The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two different disability programs to those who suffer from long-term or permanent disabilities, such as aortic disease. These programs include the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Each program has its own technical requirements in order to be eligible, but for either program you must meet the medical requirements that have been set forth by the SSA.
Meeting the SSA’s Medical Requirements
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA compares your condition to a listing of conditions known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains all of the conditions that may qualify an individual for benefits from the SSA, along with the criteria that must be met under each condition.
Within the Blue Book, each condition is given its own section. When applying for disability benefits due to aortic disease, your condition will be compared to the criteria set forth in Section 4.10 of the Blue Book, which covers aneurysm and/or dissection of an aorta or major branches, due to any cause.
To qualify for benefits under this section of the Blue Book, you must have a diagnosis of the condition that has been demonstrated by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, with dissection not controlled by prescribed treatment. Learn more here.
The Technical Requirements of the Disability Programs
If you meet the medical eligibility requirements of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, you must then also meet the criteria of the different Social Security Disability programs. As mentioned above, the SSA disability programs each have their own criteria. To qualify for one or both programs, you must be able to prove that you meet the program’s criteria.
SSDI Benefits Eligibility
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have earned a certain number of work credits prior to becoming disabled. As a general rule, you must have earned a total of 40 work credits through prior work activity with 20 of those credits being earned within the last 10 years. The exact number of credits needed depends on your age, and younger applicants need fewer credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.
SSI Benefits Eligibility
Unlike SSDI benefits, you don’t need any work history to qualify for SSI benefits. The SSI program is a needs-based program. To qualify for this program you must meet the SSA’s financial requirements. As of 2014, this means that you cannot have a household income that exceeds $721 per month as an individual or $1,082 as a couple. Your household assets must also not exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple, excluding your home and one vehicle. Learn more about social security programs here.
The Social Security Disability Application Process
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, it’s your job to prove to the SSA that you are completely unable to maintain gainful employment due to your disability. That means gathering the medical evidence to prove that your condition meets the Blue Book criteria and submitting that evidence along with the forms that the SSA requires you to fill out. When filling out these forms, make sure you leave no sections blank and answer each question with as much detail as possible to help the SSA understand how you qualify for benefits.
After the SSA receives your application, they may ask you to go for a consultative exam. The purpose of this exam is to determine the extent of your disability. It’s important to remember that your own medical records and written statements from your treating physicians are likely to weigh more heavily in a decision than the determination of this exam.
About two to four months after the date of your application, you can expect to receive a decision from the Social Security Administration. If you are awarded benefits, you will be notified as to when benefits will begin, what benefits you are entitled to and how much you will be receiving each month. If you are denied benefits, you have 60 days from the date of the denial notice to appeal the SSA’s decision.
Appealing a Denial of Benefits
If you need to appeal a denial, you may want to consider retaining the services of a disability attorney. Oftentimes applications are denied due to a lack of medical evidence or mistakes made on the claim forms. A disability attorney can help you determine the weak areas of your claim and begin to gather the evidence necessary to strengthen your appeal. He or she can also represent you before an administrative law judge at your disability hearing, which is when you have the greatest chance of overturning the SSA’s decision to deny benefits.
It’s important to note that you should never be discouraged if your initial application for benefits is initially denied. Many current Social Security Disability recipients who receive benefits obtained those benefits through the process of a disability appeal. With the right planning and the help of a disability attorney, you can increase your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.

Author: Lisa Giorgetti, Community Liaison, Social Security Disability Help

The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health is one of Amazon’s charity partners. The Amazon smile program allows Amazon customers to choose a charity that will receive 0.5% of the total price on all eligible purchases. You can go to smile.amazon.com to shop and choose The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health from the drop down menu of charities or use this link to shop on Amazon to donate to the JRF.

The Milewicz group is dedicated to research focused on improving vascular and aortic health. Recent publications from Dr. Milewicz and her colleagues led to an invitation to be “Lab of the Month” from the North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO). Read more about them here.

Amy Yasbeck is the recipient of the 2014 Aortic Disease Advocacy Award for her work in establishing the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health. The University of Kentucky Aortic Program presents this award to individuals who have raised awareness of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of aortic diseases. Awardees will be honored at the University of Kentucky 2014 Aortic Symposium Dinner on September 5, 2014.

It can be difficult to find others to talk to who understand what aortic disease is like.  The John Ritter Foundation is pleased to pass along information about a support group meeting organized by a survivor of aortic dissection in Michigan.  Everyone that has been affected by aortic disease is welcome to attend and support each other.  Here are the details: Read more

Thank you to the Omaha World-Herald for this powerful story of how medical education and process change saved a life.  Thank you, Nebraska Methodist Health System, our TAD Coalition partner, for your efforts to educate your medical team on aortic dissection!  Read the story here.

Tim Ealer’s father, George, passed away due to complications of an aortic dissection. Since then, Tim has learned that this disease can run in families. He spoke with a reporter about his dad and the importance of screening (aortic imaging) if you have a family history of thoracic aortic aneurysm and/or dissection. Watch the interview here:  Tim Ealer on 41 Today (NBC/WMGT).

Learn more here:  Your Aortic Health.

Many people contact the JRF and the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases looking for support groups.  Unfortunately, very few currently exist.  We would like to identify existing groups and facilitate new groups.  If you are interested in finding a support group or know of an existing group, please complete our survey which will be available through December 3, 2013:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YO3sKI8Lu2V4z49kq-1fh4wfI-7XGAhaoFoM-4JmEWU/viewform

* 2015 SHIRTS ARE AVAILABLE- CLICK HERE TO CHECK THEM OUT! *

On November 3, twenty-two Team Ritter runners ran the ING NYC Marathon and earned Finisher medals.  Although this was not the first time some of the runners had completed a marathon, it may have been the most meaningful for them.  Why?  Because this race was only one milestone among many during their journey to the marathon.

Over the last five months, Team Ritter’s 2013 ING New York City Marathon running team has informed hundreds of people about thoracic aortic disease by sharing their stories at health fairs, during media interviews, at fundraising events, and by talking to anyone who would listen.  To date, they have raised over $114,000 so we can inform and educate the public and medical professionals about thoracic aortic disease, provide support to individuals and families affected by aortic disease, and fund research.  And they have done all this while training for a marathon!

We are very proud of our team.  Please join us in congratulating Team Ritter on a job well done!

2013 Team Ritter - ING NYC Marathon with Amy Yasbeck, Stella, and Jason Ritter

2013 Team Ritter - ING NYC Marathon team with Amy Yasbeck, Stella, and Jason Ritter

#TeamRitter
@JRFromtheHeart
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HOUSTON – (Oct. 9, 2013) – Friends and family members of people with thoracic aortic disease and fans of the late legendary comedic actor John Ritter will come together as Team Ritter to raise funds for the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health (JRF) at the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, 2013.

“We are so proud and grateful to again be one of the official charities of this year’s NYC Marathon and have the opportunity to raise much-needed funds for lifesaving research and education,” said actress, writer and aortic health advocate Amy Yasbeck, the widow of Ritter, who died from an acute aortic dissection in 2003. “Team Ritter runners are passionate about increasing awareness of aortic dissection and its risk factors and are committed to raising funds to support the JRF.”

Funds from the NYC Marathon raised for the JRF will go to the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases (JRRP) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to support research to identify genetic risks for aortic dissections. To donate, visit Edward Norton’s Crowdrise online fundraising community: www.crowdrise.com/TeamRitterINGNYCMarathon2013.

“The funds raised by Team Ritter will allow us to continue our genetic research to identify genes or altered DNA that increases someone’s risk for an acute aortic dissection. By identifying who is at risk, we can prevent premature deaths due to aortic dissections,” said Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., director of UTHealth’s John Ritter Research Program. “It will also help us spread information to both physicians and the public about symptoms and genetic risk factors for aortic dissections, including the fact that this condition can run in families.” Milewicz is professor and George H. W. Bush Chair in Cardiovascular Research in the Division of Medical Genetics at the UTHealth Medical School.
Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise
Read more and meet the team here: Read more