The Rights of Persons With Disabilities in Disability Claims

Disability Claims

No person anticipates or intends on becoming disabled to the point they are no longer able to work, but accidents and chronic illnesses can get in the way. The good news is that there are strong protections in place for disabled American workers, with multiple programs available to cover wages lost due to a long-term disability. This article will cover what options are available and what rights people have when they file disability claims.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a program that allows any worker who passes the earnings requirements access to Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI benefits. To be eligible for SSDI, disabled workers must be able to prove that they can meet two earnings tests:

  1.  A recent work test.

A duration of work test.

The duration of work test requires proving that the person has worked and contributed to the Social Security program for long enough to qualify for SSDI. The recent work test is more lenient and is based on the person’s age at the time that they develop a disability. 

Disabled workers who are eligible for the SSDI program have certain rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer or another qualified person. Applicants who are denied benefits also have the right to file an appeal.

Supplemental Security Income

People who have not accumulated sufficient work credits before suffering a disabling condition to be eligible for SSDI may still be able to get disability benefits through the SSA via another source known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Disabled people applying for SSI also have specific rights afforded to them by not just the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) but also by the SSA program itself. They have the right to:

  •  Get help with applications

Appoint a representative

Ask for copies of records

Request a benefits letter

Appeal determinations

Have an interpreter provided free of charge

Get help with obtaining medical records

Request copies of regulations and policy statements

As with SSDI, SSI applicants can benefit from having legal representation. All disabled workers are entitled to work with an attorney and be represented by that person if requested throughout the entire claim or appeal process.

State Programs

Some states offer additional disability benefits programs to specific types of employees. Ohio is one good example. All state and local federal employees not able to receive SSDI benefits can instead file for disability benefits through OPERS, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

As with SSI and SSDI, there are specific requirements that employees must meet to be eligible to receive OPERS disability benefits. There are also certain rights that apply to all disabled people filing for benefits through the OPERS program. They have the right to hire a lawyer to represent them throughout the process, to appeal a determination of benefits, and to appeal a termination of benefits.

Time May Be Limited

For disabled workers who need to file appeals regarding a determination made by the SSA or OPERS, time may be of the essence. Contacting a lawyer for help as soon as a letter of notification regarding the denial or cancellation of benefits is always the best option. Completing and filing the appropriate paperwork for SSDI, SSI, or OPERS benefits can be challenging, and appealing a decision is often even tougher. Don’t put off seeking legal help.

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