Most Common Questions Asked About Social Security Disability
WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?
Most people are eligible to file a disability application after they stop working. If you are unable to work and have to quit your job because of your physical or mental impairment, you can file then. If you believe you are disabled and unable to work, you should minimize the waiting time by filing a Social Security Disability application as soon as possible. The process is lengthy and can take months if not longer. So its advised the earlier you file, the better.
WHEN ARE YOU CONSIDERED DISABLED AND ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?
To qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must be totally disabled. Although you may believe you are disabled, the definition of disability under SSA means means that your injury or illness prevents you from doing any “substantial gainful work” and is expected to last at least 12 months or to result in death. So having a medical diagnosis isnt enough. You have to prove that your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from doing any and all kinds of work in the national economy. Also, you must have earned wages and paid into the Social Security system in at least 20 of the last 40 quarters in order to qualify for SSDI. However, there is another program called SSI, Supplemental Security Income, and under that program you do not have to earn wages or paid into the Social Security system. This program is a needs based program. So if you have never worked or maybe you worked but earned very little, the SSI program may be right for you.
WHAT CAN A SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY LAWYER DO FOR ME?
A Social Security Disability claims lawyer can ensure that you have all the required documents and records, and assist you in completing the many forms required in a benefits claim application or appeal. We assist with filing the lengthy application, and we help fill out any forms you may receive from Social Security such as function report or work history forms. Keep in mind, we can help you out at any step of your claim. You can hire a lawyer to help you initially file your application, or you can hire a lawyer after youve been denied and are looking to appeal. But dont wait too long since you only have 60 days to file an appeal.
MY SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATION WAS DENIED. CAN I APPLY FOR BENEFITS AGAIN?
Depending on when you were denied, you may still be in the time frame to appeal the denial. If you have received a “Notice of Disapproved Claim,” you are free to appeal the decision but you only have 60 days to do so. There are four levels of appeal, which must be followed in order. You have the reconsideraton appeal, the request for hearing appeal, the Appeal Council Appeal and the Federal Court appeal.
MY DOCTOR SAYS I AM DISABLED, WHY IS SOCIAL SECURITY STILL DENYING MY CLAIM?
Unfortunately just because your doctor says you cant work or are disabled doesnt necessarily mean SSA will authomatically approve your claim. Social Security’s position is that it's not up to your doctor to determine whether you are disabled or not. The agency makes its own decision independently of your doctor’s opinion. Your doctors opinion does play a factor in helping your case but its not the only medical evidence Social Security reviews. Common reasons for which the Social Security Administration may deny an SSD application include:
Your disability is not severe enough. The SSA requires that your disability prevent you from working for at least 12 months or result in your death. Blindness is an exception to this requirement. Just because SSA denies your case stating your disability isnt severe enough, just know you can and you should appeal that denial. Many cases are won at the hearing stage so do not give up just because you have been denied.
Your application is incomplete. If the Social Security office cannot establish your disability because medical information is not available to the examiner, the application can be rejected. Many times, applicants fail to fill out necessary forms that are sent to them. Its vital to read all documents you receive from SSA because if you fail to fill out the necessary forms and send it back to SSA, your claim could be denied. If the examiner cannot find you for additional information, your application may be rejected. Its important to keep SSA up to date on your number and address change. Many times applicants file their claim and they move and change their phone number and never update SSA of this. This could have a negative impact on your claim.
You have failed to follow doctor’s orders. If an applicant has not undergone therapy or treatment recommendations by their doctor, SSD benefits may be denied.Its always important to be compliant with medical care. If you are compliant with medical care, it shows SSA that you are trying to improve and get better. Also, if you try all means of medical care and nothing seems to work, this could help your chances of getting approved.
I WAS DISABLED AS A CHILD AND HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO WORK FOR A LIVING. DOES SOCIAL SECURITY PROVIDE BENEFITS FOR ME?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Social Security disability program that pays benefits to those who have a financial need because their disability has kept them out of the work. This program is a needs based program. SSI is available for both disabled children and adults. Even if you meet the medical requirements of disability, you also have to meet the financial requirements of disability. This means that if you have a large amount of assets in your name or the name of your spouse, even though you may have met the medical requirements, you may not meet the financial requirements because youre over the asset limit. SSA allows those that file for SSI to have no more than $2000 in assets for an individual and no more than $3000 for a couple.
HOW MUCH WILL MY BENEFITS BE?
The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. A higher wage earner will likely receive a higher monthly benefit than someone who didnt earn as much. This is because the more you earn, the more you pay in to social security and the more you will receive if you are found disabled. The Social Security Statement that you receive every few years displays your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefits. If you do not have your Social Security Statement, you can request one at www.socialsecurity.gov or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?
There are currently three methods available to potential claimants:
Filing for disability online at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can create a profile on the SSA website and file online.
Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or file your claim over the phone.
In person by walking into your local Social Security office and a representative can assist you there.
To complete an initial SSD application, you must have a all your information ready. This includes:
Workers’ compensation information if applicable.
Names and dates of birth of minor children and spouse.
Marriage and divorce dates.
Checking or savings account numbers, including the bank’s 9-digit routing number for direct deposit of benefit checks.
Name, address and phone number of an emergency contact.
DO I NEED A LAWYER TO REPRESENT ME IN MY SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CLAIM?
No. Although a lawyer can signficantly increase your chances of approval, you can always file on your own. Any claimant can represent himself in all phases of the Social Security Disability benefits application process. However, claimants who are represented by experience legal counsel typically prevail in their cases more often than those who are not represented. We understand the process and have been through it on many occassions. After having handled thousands of cases, we know the best strategies in helping our clients get approved.
CAN MY FAMILY GET BENEFITS?
Yes. Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your years of employment. They include:
Your spouse, if they are 62 or older.
Your spouse, at any age, if they are caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled.
Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, even a stepchild or grandchild. (The child must be younger than 18 years old, or younger than 19 if in elementary or secondary school full-time.)
Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if they have a disability that started before they were 22 years old.