The Short Answer: No
The short answer to your question is no, union membership does not affect your eligibility for Social Security disability. Many people believe that the fact that their union offers disability benefits automatically excludes them from claiming SSD benefits. However, any benefits offered by your union are in addition to federally provided benefits, not instead of them.
In fact, your labor union may actually help you during the application process. Your union representatives might be able to help you apply for disability or find legal representation for your claim. The latter option is always preferable as most initial applications for SSD are denied and having a lawyer will give you a much better chance of obtaining approval.
While union membership does not affect your eligibility for social security, what can be affected by union membership is the amount of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that you receive from the SSA. SSI is different than SSDI and is often confused with it. Most disabled persons who qualify for SSDI also qualify for at least some SSI benefits, in addition to union benefits. This provides threefold insurance for union workers, including two plans from the SSA, to protect union workers from the economic struggles that often accompany disability.
An experienced attorney can assist you in maximizing benefits when combining a union disability plan with SSDI. Furthermore, navigation through pension insurance plans can be complicated, and no less complicated and convoluted is the Social Security Administration’s system. Payment for attorney services is normally deducted from benefits received, so you can be assured that, besides concern for your advocacy, your attorney has a vested interest in helping you maximize benefits.
The Process of Applying
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits is the same whether or not you are part of a labor union. First, you’ll need to gather evidence of your disability and how it has affected your ability to work. This includes medical reports, medical opinions, documentation of missed work days, and documentation of extended leave from work.
While any reports from a treating doctor are helpful to your claim, it is especially important to get input from a doctor who has worked with SSD recipients before. They know what the SSA looks for in an application, and they know what language helps the SSA make their decision.
Once your application is received, it goes to the SSA. From there, it will either be approved or denied. The majority of applications are denied the first time around, so don’t lose hope if you receive a denial letter. It does not mean you cannot be approved; it simply means you may not have proven it enough in your initial application.
From there, you can request reconsideration. Make sure to do so quickly, since it typically has a close deadline. If you miss this deadline, you will need to restart the application process. Ideally, at this step you will have a doctor fill out a Residual Functioning Capacity form. This explicitly outlines how your disability impacts your work and what restrictions you must follow.
If your application is still denied at this stage, there are several more rounds of appeals you can go through. This is one reason it’s helpful to work with a disability attorney. They know what to expect at each stage and how you can strengthen your application to avoid further denials.
Similar Requirements for Union Benefits and SSDI Benefits
Several parallels exist between qualification for union disability benefits and qualification for Social Security benefits. Many union plans dictate that members meet Social Security’s definition of disabled and qualify for SSD benefits before they can qualify for union disability benefits. In this way, you will notice that, although union membership does not affect your eligibility for SSDI benefits, your eligibility for union disability benefits can be affected by Social Security.
Most union plans define disabled in the same way as Social Security. Many do not though, so a qualified disability attorney can guide you through the differences and how to answer application questions appropriately, so that you receive the benefits you deserve, as a disabled individual who has paid into a national insurance plan your entire working life.
Nearly all union insurance plans require that a member meet certain service requirements as well, similar, in principle, to Social Security’s point-based system for determining benefit amounts under SSDI. Both union plans and SSDI require a waiting period from the time a person became disabled before they can qualify for benefits. Proper coordination of benefit applications, though, can cover you financially and even provide you with a lump sum, backdated payment from SSA once your waiting period has passed and your application has been approved.
A Word on Workers’ Compensation
If you become disabled due to a work-related incident or conditions, workers’ compensation benefits you receive may affect your eligibility for full Social Security disability and supplemental security SSA payments. Lump sum benefits payable to you, such as back payments from a workers’ compensation settlement or private disability plan, risk misinterpretation by social security without proper representation and guidance through Social Security’s systems, methods and processes.
Eligibility for SSDI is not affected by union membership. Quite often, it is the other way around. Many factors that affect eligibility for SSDI also are factors upon which eligibility for union disability benefits are determined. SSI can offer some financial security during waiting periods while attempting to receive either union or SSA’s insurance payments. The Social Security Administration’s insurance program is wrought with complexities, and is a complicated and slow-moving maze that has not been updated in decades. Contacting a qualified attorney to maximize your union and social security benefits will typically help you to get more of the benefits you so justly deserve.
At Walton Disability we are here to assist the citizens of Mobile and Baldwin County, Alabama. Visit us for a free consultation regarding your case today!