Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in Colorado
Contributed by Deanna Power, Community Outreach Manager, Social Security Disability Help
If you become disabled and can no longer work, there could be financial assistance available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers Social Security Disability benefits for people of all ages to help pay for medical bills, therapy, and the cost of day-to-day living.
There are two forms of benefits available for people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Although the two programs are for people with long-term disabilities, qualifying for each programs varies.
SSDI is for adults aged 18 and over who have worked long enough to acquire the SSA’s required number of “work credits” and paid into Social Security (FICA) taxes.
SSI is for people of all ages. Although it does not require applicants to have paid into FICA taxes, all SSI applicants must have low resources or assets. An SSI applicant cannot have more than $2,000 in assets, or $3,000 in assets if married. The SSA considers cash, stocks, bonds, and life insurance as assets. The SSA will not include a primary home and car when evaluating assets.
When evaluating a child’s SSI claim, the SSA’s asset limitations are not as strict. The SSA has a rough outline online as to how much a household can earn and still have a disabled child qualify for SSI benefits.
Additionally, the ABLE Act was recently passed, which allows parents, friends, and family to save funds on behalf of SSI recipients without disqualifying them from SSI benefits. In Colorado, SSI recipients will be able to have an ABLE account worth up to $100,000. The plan became effective in June of this year.
When an application for disability benefits is received, the SSA will compare an applicant’s hospital records to its medical guide called the Blue Book. The Blue Book will list what symptoms or test results must be present for a diagnosis to qualify for disability benefits.
If you do not have a disability listed in the Blue Book, you can still qualify for benefits if the symptoms of your condition match other listings.
Finally, if your symptoms don’t align with any conditions listed in the Blue Book, you can still qualify by taking a residual functional capacity or RFC assessment. An RFC is a questionnaire that will ask how much work you are able to do, including sitting, standing, and lifting weight.
If you are applying for SSDI benefits, you can complete the application entirely online. If you are applying for SSI benefits, you can start the application online, but will need to complete your application at an in-person interview at your local SSA office. To schedule an appointment, call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. Here are some of Colorado’s biggest SSA offices:
Aurora: 14280 E Jewell St, Suite 250, Aurora, CO 80012
Boulder: 4949 Pearl East Circle, Suite 101, Boulder, CO 80301
Denver: 1500 Champa St, 2nd Floor, Suite 200, Denver, CO 80202
Pueblo: 3769 Parker Blvd, Pueblo, CO 81008
The SSA has an Office Locator to help you find your nearest office by zip code.
In Colorado, more than 65% of applicants are initially denied benefits. This is very close to the national average. If you are denied after applying for benefits, there is a thorough appeals process available. You can have a disability advocate or attorney help you at any step of the application or appeals process.
The first step of the appeals process is filing for reconsideration. This can be done online, and it simply asks the SSA to look at your application again. Nearly 80% of Colorado applicants are denied at the reconsideration stage, which is actually higher than the national average.
The second step of the appeals process is having a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will listen to your case and the reasons why you’re disabled. The ALJ hearing is the most successful point of an application nationwide. This is where most applicants get approved, with 40% of Colorado residents get approved during their ALJ hearing.
You can appeal your ALJ hearing if denied. Finally, if your ALJ appeal is denied, you can take the claim to federal court.
Deanna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 857-366-7629.