Workers at the University of Arkansas are often at risk of injury in their jobs and other work, projects, and activities outside of their job. These workers may be able to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits if they were injured at work, but those benefits may be supplemented by filing for disability payments. Especially if the injuries occurred outside of work, disability benefits might be essential to supporting yourself and your family.
If you are unable to work, it can be difficult to pay your monthly bills. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a program designed for disabled workers who have earned a living and paid into the system. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits for disabled workers. If you have only been on the job a short time, you could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Our University of Arkansas disability lawyers represent injured employees of the University of Arkansas and other injury victims and help them file for disability programs. Our dedicated team of lawyers might be able to help you submit your application and fight any denials to get you the disability benefits you need from SSDI or other programs. For a free legal consultation on your case, contact our law offices at (479) 316-0438.
Filing for Disability as a University of Arkansas Employee
If you are injured or develop a significant health problem, you could qualify as “disabled.” If this injury or condition keeps you from working, you may be entitled to file with the Social Security Administration for disability benefits to give you and your family ongoing support while you deal with the injury or illness.
In contrast to Workers’ Compensation benefits, disability is available whether you were injured at work or not. Workers’ comp typically only pays benefits for work-related injuries, but disability can apply to any qualifying injuries, physical disabilities, mental disabilities, or health conditions.
When you file for disability through the Social Security Disability Insurance program, you file your case with the SSA. Since the SSA is a federal agency, the filing process is essentially the same regardless of whom you work for, what job you perform, or how long you have worked there.
Types of Disability Benefits in Arkansas
Generally, when you file for disability through the SSA, there are two disability programs you could file for: SSDI or SSI. SSDI is available for workers who have enough “work credits” from working at a job and paying FICA taxes (which include your “Social Security taxes”). If you meet these requirements, you can file for SSDI.
SSI is also available for workers who might not qualify for SSDI. This is a need-based program that gets you disability benefits if you cannot work but you do not otherwise qualify for SSDI. In many cases, you may actually apply for both benefits, potentially using SSI alongside SSDI or to fill gaps in coverage.
Disability Benefits Available for Injured U of A Workers
If you were injured while you were employed at the U of A, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. Typically, SSDI benefits pay you an ongoing wage that is calculated by looking at your average weekly wage before the injury. In many cases, these benefits will not be as much as your average wages were, but they can still help you and your family pay for housing, groceries, medical bills, and other expenses.
In many cases, you may also qualify for additional benefits for your family. Typically, spouses and dependent children can increase the benefits your family receives to an additional 50% to 80% of your benefits. These additional benefits can help pay for the additional expenses of raising a child or supporting a spouse in addition to the disability benefits you already receive for yourself.
Qualifying for SSDI Benefits in Arkansas
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet three basic requirements.
As discussed above, SSDI is for disabled workers who have earned enough work creditors to qualify for benefits. One way to think of this is as auto insurance. Your FICA taxes are your premium payments. If you become disabled, you are entitled to the benefits you have paid into. However, you must have paid into the system for a specific amount of time. During the course of a year, a worker can earn up to four work credits. The number of credits necessary depends on your age.
- If you are 62 or over, you must have earned 40 work credits. Additionally, 20 of the credits must have been earned over the previous ten years.
- If you are between the ages of 31 and 42, you will need 20 credits.
- For workers between the ages of 43 and 61, an additional credit requirement will be added each year. Therefore, if you are 50, you will need 28 work credits to qualify.
- If you are younger than 24, you will need at least six credits. However, these work credits must have been earned within the three years before the onset of your disability.
- Disabled workers between the ages of 24 and 30 must have worked half of the time between the time the disability set in and the age of 21. To illustrate this, if you were 29, you would need 16 credits because four years is half the time between 21 and 29.
Furthermore, to qualify for disability, you must meet certain health standards in addition to the work qualifications for SSDI. First, you must have a “disability” according to the SSA’s definitions. To qualify for SSDI, your condition must be expected to last twelve months or end in your death. The SSA has a list of qualifying conditions which include physical disabilities from injury, conditions affecting various body systems and organs, mental disabilities, autoimmune issues, cancer, and other injuries and illnesses.
If your condition is on this list, you are a step closer to qualifying for benefits, but you might still be able to qualify with an unlisted condition. Next, the SSA must see that your disability is “severe.” Having a qualifying condition alone is not enough to get coverage. If your condition is mild and does not interfere with your life, disability benefits might be unavailable. However, if the SSA sees that your condition is severe and prevents you from working and caring for yourself, they may accept your application.
The SSA will primarily look for evidence that you cannot work as proof that your disability is “severe.” This may include looking not only at your ability to perform your current job but also at your ability to perform former jobs you may have the training and experience for or your ability to go back to work with modified job tasks.
SSDI is designed for individuals who have paid into the Social Security system. Therefore, it is not a need-based program. The SSA will not look at your assets or property to determine if you qualify for disability benefits. Nonetheless, there is an earned income requirement. If you are capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), you will not be eligible for SSDI. SGA is defined as the amount of money you could earn in a month and still qualify for benefits. If your income exceeds this amount, you will not qualify for benefits. The statutory SGA for blind individuals in 2022 is $2260. If you are not blind, the amount is $1,350. These amounts increase each year.
To ensure that you qualify under their standards, the SSA may ask you to fill out paperwork discussing your condition and your abilities. They will likely ask questions about how your disability affects day-to-day tasks and your ability to care for yourself. They may also ask your doctor or caregiver to fill out similar forms. It is important not to lie or exaggerate on these forms as that could be considered fraud.
Talk to an attorney for help filling out your forms, appealing your case in the event of a denial, and fighting to get you the disability benefits you need.
Medical Evidence for Social Security Disabilities
Qualifying for disability benefits is challenging, even if you have a severe medical condition. The process is designed to ensure only the most deserving individuals are eligible for benefits. Therefore, less than half of all applications filed are approved after going through the SSA’s rigorous scrutiny.
Insufficient medical evidence and documentation is one of the primary reasons why applications are denied. Our Arkansas Social Security Disability attorneys could help you ensure three things: your paperwork is filled out accurately, deadlines are met, and that you supply the best medical evidence possible. You need to support your claim that your medical impairment severely limits your ability to work. This requires a diagnosis from your doctor, a detailed medical history, results of diagnostic tests, and, typically, a medical source statement linking the medical evidence to your physical or mental limitations. The exact evidence required will depend on your condition and the SSA’s listing requirements. If you are seeing specialists or multiple doctors, it is important to obtain statements from them as well.
The SSA may request that you undergo a special medical examination. While the SSA is attempting to verify your medical condition, this one examination does not replace the medical evidence your doctor could provide. If you rely on this examination alone, your application will likely be denied.
Qualifying for SSI if You Worked for the University of Arkansas
If you worked for years at the U of A, you could likely qualify for SSDI. However, as we discussed above, to be eligible, you must have earned enough work credits. What if you were a relatively new employee without a work history? If you have not earned enough work credits, you could still qualify for disability benefits through SSI.
Typically, to qualify for SSI, you must be 65 or older or blind. However, SSI is also available for disabled individuals. Similar to SSDI, you must have a medical condition that is anticipated to last at least 12 months or end in your death. Additionally, you must not be able to engage in substantial gainful activity.
As with SSDI, you must demonstrate to the SSA that your condition makes it impossible to perform the tasks necessary to work. If your condition is included in the SSA’s “Blue Book” of impairments, qualifying for SSI is easier. If your condition is not specifically listed, you could demonstrate your condition’s symptoms meet the listing requirements of another condition.
SSI is a needs-based program. Therefore, the SSA will carefully look at your income and resources. If you are single, your resources cannot exceed $2,000 in value. Resources include anything that could be traded for food and shelter, including cash, saving accounts, land, and personal property. You are allowed to exempt your residence and one vehicle for transportation purposes.
Your income must also be limited. To qualify for SSI, your monthly income cannot exceed $794 a month. However, not all income is included in the SSA’s calculation. For example, the first $20 you earn each month is excluded from the counted income. Additionally, other benefits, such as SNAP benefits, tax refunds, or other public benefits, are not considered income for the SSA’s determination. However, if you live with your parents, a spouse, or another adult, their income could be included in the calculation.
Call Our University of Arkansas Disability Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
If you have a severe health condition or physical disability, talk to our University of Arkansas disability attorney about seeking disability benefits through SSDI or other federal disability programs. Our experienced team of dedicated lawyers might be able to help you file your case and work to get you and your family the disability benefits you need. For a free legal consultation, call us today at (479) 316-0438.