You should file for disability benefits in Texas as soon as you become disabled

Because the disability process (and this goes equally, of course, for Social Security Disability and SSI disability benefits) can be so long, not to mention emotionally draining and financially devastating, you should file for disability soon as you become disabled (What makes you disabled for SSD, Social Security Disability Benefits, OR SSI?).

That's the short answer to the question of when a person should file for disability in Texas. Here's a more detailed answer. Since, in the Social Security Administration's eyes, you cannot be working and earning above a certain amount each month and still be considered disabled, you should file for disability as soon as your condition restricts your ability to work and earn at least a certain amount in monthly gross earned income.

What is this gross monthly earnings cap, above which you are not considered disabled? This amount is referred to as SGA, or substantial gainfuly activity, and the amount changes each year. It is subject to change and in the last few years has changed every year as an adjustment for inflation. Too see the current SGA limit on earned income for those who are either A) applying for disability or B) receiving disability benefits, you may wish to view this page: SGA limit on earned income for disability beneficiaries. Remember: if you earn at least this much, you are not eligible to receive Social Security Disability or SSI benefits no matter how bad your physical and/or mental condition was. And this pertains even to cases in which an individual's condition actually meets a listing.

Common questions about filing for disability in Texas
Why you should file for disability as soon as possible

The most basic reason is that the process is long and claims are often denied at the first two levels of the system. Disability applications tend to take 3-4 months to process to a decision. Sometimes they take considerably longer. With a denial rate of approximately 70 percent nationwide on initial claims and a denial rate of 67.4 percent in Texas in a recent year, this means that most applicants will need to file a request for reconsideration appeal.

However, reconsiderations have an even higher turn-down rate. In the same recent year in Texas, reconsideration appeals had an 87.4 percent denial rate. Therefore, these same claimants were forced to file the second appeal, the request for a disability hearing. At the hearing level in Texas in that same year, 59.8 percent of cases heard by judges were approved. Less than half.

However, if you count these individuals plus those who were actually approved at the disability application and reconsideration levels, it turns out that about 75 percent of applicants can expect to be approved for SSD or SSI as long as they pursue the appeals process at least as far as the level of a hearing involving a judge.

Can you still file for disability even if you are working at the time? Yes, but as was mentioned, if your monthly gross earnings are at the SGA level or higher, you will not be eligibile to actually receive benefits. In fact, though your application will be taken, it will be very quickly denied (this is called a technical denial) without the benefit of ever having gone through the medical evaluation process.

How do you go about making an application for Social Security Disability benefits in Texas?

If you are disabled and unable to work, you should contact your nearest social security office as soon as possible. This is literally all you need to get the ball rolling for a disability application.

Once you get someone on the line, simply inform them that you need to file for disability benefits. That by itself will get the application process started. At that point, arrangements will be made for you to be interviewed either at a local social security office, or, perhaps more conveniently, over the phone.

Whether your disability application will be for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI will be determined by the social security office (meaning you will have no control over this).

How does this determination get made? If the disability application is for a minor, the claim will be for SSI. If the disability application is for an adult who has worked but has an insufficient number of work credits to quality for SSDI, it will also be for SSI.

However, if the disability application is made by an individual who has paid a sufficient amount into the "system", meaning that they have achieved insured status, the application will be for SSDI, most commonly referred to as Social Security Disability.

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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