Social Security administers two disability benefit programs. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Employees pay for this program when they pay their Social Security taxes. Employees are entitled to obtain their Social Security benefits before retirement, if they can prove that they are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition. The level of benefits depends on how much money the employee has paid into the system through payroll taxes. With the exception of very young workers, a claimant must have at least five years of employment in the ten years before becoming disabled.
The other program that Social Security administers is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Again, a claimant must prove that he or she is unable to work due to a physical or mental condition. SSI is for those claimants who have paid little or no payroll taxes. However, to qualify for this benefit an applicant must have almost no income or resources.
Many valid claims are denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of the Social Security application process. Particularly for those cases where a claimant’s credibility is important (cases based on pain, fatigue, or mental illness) Social Security is apt to deny a valid claim. Many of these claims do eventually get paid, but only after Social Security has conducted a hearing on the application. It is Mr. Chabre’s opinion that most claimants should have legal representation at the administrative hearing.