Dugan & Associates, P.C.
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Serving all of Western Pennsylvania
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Social Security Disability Insurance 101

What would you do if you were injured so severely that you couldn't work for years -- maybe forever? It's a scary thing to imagine. But for millions of Americans every year, it's a serious problem with no quick and easy solution.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program designed to support workers who have become disabled and lost the ability to support themselves. Unfortunately, it's a big system, and the rules and realities are not always clear.

The first thing you need to know about SSDI is that it is funded through Social Security taxes. That means you have to have worked and paid these taxes in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. The SSA uses a system of work credits that build up over time as you work. Without enough credits, you cannot receive SSDI benefits, even if your condition would otherwise make you eligible. (For people who don't have enough credits, a similar benefit is available through SSI. Dugan & Associates handles both SSDI and SSI cases.)

If you would receive other forms of disability benefit, including workers' compensation, you can still receive SSDI. However, the SSA puts a limit on the total amount you can earn from all sources when it determines your SSDI benefits. A "primary insurance amount" is calculated based on the average amount you earned while working and accruing work credits, and your total compensation while disabled cannot exceed 80% of this value. So, if you get workers' compensation or other income, your SSDI benefit will be reduced to keep your total under this amount.

Finally, know when you apply for SSDI benefits that you likely face a struggle. Certain conditions will automatically qualify you, but others have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. About 35% of applications are initially denied. If your case is denied, you should request a hearing before a judge. For cases that reach a judge, the approval rate rises to 45% nationally and 42% in Pennsylvania.

Because of this difficulty, you should learn all you can from those who have experience with Social Security Disability cases. First, download our guide to 12 Myths About SSDI, which addresses common misunderstandings about the program. Then, if you have a disability case, contact the attorneys at Dugan & Associates, so we can put our expertise to work getting you the compensation you deserve.

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