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Disabled workers paid for SSDI benefits for decades

Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were alive, Hillary Clinton was in the White House and dinosaurs ruled the world. The year was 1993.

Statistics show that the average American worker who today begins receiving Social Security Disability has spent 22 years on the job, paying for those benefits with each check. Twenty-two years ago, "Jurassic Park" was the top movie, Whitney Houston songs dominated the charts and Bill Clinton was in the first year of his presidency.

If you're a Denver worker who today begins receiving SSDI, perhaps the first thing you will notice is how modest those benefits are. The average beneficiary gets about one-third of what they earned before becoming disabled by illness or injury. In the five years before their SSDI claim was approved, workers earned an average of $42,000. Disability benefits average just $13,980 per year.

Yet if Congress doesn't act to protect SSDI in the next year or so, the trust fund will be depleted to the point that even those modest benefits will be slashed by 19 percent. In a statement about the program protecting disabled workers and their families, the White House said SSDI "benefits make a meaningful difference for people with disabilities who are no longer able to work." The benefits keep millions out of poverty.

The process of applying for, and being approved for benefits is understandably rigorous. In order to prevent fraud, the Social Security Administration requires claimants to provide detailed medical documentation of the disability and doctors' expectations that it will last at least a year.

Most applications are denied, meaning applicants get no benefits whatsoever. However, they do have the right to an appeal -- with the assistance of an attorney -- before an administrative law judge. Because the appeal is crucial, so too is the help of an experienced SSDI attorney with knowledge of the process, paperwork and procedures.

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