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Social Security Disability: an overview

Like so many issues that make their way into the news, Social Security Disability is often misunderstood, mischaracterized, mislabeled and subject to partisanship and emotions. So let's take a few minutes to try to clear the misconceptions about a federal program that helps millions of disabled American workers pay for necessities.

First, let's tackle one of the most popular mischaracterizations of SSDI: that it's "easy" to get disability benefits because you don't really have to be disabled.

The only people who can think it's easy to get approval of a Social Security Disability claim are those who have never tried. The Social Security Act defines disability in very strict terms. That definition means only those who cannot work due to a severe, long-lasting medical condition are eligible. Further, the medical condition must do two other things: prevent the person from doing the work they did previously, and second, prevent them from adjusting and doing other kinds of work.

How severe are the medical conditions that SSDI recipients live with? Consider this: SSDI recipients are more than 3 times as likely die within the coming year as other people their same age.

Another misunderstanding about SSDI: once you get approval, you're on Easy Street. In reality, disability benefits are modest. The average monthly payment this year: $1,171. No one is flying to the south of France to dine on caviar and drink champagne on SSDI. Instead, most people receiving benefits struggle financially.

The average monthly payment is barely above the federal poverty level. Still, even those modest benefits are typically enough to help recipients to pay for basic needs.

While it's not easy to gain SSDI approval, it can be done. An attorney experienced in the paperwork and processes can help you navigate a complex system.

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