People who suffer from disabling conditions that prevent them from holding down a job may qualify for Social Security benefits from the federal government. Social Security disability is designed to assist people with long-term or permanent disability conditions. People with long-term disabling conditions may qualify for benefit assistance, though those approved for assistance may actually only need them on a temporary basis.
Social Security Disability Determinations
The Social Security Disability Insurance Program exists as a government-funded form of insurance for people who are physically or mentally unable to maintain gainful employment. As an insurance program, only extreme cases of disability qualify for assistance. Eligible applicants have experienced a disabling condition for a year or more and must show medical documentation as proof of their condition. In terms of permanent versus total disability, eligible applicants may show signs of total disability without actually being permanently disabled, as a "totally" disabling condition may or may not last indefinitely.
Temporary vs. Permanent Disability Benefits
The difference between temporary and permanent disability benefits involves the length of time a disabling condition is expected to last. Temporary disability benefits offered through private insurers or workman's' compensation programs provide assistance as a way to replace a person's income until he's able to resume work. In cases where a condition is totally disabling, permanent or expected to last a year or longer, permanent disability benefit programs help to replace a person's income for an indefinite period of time. The eligibility requirements for Social Security disability automatically excludes temporary conditions since the program is designed to assist people who have a long-term need.
Returning to Work
Since permanent disabling conditions are not an eligibility requirement for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration has a built-in monitoring mechanism to determine whether a recipient's condition shows improvement. People who receive disability benefits must agree to an annual review process, which is designed to determine whether a recipient's medical or financial circumstances have improved. In addition, the Social Security Administration encourages disability recipients to return to work if at all possible. Recipients are granted nine-month trial work periods in which they can return to the workforce without the risk of losing their disability benefit allowance. Recipients can take advantage of the nine-month trial period within any 60-month time period.
Eligibility guidelines for receiving Social Security disability benefits only allow for conditions that cause total disability, but still make it possible for people to receive benefits for conditions that occur on an intermittent basis. Some conditions, such as mental or emotional disorders may come and go, meaning a person's symptoms subside to the point where gainful employment is possible. To account for these situations, the Social Security Administration provides an extended eligibility period for individuals who take advantage of the nine-month trial periods and find that they're able to work longer. In some cases, even if a person loses their benefit eligibility due to an ongoing work status, benefits can be reinstated on a temporary basis.
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