Q. What is Social Security Disability?
A. Social Security Disability, also called SSD, SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or DIB (Disability Insurance Benefits), is a benefit received by disabled workers and/or their dependents from the Social Security Administration. Just as you may begin collecting “regular” Social Security Retirement benefits when you retire, if you become disabled and are unable to work before you reach your “full retirement age,” you may apply to collect Social Security Disability benefits.
Q. Am I eligible for Social Security Disability payments?
A. You may be eligible if you cannot perform your past work, due to a condition or combination of conditions that has lasted or is expected to last for twelve months or more. This means that your condition must be chronic thus not temporary. Your disabling condition(s) may be from any source, such as an injury either on or off the job, congenital illness, or contracted or hereditary disease. Social Security may consider you disabled due to either a physical or mental impairment or some combination of both.
Additionally, you must have worked for five of the ten years prior to the day that you stop working.
The spouse and minor children of a disabled worker may also be entitled to benefits. The same is true of a disabled widow or widower, who may be eligible on the spouse's account, regardless of his or her own work history.
Q. What if I haven’t worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security Disability?
A. You may still be eligible for benefits under Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. This program is reserved for individuals who are disabled, unable to work, and have limited resources.
Q. What is SSI?
A. SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is a needs-based program, intended for disabled people with very low household income and minimal resources. In determining whether or not you qualify for SSI, the Social Security Administration will consider your assets and income status, including spousal and other household income. People who fall into this category include stay-at-home parents, or young people who have worked little or not at all before becoming disabled.
If we help you to apply for SSI, we will also make sure to correctly characterize support or loans you may be receiving from family members. Otherwise, Social Security will probably try to reduce SSI payments to “offset” the value of living expenses covered by family members who are helping you out.
Q. How long should I wait before I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
A. You should file for benefits as soon as you become disabled and discontinue working. Don’t make the mistake of waiting, because your retroactive benefits can only go back one year from the date of your application. You do not need to wait until other, related claims such as Workers’ Compensation or a personal injury lawsuit are settled, and you should not wait until your resources are low. Your claim will take months or possibly years to resolve, and your SSD benefits are based on your medical condition, NOT on your finances or need.
Q. What are Retroactive Benefits?
A. Retroactive benefits are benefits from the Social Security Administration that you may receive starting in your Month of Entitlement, which is either one year prior to the date you applied for benefits or 6 months after your disability began (whichever is closer to the date of the application). The retroactive period is the period between your Month of Entitlement and the date that the Social Security Administration notifies you of their determination that you are disabled.
Q. If I am found disabled, how far back will the government pay retroactive benefits?
The maximum retroactivity is 12 months prior to the month the initial application was filed assuming the government found you were disabled on or prior to that date. For example if you filed in April of 2011 and the government found that you have been disabled since 2004, your claim would only be retroactive from April 2010. However, benefits are not payable for the first four to five calendar months of your disability.
Q. If I am suffering from mental illness, can I be eligible for Social Security Disability payments?
A. Yes. Mental illness is a medical condition, and we have helped many of our clients win disability benefits where mental illness was the basis of their claim. It is also important to note that even if a physical condition is the primary reason you are applying for disability benefits, any psychological limitations or conditions may strengthen your claim and should be included.
Q. How many stages are there in Social Security Disability (SSD)?
A. There are at least four. There is the Initial Application stage. You have 60 days to appeal after the initial denial. Most people are denied at the initial application. The second stage is called Reconsideration. Again, after that decision, you will have 60 days in which to appeal. The third stage is the most critical. It is the hearing stage. This is where you meet the Administrative Law Judge. If you are denied at a hearing, you have 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council.
Q. I was denied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits recently. Should I appeal or just file again?
A. It is generally better to appeal rather than to re-file since more claims are awarded at the hearing level than any other stage.
Q. Do I need a Social Security advocate to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?
A. No. Claimants can choose to apply on their own. However, please note that the government's statistics show that claimants who are represented are far more likely to succeed than those who are not. Being represented by an experienced advocate will significantly increase your odds.
Q. When can I hire someone to represent me?
A. You can hire a representative at any stage of the proceeding, but the earlier the better.
Q. What will an advocate do for me?
A. At Disability Claim Advocates, Inc., we will review and/or help you to complete all necessary forms, and we will file them electronically for you, a service that can shorten the wait for a decision. We will contact your doctors and other health care providers in order to collect all the necessary medical information required to prove your case. We will deal with Social Security on your behalf, and make sure that your case moves through the system as quickly as possible. We will check the status of your case frequently to ensure that it is on the right track. If your case is appealed to a hearing, we will develop your claim, fully prepare you to testify, argue on your behalf, and question experts at the hearing. Most importantly, our staff will always be available to answer your questions and advise you regarding your claim. We will also review your benefits once they are awarded, and make sure that you continue to receive your benefits so long as you are unable to work.
Q. I have applied for Social Security Disability benefits and been turned down. How long do I have to appeal?
A. Generally you have 60 days to appeal any denial of Social Security Disability benefits. You or your representative can appeal a denial the same way that you file an application by either doing it in person or by mail.
Q. How do I pay your firm?
A. First and foremost, you are not required to pay us until we win your case. Once your Social Security Disability claim is awarded, you will receive a lump sum also known as your retroactive benefits. We take 25% of that amount up to a certain limit.
Occasionally, a claimant's application is granted before there are any retroactive benefits, or the benefit is quite small. In those cases, we may ask you for a minimum fee, which must also be approved by the Social Security Administration.
Q. How much will my Social Security Disability Benefits be?
A. Your benefits depend on your previous work record, and how much you have paid into the system. Most workers receive a Benefit Estimate and Earnings Record annually in the third month before the month of their birthday.
If you have children under the age of 18 years, you may be eligible to receive additional monthly benefits for them. You are also entitled to Medicare Benefits beginning twenty-four months after the first month for which you receive a payment for disability. After our initial consultation with you, we will be able to give you an idea of what benefits your benefits are likely to be.
Q. How long will my benefits last?
A. Your Social Security Disability benefits will last either:
a. until you return to work for more than nine months and are earning more than the amount set by Social Security, or
b. the government proves that your condition has significantly improved, or
c. you reach full retirement age. When you reach full retirement age, your benefits will continue by converting to Social Security Retirement Benefits.
Q. Can I receive Social Security Disability along with other benefits, such as Workers’ Compensation or Long Term Disability?
A. Absolutely. Your eligibility for Social Security Disability is not affected by any other benefits you may receive. If you are disabled you may also be entitled to Workers' Compensation, Long-term Disability or some other disability pension, State Employees Disability, No-Fault and company or union pensions, private disability insurance payments, and more. However, the interplay between these different sources is complex and confusing, and some of these other benefits may offset the total payment amount of your Social Security Disability benefits.
An important part of our job is to review with you all of the benefits for which you might be eligible, and to develop a strategy for you to maximize each of these benefits and awards. This will be a major part of our discussion with you when you meet with us at our office.
Q. Am I allowed to do any work while I receive Social Security Disability?
A. Of course! You can always return to work. However when you return to work , how long the job lasts and how much you earn are three factors that determine what effect your work will have on your benefits.
More specifically, you may return to work in what is known as a "trial work period," and receive benefits for up to nine months while you are working, regardless of how much you earn. If you show more than nine months of substantial earnings, your Social Security Benefits will stop. However, if you earn less than a certain amount (set annually by the Social Security Administration), it should have no effect on your ongoing receipt of benefits.