Filing for disability and the difficulty of switching to other work when you have medical problems
I live in Texas. I was told by a relative that you cannot file for disability if you are let go due to layoffs. I've worked for the same company for over 40 years, doing the same type of work since 1982. It is getting harder for me to do my job, especially when I am required to work overtime. There are rumors that there will be a big layoff, maybe at the end of this year. Since I have so much time with the company my severance pay would be a nice sum. Can I file for SSDI after I am let go? Or do you have to be working when you file a claim?
Before answering, let me dwell on one aspect of your situation that I find myself explaining frequently. As you said, you have done the same job for over 40 years and you are having difficulty doing the job. Possibly you are able to keep doing the job because of the expertise you have built up. Possibly this is the case and you also have some level of accomodation with your employer, i.e. they work with you with regard to your issues. A person in your position who is forced to switch to another type of work would lose the benefit of their built-up expertise and familiarity with their work and would also lose any level of accomodation they have with their employer.
This, of course, makes it much more difficult for the individual with medical problems (and resulting functional limitations) to successfully transition to news forms of employment. This fact is taken into account, fortunately, by the sequential evaluation system used by SSA.
The Social Security Disability and SSI system takes into account not only the limiting effects of your condition, but also your education, age, and skills. Individuals with fewer skills, lesser education, and less highly developed skills are considered to have a poorer chance of finding other work, particularly when they have significant limitations, and even more so when they are older. It goes without saying, of course, that many employers will pass over older workers due to the perception that they will have more health issues and will drive up insurance costs.
The reason I point all of this out is that many individuals do not understand that the Social Security is actually set up to provide a certain level of fairness by acknowledging real-world and real-work realities. Some of these individuals will also point out that factory closings are often accompanied by claims for disability. But this happens for the very reasons I have laid out.
Now, to answer your question:
If you are laid off, you can file for disability if you are not receiving unemployment benefits. To receive unemployment benefits, you are basically stating you are able to work should you get employment; if you file for Social Security Disability you are stating you are unable to work. The contradiction is fairly obvious.
The requirements of Social Security involve a severe impairment that prevents you from performing substantial and gainful work activity, or SGA. Substantial gainful work activity, or SGA, corresponds to a monthly earnings limit that happens to be one thousand and seventy dollars, gross per month, for 2014. If you are making over that you would be denied the day you file no matter what your impairment. So if you are laid off, work should be no problem. Also, severance pay is not a factor for Social Security Disability eligibility so no problem there.
To see the current SGA amount:Social Security SGA amount.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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