Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal disability programs designed to provide financial support to people and families during their time of greatest need. Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing. There are many technical, industry-specific terms. Here are some of the key Social Security disability terms that you should know:
- Social Security Work Credits: To qualify for SSDI benefits, an applicant must have paid a sufficient amount in FICA taxes. Each year you earn ‘work credits’ based on your FICA tax history. The total number of credits needed varies by age.
- Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is a broad term used to describe a person’s ability to work for an income. The amount that qualifies as SGA varies every year. Essentially, it is the maximum amount you can earn while considered disabled.
- The ‘Blue Book’: A colloquial term, the ‘Blue Book’ is officially SSA’s manual on eligibility requirements. Many conditions and impairments are listed within the ‘Blue Book’. In the manual, you will find information describing the medical evidence you need to support a claim.
- Disability Determination Service (DDS): The DDS is a state agency that will receive your disability file once the SSA has determined that you satisfy all technical requirements. The DDS is responsible for evaluating your medical eligibility.
- Reconsideration: Reconsideration is the first level of appeal in the Social Security disability process. Within 60 days of receiving a denial letter, an applicant can submit a request for a reconsideration of their claim. You can (and often should) include additional supporting evidence during reconsideration.
- Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): Each year, the SSA adjusts disability benefits for the cost of living. In the vast majority of years, the COLA results in an increase in monthly benefits.
Of course, this is merely a small selection of the terms you may run into when applying for SSDI benefits or SSI benefits. You can also review a more comprehensive list of Social Security acronyms. If you have any specific questions about your rights, your options, or your claim, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help.