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Social Security disability benefits are not guaranteed

Federal regulations governing Social Security disability are strict and the benefit approval process is slow and demanding. More than 68 percent of applicants were denied social security in the third quarter of 2015.

Applicants must complete numerous forms and provide voluminous information regarding work history and medical condition. The application process can take three to six months.

To qualify for benefits, an applicant has to be younger than full retirement age. The medial condition has to be so severe that the applicant has an inability to work and the condition must last at least one year or until the applicant dies.

Additionally, the applicant must have acquired sufficient Social Security work credits for passing the recent-work and the duration-of-work earnings tests. The credit requirement is based upon the age of the applicant. An applicant who is 60 years old must have Social Security-covered employment for five out of the last 10 years and worked at this employment for a total of at least 9 1/2 years.

Finally, the applicant cannot earn over a certain amount of wages. There is no limit on the applicant's assets or earned income or on the spouse's income.

Awarded benefits are based on the applicant's average lifetime earnings and are normally the same amount as Social Security received at full retirement age. At retirement age, SSDI benefits are automatically converted to retirement benefits. Benefits can be reduced where the applicant receives other federal or state benefits such as workers' compensation. Family members may also be able to collect benefits based upon the applicant's disability.

An appeal denying SSD benefits may be appealed within 60 days. Because there is increased likelihood of success on appeal or where the application is through and accurate, prompt legal advice may play an important role for applicants.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits?" By Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP, Dec. 14, 2015

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