Disability & Social Security Benefits in Georgia

Navigating the complexities of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be daunting for many. However, understanding the process through the experiences of those who have lived it can provide invaluable insights—in a recent episode of The DisabiliTEA, hosted by disability attorney Anjel Burgess, guest Acacia Kapusta shared her journey with disability and the Social Security benefits system, offering a unique perspective on the challenges and triumphs of navigating these waters.

Acacia’s Journey

Acacia Kapusta’s story is one of resilience in the face of progressive disability. Diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease and Idiopathic Hypersomnia, Acacia navigated the Social Security benefits system from a young age, encountering common hurdles such as resource limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and transitioning from SSI to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) due to employment.

Key Takeaways from Acacia’s Experience

  • Applying for SSI/SSDI: Acacia’s journey underscores the importance of understanding which program you are eligible for and the criteria for each. SSI is needs-based, considering income and resources, whereas SSDI is contingent upon your work credits and FICA contributions.
  • Resource Limits: Acacia’s initial denial due to exceeding resource limits highlights a critical aspect of SSI eligibility. Applicants must manage their assets carefully, as exceeding the threshold can result in denial.
  • Transitioning from SSI to SSDI: Her transition from SSI to SSDI, due to earning sufficient work credits, illustrates a pathway that may be available to younger individuals with limited work history but who have contributed to Social Security through employment.
  • The Importance of Reporting Changes: Acacia’s narrative emphasizes the necessity of promptly reporting income and changes in employment status to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This ensures benefits are accurately calculated and reduces the risk of overpayments.
  • Navigating Work with a Disability: Acacia’s challenges in maintaining employment while managing her disability underscore the difficulties many face in the workplace. It highlights the importance of understanding your rights to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Reapplying for SSDI: After leaving her job due to worsening conditions, Acacia’s reapplication for SSDI was swiftly approved, demonstrating that previous SSDI recipients may have a smoother path to reinstatement of benefits if their disability forces them to stop working again.

Lessons Learned

Acacia’s journey through applying for and receiving social security disability benefits provides invaluable insights into navigating the complexities of the Social Security Disability system. Here’s an expanded look at the lessons learned:

Early Research and Understanding of SSI and SSDI Programs:

  • Familiarize yourself with the eligibility criteria for both programs. Understanding the distinct differences between SSI and SSDI, including eligibility based on work credits versus financial need, is essential.
  • Use online resources and the SSA website to understand the application process comprehensively, as well as the required documentation and program specifics.
  • Prospective applicants should attend SSA-hosted workshops or webinars. These sessions can clarify and answer common questions about the social security disability benefits process.

Proper Management of Resources for SSI Eligibility:

  • Conduct a thorough review of your assets to ensure they do not exceed the SSI program’s limits. Remember, certain assets, like your primary home and one vehicle, do not count towards the resource limit.
  • If you’re close to the resource limit, seek legal or financial advice. Professionals can offer strategies for “spending down” or legally reallocating resources without jeopardizing eligibility.
  • Keep detailed records of all asset management transactions, including sales, transfers, and expenditures, in case the SSA requests this information.

Consistent Communication with the SSA:

  • Report any changes in income or employment status promptly. Delays in reporting can lead to overpayments, which you may have to repay, or underpayments, which delay full benefits.
  • Maintain a log of all communications with the SSA, including phone calls, in-person visits, and mailed correspondences. Note the date, the SSA representative’s name, and the conversation summary.
  • Use the SSA’s online portal to submit reports and track the status of your claim, ensuring a documented trail of all submissions and communications.

Awareness of Rights to Reasonable Accommodations:

  • Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it applies to your employment situation. Knowing your rights can empower you to request the necessary accommodations to perform your job.
  • Document all requests for accommodations and your employer’s responses. This documentation can be crucial if disputes about your employment capabilities or your social security disability claim is questioned.
  • If you encounter resistance to reasonable accommodation requests, engage with disability advocacy groups or seek legal advice. Experienced guidance can help you navigate potential conflicts with employers.

Support from Burgess & Christensen

For those in Georgia and across the country seeking to navigate the social security disability benefits process, Burgess & Christensen offers experience and support. Led by Anjel Burgess, the firm is committed to helping individuals understand their rights and navigate the complexities of the Social Security benefits system.

If you’re embarking on this journey or facing challenges with your SSD application, contact Burgess & Christensen at 770-422-8111 or online for guidance and support tailored to your unique situation. Let our experience illuminate your path to securing the benefits you deserve.