability and Smoking
Have questions about social security disability and smoking? Call SSDA USA today!

Marijuana is still a tricky subject when it comes to talking about whether it’s legal. According to federal law, marijuana is still schedule one. However, many states are increasingly changing their laws to allow for the medical and recreational uses of marijuana. As of January 4, 2019, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. Also, recreational use of marijuana is legal in 10 states. The majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, which means that more states are likely to follow suit. However, you should be very careful about marijuana use if you are applying for Social Security benefits. If you are applying for Social Security disability and smoking at the same time, you may end up getting rejected – even if your marijuana use is legal in your state.

Applying for Social Security Disability and Smoking

Marijuana is a complicated drug to address because it has many different effects on a person’s physical well-being, cognitive functioning, and emotional coping abilities. For example, marijuana can be incredibly beneficial to people that suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, chronic seizures, anxiety, and other afflictions. Numerous studies have shown that marijuana can effectively treat some of the side effects of cancer chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting.

However, if you smoke marijuana, the Social Security Administration will look at many variables to determine whether you qualify for Social Security disability.

  • First, if the use of marijuana in your state isn’t legal, rejection is more than likely. This is true even if your marijuana use is for medical purposes. This is because you may have a hard time finding a doctor that will – in writing – state you are using it solely for medical reasons.
  • Second, the Social Security Administration will look at the disability you are claiming and how your use of marijuana may have affected its progression. The SSA will be especially suspicious if you are using marijuana recreationally and not medically, regardless of marijuana’s legality. For example, the use of marijuana results in changes to your motor/coordination skills that could affect your job performance. If you suffered an injury on the job while under the influence of marijuana, the SSA may see this as a cause and effect relationship.
  • Additionally, if your claim focuses on a psychiatric problem such as anxiety or depression, then the use of marijuana could end up hurting your claim. This is because many medical experts and psychiatric providers would testify at disability hearings that drug use, including marijuana use, can make psychiatric symptoms worse and even hasten the onset of certain psychological conditions.

Seeking Assistance Before Applying for Benefits

If you use marijuana for medical reasons, you must prove that it’s used to treat your condition’s symptoms. If the SSA thinks marijuana exacerbates your symptoms, you may not qualify for benefits.

However, even if you are able to do this, you should speak to an attorney. Preferably, you should speak to one that’s familiar with social security. Our advocates from Social Security Disability Advocates USA are a perfect choice.

Even if marijuana is legal in your state for medical (or recreational) purposes, the federal rules are trickier. A lawyer will be able to help present your case in the strongest possible light so that rejection on this basis is less likely.

Marijuana use, regardless of purpose and legality, can have an impact on your ability to qualify for social security benefits. If you’re applying for social security disability and smoking, you should contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA for professional guidance.

Call us at (602) 952-3200 to schedule a free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t keep your questions to yourself. Contact an advocate today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute a representative-client relationship.

Stop! Do You Know the Key SSI and SSDI Differences?

Stop! Do You Know the Key SSI and SSDI Differences?

SSI and SSDI differences
Have questions on the SSI and SSDI differences? Call SSDA USA right away!

While there is only a one letter difference between SSI and SSDI, the two programs are quite different. It’s important to know which program(s) you qualify for and how you can maintain your eligibility. So, let us from SSDA USA explain the two programs in detail.

What are the Similarities?

Both SSI and SSDI are federally operated programs overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Both programs aid people who are disabled, and both programs are subject to similar rules, according to the SSA. For example, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled to qualify for either program, and you must also earn under a certain amount. Even with this in mind, there are more differences between the programs than there are similarities.

What is SSDI?

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. This is an entitlement-program that the SSA oversees. This means that financial need doesn’t necessarily play a part in eligibility for SSDI. SSDI aids people usually only if they earned a certain amount of work credits. This program essentially allows people who become disabled to take their retirement benefits early. The younger you are, the fewer work credits you need to qualify for SSDI.

Additionally, family members can benefit from your SSDI, whereas individuals with SSI can claim benefits only for themselves. Also, SSDI provides Medicare to its recipients after two years.

What is SSI?

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. This is a means-tested program overseen by the SSA that aids low-income individuals who are disabled, blind, or elderly. This means that financial need is a primary requirement, and that work history doesn’t necessarily play a part in eligibility for SSI. You do not need any work credits to qualify. However, SSI is a bit more strict. For example, your total assets cannot exceed a certain value. In addition, SSI offers Medicaid.

A Summary of Differences

SSDI is an entitlement program that requires work credits, while SSI is a means-tested program that helps those with a low income. SSDI members can sometimes claim benefits for their family members, but SSI members cannot do this.

Also, SSDI offers Medicare, while SSI offers Medicaid. In both SSI and SSDI, you must earn under a certain amount. However, only SSI looks at your total assets; in other words, your countable and uncountable income is analyzed. SSDI payments do count as income, so having SSDI could affect SSI eligibility. Though, it is possible to qualify for both programs at the same time.

Have Questions about SSI and SSDI Differences?

Social Security can be a confusing and frustrating pain to deal with, we know. But don’t keep your questions to yourself. Let one of our experienced professionals from Social Security Disability Advocates USA help you today. You can contact us anytime at (602) 952-3200. In addition, you can contact us online and check out our LiveChat feature. Our advocates are always available and ready to tend to your every Social Security concern, so don’t wait! Call SSDA USA today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Social Security Disability

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Social Security Disability

social security disability secrets
Want to know more Social Security Disability secrets? Contact SSDA USA today!

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does its best to help disabled individuals via its Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. In spite of this, many of their rules often get hidden or overlooked.

There are probably quite a few things you didn’t know about Social Security disability benefits. Don’t feel bad, though. You’re not alone. That’s why we from Social Security Disability Advocates USA are going to show you 7 of the top Social Security disability secrets that could potentially benefit you.

1. Not All Disabilities Qualify

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not grant all disabilities Social Security Disability benefits. In order to qualify for benefits, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled, which is:

  • You have a condition that prevents you from earning Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA),
  • And, your condition has lasted or is expected to last a period of no less than a year,
  • Or, Your condition will result in death.

Additionally, there are many disabilities that would not qualify under the SSA definition. For example, partial disabilities would not qualify. Disabilities that do not prevent you from doing your past, current, or other types of work would probably not qualify, either. Other minor disabilities likely do not qualify.

Pre-qualified disabilities are listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. If you have such a condition, you will likely qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. A few of those conditions are as follows:

  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory impairments
  • Mental and Neurological disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • And, more.

2. A Doctor’s Statement is Not Enough

While having a note from your doctor is a great piece of evidence that bolsters your case for having a disability, it alone is not enough for you to claim disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will look at much more than the medical professional’s statement. They must make sure, for example, that medical records and laboratory tests support your doctor’s opinion. Because many doctors use different definitions of “disabled,” it’s likely that you may still not meet the definition according to SSA standards.

In addition, receiving Social Security disability benefits is more often than not a legal issue, not a medical one. This essentially means that all technicalities have to be accurately reported before you can receive benefits. Nothing can be overlooked.

For example, if you are currently working, proving disability becomes much more difficult. The Social Security Administration will probably not offer you benefits if they think you can work. That doesn’t mean just your current form of work; if they think you can do any form of work (taking into account your age, education, and occupation), you probably won’t qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Because Social Security is so strict when it comes to disability benefits, it can be sometimes challenging to follow all their rules and present all needed evidence to prove you indeed qualify for disability benefits.

3. It’s Possible to Receive SSDI and SSI

Many people don’t know this, but yes, it’s true! You can receive SSDI and SSI concurrently. Though, it is quite difficult to do this.

First, you must qualify for SSDI. This means you earned a certain number of work credits before you became disabled.

Then, to qualify for SSI, you must earn under a certain amount of money. When deciding if you qualify for SSI, you should include countable and uncountable incomes in the calculation. Since SSDI counts as a form of income, you may not qualify for SSI if you make over a certain amount.

If your SSDI payments are low enough, however, you may qualify for SSI as well. On the other hand, you must not have a total assets value that exceeds a certain amount.

4. Your Family Could Potentially Earn Benefits, Too

It is possible that your family could benefit from your Social Security Disability benefits. Children and ex-spouses may be eligible for auxiliary benefits based on your work history. For individuals with SSI, however, no such benefits are possible. In other words, only people with SSDI can potentially allow their family members to qualify for benefits.

Your family can have only so much, though. The total family benefits amount may not exceed 150% – 180% of your monthly benefits amount. For example, if the limit is 150% and you have two qualified children, they will each receive 25% of your total benefits amount. This, plus your 100%, makes 150%.

Possible qualified family members include:

  • A spouse caring for your child that’s under 16 or disabled.
  • Your spouse if they are 62 years or older.
  • An ex-spouse if they are 62 or older, the marriage lasted 10 years, they are not remarried, and they do not qualify for a higher benefits amount based on their own earnings record.
  • A child, adopted child, or stepchild if they are unmarried and under age 18 (or 19 if attending school) or disabled.
  • A parent age 62 or older who was unmarried and dependent on you before you passed away.

5. You Don’t Receive Benefits Right Away

Many people think they will receive their disability benefits right away. For SSI, this is true: the moment you get approval, you will begin receiving payments (which are sent on the first of each month). On the other hand, for SSDI, payments do not operate this way.

SSDI requires a five-month waiting period between the time your disability started and the time you start receiving benefits. However, because the application process is so lengthy (usually 3-5 months), your waiting will probably finish by the time of your benefits’ approval. In some cases, disability claims can take years to go through properly. However, if you have to wait a bit before you receive your benefits, try not to stress about it to much. Just be aware that you may not get your benefits as soon as you might expect.

In addition, you receive your benefits check that is for the month before. In other words, if your effective date is in March, you will not receive a check for your benefits until April, since each month’s check is a full month behind.

6. You Don’t Get Disability Benefits for Life

Many people think they are home-free once they receive their disability benefits. Slow down, there! Your disability benefits do not stay with you for your entire life. Once you reach your full retirement age, for example, your disability benefits may stop, and you will qualify for retirement benefits instead.

Also, there are plenty of factors that could stop your disability benefits. For example, if you earn SGA, your disability benefits will probably stop. While these programs are designed to be long-term programs, according to the Social Security Administration, they aren’t by any means guaranteed to stick with any individual permanently.

While some individuals receive disability benefits all the way until retirement, the SSA incentivizes people to try to get back to work with their 9-month trial work period in which SSDI recipients can try to work without losing benefits.

7. There are Many Restrictions

The SSA is quite strict about who receives disability benefits. For both SSI and SSDI, you must meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled.” But wait; there’s more. You must present extensive medical documentation, earn under a certain income, and be unable to work.

In addition, your case will be periodically reviewed to make sure your condition has not seen any medical improvement. In addition, SSI requires that you not have or live with someone who has a total assets value above a certain amount. For SSDI, your benefits are based on your work credits and your earnings while you worked, so if you didn’t work very much, your SSDI will be lower. Violating any of these rules could result in the suspension of your disability benefits.

Want To Know More Social Security Disability Secrets?

If you have any questions about Social Security, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA today! Our experts are always waiting and willing to address all your Social Security concerns.

You can contact us anytime at (602) 952-3200. Alternatively, you can contact us online and check out our LiveChat feature on our website. Don’t keep your questions to yourself. Contact an advocate today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Retirement Benefits

5 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Retirement Benefits

retirement benefits tips
Want to know more retirement benefits tips? Call SSDA USA right away!

Are you retired or approaching retirement? If so, you may be wondering how you can get the most out of your Social Security retirement benefits. You’re not alone, don’t worry. Millions of people wonder exactly the same thing every day and constantly search for retirement benefits tips.

Here’s the scoop:

The truth is, there are quite a few ways to make sure you get the most from your Social Security retirement benefits. These aren’t necessarily secrets, per se, but they are things that people often overlook. Many people, unfortunately, don’t know about these methods for maximizing Social Security retirement benefits.

That all changes right now.

Today, Social Security Disability Advocates USA will show you 5 top ways to maximize your Social Security retirement benefits. So, buckle up!

1. Work for 35 Years or More

To receive Social Security retirement benefits, you need (generally speaking) 40 work credits. One work credit, for the year 2019, corresponds with every $1,360 you earn. You can only earn 4 work credits per year. Essentially, then, once you earn $5,440, you’ve reached the maximum 4 work credits you can earn for that year.

Now, why does this matter? Well, here’s why: Social Security requires 40 work credits. This essentially means you can collect retirement with as little as 10 years of work under your belt. But it’s not a good idea. Why? Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your 35 highest-paying working years when calculating your retirement benefits. So, if you only worked 10 years, that means 25 zeroes will be put into the equation and then averaged which substantially lowers your retirement benefits! What you should try to do is work at least 35 years or even longer, since the highest-earning years are the ones that will be calculated. In addition, it’s always better to work steadily than to take gap years in your work. You do not want a zero averaged into your retirement benefits.

2. Don’t Claim Before Full Retirement Age (FRA)

You can claim your retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, this is a bad idea for most people. The full retirement age (FRA) is between 65 and 67. For people born 1937 or earlier, the FRA is 65. For people born 1943-1954, the FRA is 66. The FRA keeps increasing, until finally, for people born 1960 or later, the FRA is 67.

Why does this matter? Because the SSA will permanently reduce your benefits if you take your retirement benefits early. That’s right. For example, if your FRA is 67 and you take your retirement at age 62, your monthly benefits are permanently reduced by 30%! If you take retirement at age 63, your benefits are permanently reduced by 25%. If you take them at 64, you’ll see a 20% reduction, and so on. The earlier you take your retirement benefits, the more they will be reduced – permanently.

While taking an early retirement has benefits for some people, you should seriously consider if the permanent reduction in benefits is worth it.

3. Claim Benefits at Age 70

Now you know that generally, you shouldn’t claim benefits early if you want the most out of your retirement. But wait: there’s more you can do to maximize your retirement benefits.

When you reach your full retirement age, your Social Security retirement benefits still continue to grow. Indeed, your benefits still have much to gain. Your Social Security retirement benefits grow approximately 8% for every year after your full retirement age that you don’t claim them, all the way to age 70. This is because of delayed retirement credits. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you wait until age 70 to claim your benefits, you will see a permanent 24% increase in your monthly benefits for the rest of your life. Therefore, you should try to delay your retirement benefits for as long as possible. Doing this will unquestionably get you the most out of your retirement, as waiting until age 70 caps out your Social Security retirement benefits’ delayed retirement credits. In other words, there’s no benefit to waiting after age 70 to claim your retirement benefits.

4. Watch Your Earnings

When you are working before you receive benefits, it’s important to make sure you earn as much as possible. As we discussed, the SSA will use your 35 highest-earning working years when calculating your benefits. So, asking for a raise or even taking a second job could be incredibly beneficial for you. You want to eliminate your low-earning years from the calculation, so earning more can help with that.

However, working while already receiving retirement benefits is a different story. If you are receiving early or full retirement benefits while working, you should be incredibly careful of how much you earn. For example, if you are younger than your full retirement age, $1 for every $2 you earn above the annual limit is deducted. For 2019, that limit is $17,640. If you reach full retirement age in 2019, you give $1 for every $3 you earn above the annual limit. That limit is $46,920. This only applies to the months before you reached full retirement age; however, once you reach full retirement age, how much you earn will no longer affect your benefits.

5. Think Strategically

There are some other things you can do to make sure you get the most of your benefits.

For example, if you’re eligible for a spousal or survivor benefit, you may want to look into how you should go about claiming those benefits. As a general rule of thumb, you should not claim both benefits simultaneously. This is because when you do this, you will receive a check that is equal to the larger of the two benefits, not a check that is equal to the sum of the benefits. Usually, you should take the lesser of the two benefits first, followed by the larger of the two.

For example, if your retirement benefits are $1,800 a month but your survivor benefits are $2,000 a month, take your retirement first until you reach your full retirement age. By this point, your survivor benefits will have substantially grown, and they will be worth much more than your own retirement benefits. Applying for both benefits simultaneously, however, would have gotten you only $2,000 a month for the rest of your life.

That was just one example, but the principle is this: Have a plan for your benefits, especially if you qualify for many types of benefits. You don’t want to forever lose out on money you qualify for just because you made a mistake. If you have questions about your Social Security benefits, call Social Security Disability Advocates USA for immediate assistance. We’ll help you come up with a plan that is right for you!

Want More Retirement Benefits Tips?

If you have further questions about Social Security, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA right away! Our experienced professionals work day and night to address all your Social Security concerns. You can contact us anytime at (602) 952-3200. In addition, you can contact us online and visit our website. Don’t’ forget to check out our LiveChat feature! Keeping your questions to yourself could cost you dearly, so speak your mind and contact SSDA USA today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.