• Christopher Le

The 6 Most Frequently Asked Social Security Disability Questions

IF YOU SUFFER FROM AN INJURY OR HAVE A MEDICAL condition prevents you from being able to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides benefits to disabled individuals who have worked and paid taxes into the program. But even if you have not worked, SSA provides an SSI program that you may qualify for. To receive disability benefits, you’ll need to file a claim and meet certain criteria.


The Social Security disability application can be complex and confusing. You will be asked to provide certain information and can be overwhelming for many. Its always advised to seek legal help when you are unsure. The following are commonly asked questions about applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits. By understanding the basics, you’ll gain a better idea of what steps to take when filing for social security disability.


Who Is Eligible for Social Security Disability?

To qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), you’ll need to have a good strong work history and paid Social Security taxes. The length of time depends on your age when you file and how many work credits you’ve earned through the Social Security system. You can earn a maximum of 4 credits for each calendar year you work. Generally, you need 40 credits to receive disability benefits, and 20 of those credits need to be earned in the last 10 years before you become disabled. Younger workers may qualify for disability benefits with fewer credits. One of the questions we first ask a new client when they call us is, "have you worked 5 out of the last 10 years full time?" If they have, then they are likely eligible to file under this SSDI program. If they say no, they may qualify under the SSI program. SSI stands for supplemental security income and although has the same disability requirements, is a needs based program.


Additionally, your medical condition has to be expected to last up to a year. This doesnt mean that you have to wait for a year to file for disability, but if you expect that your condition is expected to last UP TO A YEAR, then you can file a claim.


Your doctor may also consider you to be disabled. I've received many calls from clients who tell me that their doctor says they are disabled and can no longer work. Although your doctor's statement certainly helps your case, your claim will still need to be approved by the Social Security Administration. Your doctor’s determination is one factor in the determination process, but ultimately the Social Security Administration makes the final determination.


How Long Does It Take to Apply and Qualify for Social Security Disability?

You can apply for Social Security disability in person at your local SSA office, online or over the phone at 800-772-1213. You will need to provide the following:

  • A birth certificate.

  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns for the previous year.

  • An adult disability report which lists details about your medical condition and work history.

  • Medical evidence such as doctors’ reports, diagnostic studies, any hospitalizations and test results.

  • Information about workers’ compensation, short term or long term disability or other benefits.

The application process takes about an hour long whether you do it online, over the phone or in person. The purpose of to answer questions about why you feel you are disabled and can no longer work. Once your application is filed, it can take approximately 3-6 months to hear back from SSA.


What Can I Do If My Social Security Disability Claim Is Rejected?

After you file your social security disability claim, you spend 3-6 months waiting for SSA's decision. If you are denied, you have 60 days to appeal the denial. Do not be discouraged because you were denied. The majority of cases are denied at the initial application stage so do not give up. Make sure to contact an attorney to help you with the appeal. You will want to appeal on time and produce additional medical documentation as SSA will reconsider your claim once appealed. With the right medical documentation, you may be approved on appeal.


What Is the Average Social Security Disability Benefit?

If you are approved for disability benefits, you can expect to receive monthly disability checks every month. The amount is based on a calculation of earnings across a worker’s lifetime, just like with Social Security retirement benefits. The average monthly benefit for is approximately $1,258 in the year 2020. Keep in mind that is the average. If you were a high wage earner in your past work, your monthly could be double. You can also expect the amount to be adjusted slightly every year due to inflation.


How Long Can I Receive Disability Benefits?

You can receive Social Security disability benefits as long as you are still disabled. The Social Security Administration periodically reviews claims. This doesnt happen in all cases but in some cases, SSA may conduct periodic reviews every 2-3 years. If your condition has improved, you could potentially lose your disability benefits. I always tell my clients to continue to see their doctor even after being approved, because if they stop seeking treatment and SSA does a periodic review, you will have no medical records supporting your continuous disability. In this scenario, you would likely lose your benefit.


If you are receiving Social Security disability and reach full retirement age, your benefits won’t stop. All that happens is that SSA will classify your benefits as retirements benefits instead of disability benefits. The monthly amount remains the same.


Can I Return to Work While Receiving Disability Benefits?

The Ticket to Work Program (TWP) is designed to help those who are currently disabled get back into the workforce without immediately losing their benefits. If you are collecting disability benefits, you can work for a nine-month trial period and receive full benefits regardless of how much they earn. Each month in which you earn $910 or more counts as a trial work month. Once the 9 month trial work period ends, during the next 36 months you’ll be able to receive full benefits for any month in which you earn less than $1,260 (in 2020), or $2,110 if you are blind. If you earn more than these earnings thresholds, you will not get disability benefits for that month. However, if your disability payments stop due to earning over the threshold, you may qualify for expedited reinstatement if your health condition worsens rendering you unable to continue working.

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