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Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability in Arkansas?

If you are disabled in the state of Arkansas, you may qualify for either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both of these disability benefit programs are different, and eligibility is based on a variety of factors, including income, work credits, and disability. These supplemental incomes are often extremely critical for injured individuals who are unable to work because of a disability.

In the state of Arkansas, 8.5% of the population collects SSDI and 3.8% of the population collects SSI. The average monthly payment for SSI is just $504.94, while the average monthly payment for SSDI is $1042.98. As you can see, being eligible to collect Social Security Disability Insurance can be extremely beneficial. However, not everyone qualifies for SSDI. In order to collect all of the benefits to which you may be entitled, it is important to have an experienced and skilled Arkansas SSDI lawyer on your side from the start.

If you have questions regarding disability insurance or benefits, we can help. At Rainwater, Holt, and Sexton, our attorneys can help you during this difficult time and ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve.

What is SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance are two federal programs that provide income to disabled individuals. All Social Security Disability benefits are paid in monthly installments. However, while these two programs seem similar, they are actually very different.

There are different financial requirements necessary to qualify for SSI and SSDI. SSI is designed to help disabled individuals with low income, who may already have a difficult time paying for food, shelter, and clothing. To qualify for SSI, you must first pass a “means test.”

SSDI is an entitlement program and not a “needs based” program. It is available only to those individuals who have paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years. The payment is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before your disability began and not the degree or severity of your disability. You are eligible for these benefits regardless of your current income level. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have a qualifying disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of disabling impairments known as the “Blue Book.” This Blue Book lists specific criteria individuals must meet before they can qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

The Blue Book lists disabling conditions that will qualify for you Social Security disability benefits. While having a condition that meets this disability criteria doesn’t mean that you will be automatically approved for benefits, it does mean that you have suffered a disabling condition and that your claim will be considered. Before benefits will be awarded, the SSA will review the severity of your condition, the Blue Book criteria you meet, your income level, and your work history. Based on their findings, they will determine if you qualify for SSDI or SSI.

Because the Blue Book is very technical and you must qualify in order to have your claim considered, it’s beneficial to work with your physician and disability attorney prior to applying for SSDI or SSI. Working with a qualified attorney will significantly improve the odds of being awarded benefits.

You should apply for SSDI benefits immediately after you become disabled because the application can take a long time (three to five months or more) to process. Plus, if you are approved for benefits, you will not be paid until six full months after your disability began.

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What Medical Conditions Qualify for Disability?

The Blue Book contains a list of numerous medical conditions, both physical and mental, that qualify for SSDI or SSI. Some of the most common medical conditions that qualify for disability in Arkansas include:

  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Heart failure or Coronary artery disease
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • COPD
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Mental disorders
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Skin disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancers
  • Hematological disorders

Overall less than half of all individuals who apply for SSDI or SSI actually receive benefits. While any approved medical disability could qualify you for SSDI and SSI benefits, some medical conditions are more likely to lead to approval benefits than others. Some of those include multiple sclerosis, cancer, respiratory disorders, osteoarthritis or joint diseases, mood or anxiety disorders and back problems. According to a recent survey, 68% of those with multiple sclerosis were approved for SSDI or SSI, while just 34% of those with back problems received disability awards.

Does a Medical Condition/Disability Have to be in the Blue Book?

Your individual disability does not necessarily have to match the Blue Book exactly for you to be awarded benefits. The SSA will consider aspects of your condition to be medical equivalent to the criteria listed in the book. This is known as “equaling a disability listing.”

In addition, a claimant doesn’t have to have an impairment that is listed in the Blue Book, however, collecting benefits without a Blue Book condition is not easy. The SSA may decide to grant disability benefits if the condition is severe enough and well documented enough to qualify. Examples of disabilities not in the Blue Book that often still qualify for benefits include fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac disease, and degenerative disc disease.

Do You Have Enough Work Credits?

In addition to meeting the disability criteria, you must have worked long enough or recently enough to qualify for disability benefits. Your total yearly wages or self-employment income will determine your work credits and you can earn up to four credits a year. In 2019, workers needed to earn just $5,440 to earn their four credits for the year. If you are over the age of 62, the number of work credits you need is generally 40, with 20 of those credits being earned in the last 10 years leading up to your disability.

Younger workers, however, may qualify with fewer than 40 credits. If you are disabled before the age of 24, you may qualify if you’ve earned at least 6 credits in the 3-years before you were disabled. A 27-year-old would need just 12 credits to qualify. Individuals between the ages of 31 and 42 need just 20 credits to qualify for disability benefits. Individuals between the ages of 42 and 62 need an extra credit for every year past the age of 42. For example, a 51-year-old would need 29 credits (51-42 = 9 + 20 credits), while a 57-year-old would need 35 credits (57-42 = 15 + 20 credits).

If your child is disabled or blind, he or she can receive Social Security Income (SSI) benefits from birth to age 18. An adult child, aged 18 and older, can receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if he or she is disabled or blind. There are specifications for both of these benefits. You can learn more by talking to your Arkansas Social Security Disability attorney or visiting the Social Security Administration website.

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If you need to apply for social security disability in Arkansas, it is important to speak with an experienced SSD lawyer immediately. We can help you file the disability claims you need and prevent mistakes from occurring that could jeopardize your claim. With four offices in Arkansas—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, and Hot Springs—our Arkansas SSD lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you need us.

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