Social Security Disability FAQ

What’s the difference between SSD and SSI?

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are designed to support individuals who are disabled and can’t work, as well as family members, dependents, and spouses of disabled or deceased workers. To receive Social Security, disabled individuals must earn enough credits by working for a specified amount of time.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are designed to support disabled adults and children with limited income and resources. SSI benefits are also available to people age 65 and older without disabilities who meet financial limits. Find out more about SSI benefits here.

How can a lawyer help me with my claim for benefits?

An experienced Social Security Disability lawyer can help you with all aspects of your claim, including:

  • filing your application.
  • tracking down medical, work, and military records.
  • submitting your appeal.
  • representing you during your hearing.

If you have questions about applying for disability benefits, Fields Law Firm can answer your questions. The call is free. The advice is free. Dial 1-888-343-5375 or complete a free contact request form to talk to us about your claim.

Why was I denied disability benefits?

If you applied for Social Security Disability benefits and were denied, you may not have met the SSA’s definition of a disability. There are a number of reasons you may have been denied, such as:

  • You were convicted of a crime.
  • You could not be located.
  • You failed to follow prescribed therapy.
  • Your disability is based on a drug addiction.
  • Your income and resources exceed limits.

With the help of an attorney, some people who are denied disability benefits are able to get approved after filing an appeal. At Fields Law, we’ll listen to your story and explain what steps you can take to get your disability benefits.

What should I do if I’m denied disability benefits?

If you are denied Social Security Disability benefits, you have 60 days from the date you received the denial letter from the SSA to file an appeal. In most cases, you must file a written appeal. Our disability lawyers can help you file your appeal and even stand with you during your hearing so you don’t have to go it alone.

Can I receive SSI benefits if I’m working?

The SSA’s Ticket to Work program lets you return to work while still receiving SSI benefits. However, once your income exceeds SSI requirements, you will no longer be qualified for benefits.

What is the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is wage replacement income for individuals in Minnesota and throughout the United States who have paid FICA taxes that meet Social Security’s rules for disability. SSDI benefits are payable to Minnesota disabled workers, widows, widowers, and children or adults disabled since childhood who are otherwise eligible. SSDI is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons. SSDI provides a variety of benefits to family members when a primary wage earner becomes disabled or dies.

What are Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security Disability Benefits or SSD are paid to individuals who have worked in the recent years. Usually you have to work 5 out of the last 10 years. For individuals under 31 years old, the requirements are a little different since they have not been in the work force as long.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI disability?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is paid for by FICA deductions from wages. This is a social insurance program that pays benefits based on contributions made by a wage earner. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is funded by taxes from the general fund. This program is based on individual financial need and is designed to assist those who have limited income and resources.

How do I know if I am eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

If you have worked long enough at a job that is covered under the Social Security Act, and become disabled, you are probably eligible for disability benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a “Disability” can be physical, mental, or some combination of both. In order to win benefits, you must have a disability severe enough to prevent you from working in any regular paying job for at least 12 consecutive months.
The test for eligibility is not whether you can go back to a job you’ve lost or whether you’ve been able to find a job recently. The test is whether you are physically and mentally capable of doing a job that is generally available in the every day work place.

To obtain Social Security Disability benefits, a doctor must state that you are disabled “by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings”. Unfortunately, many disabling conditions are difficult to diagnose by objective testing. In cases like that, it’s up to your social security disability lawyer to present your doctor’s reports properly, and to convince the social security administration that you deserve your benefits.

Can other members of my family get social security disability benefits?

Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work. They include:

  • Your spouse, if he or she is age 62 or older;
  • Your spouse, at any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled;
  • Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be younger than age 18 or younger than 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time; and
  • Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. (The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.)

How are Social Security Disability benefits calculated?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) monthly benefit amounts are based on your lifetime average earnings. Annual adjustments, called indexing, are made to account for cost-of-living modifications or increases. Your Social Security Disability Insurance benefit amount may be reduced due to Workers’ Compensation payments and/or other public disability benefits payments, such as State Disability Insurance.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

There are different ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:

  1. Apply at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityonline; or
  2. Call the SSA toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone. The disability claims interview lasts about one hour. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days.
  3. Have a disability attorney assist you in filing your application.

How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?

Social Security (SSA) is supposed to gather your medical records and carefully consider all of your health problems. They will also take into consideration your age, education, and work experience. Social Security then decides whether you are able to do your past work. If Social Security decides that you are unable to do your past work, they are supposed to consider whether there is any other work which you can do considering your health problems and your age, education, and work experience.

Who decides if I am disabled?

After an individual files a Social Security disability claim, the case is sent to a disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency in your state of residence. The social security disability examiner, working with a doctor, makes the initial decision on the claim. If the claim is denied and the individual requests reconsideration, the case is then sent to another disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency, where it goes through a similar process.

If a claim is denied at reconsideration, the claimant may then request a hearing. At this point, the case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for Social Security (SSA). The Administrative Law Judge makes an independent decision upon the claim. This is the only level at which the claimant and the decision maker get to see each other.

If I am approved for Social Security disability benefits, how much will I get?

For social security disability benefits, it all depends upon how much you have worked and earned in the past. For disabled widow’s or widower’s benefits, it depends upon how much the late husband or wife worked and earned. For disabled adult child benefits, it all depends upon how much the parent worked and earned. For all types of SSI benefits, there is a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. Other income that an individual has reduces the amount of SSI which an individual can receive.

How far back will they pay benefits if I am found disabled?

For Disability Insurance Benefits and for Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits, the benefits cannot begin until five months have passed after the person becomes disabled. In addition, benefits cannot be paid more than 12 months prior to the date of the claim. For a Disabled Adult Child, there is no five-month waiting period before benefits begin, but benefits cannot be paid more than six months prior to the date of the claim. SSI benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month following the date of the claim.

What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?

On average, only 40% of Social Security disability claims are approved at the initial stage. If you are denied at the initial stage, unless you have already returned to work or expect to return to work in the near future, you should appeal by filing a request for reconsideration. You should also consider contacting a Social Security disability attorney to represent you.

Why are so many eligible people denied Social Security disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) makes the process very difficult and complicated. Waiting lines are long. Forms are confusing. Benefits are often denied to people who are genuinely disabled. Frequently, people are denied multiple times. As a result, many people who apply on their own become discouraged and give up. For that reason, we encourage you to contact an experienced social security disability lawyer.

What is “reconsideration”?

When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the claimant may then request “reconsideration” of that decision. The case is then sent to a different disability examiner for a new decision. Unfortunately, about 80% of the time the reconsideration decision is the same as the initial decision – a denial.

Who makes the reconsideration decision?

A disability examiner makes the reconsideration determination. Most of the time, the claimant does not even meet the disability examiner.

What is the Social Security hearing like?

The Social Security hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are the judge, a secretary, the claimant, the claimant’s disability attorney, and anyone else the claimant has brought with him or her. In some cases, the Administrative Law Judge has a medical doctor or vocational expert present to testify at the hearing. There is no jury or are spectators at the hearing. There is no attorney at the hearing representing the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If the Administrative Law Judge denies my claim, can I appeal any more?

Yes. You can appeal to the Appeals Council which is still within Social Security (SSA).

What is the Appeals Council?

The Appeals Council exists to review Administrative Law Judge decisions. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia and neither the claimant nor the attorney sees the people at the Appeals Council who are working on the case.

Can I appeal a case beyond Social Security to the Federal Courts?

Yes. After being denied by the Appeals Council, it is possible for a claimant to file a civil action in the United States District Court, requesting review of Social Security’s decision. It is possible for a Social Security disability claim to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

What happens if I work while receiving benefits from Social Security?

Social Security work incentives, as well as the new Ticket to Work program, support your efforts to re-enter the workforce. There are two time periods the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses when you start earning income while remaining disabled according to Social Security rules.

They are called the Trial Work Period and the Extended Period of Eligibility. These are time periods that will allow you to earn income and maintain your benefit eligibility. As you consider working, there are a few definitions to keep in mind:

  • SSA defines disability as an inability to work because of a disabling condition that will continue for at least one year. Therefore, your disability will be questioned if you work during the first year of receiving disability benefits.
  • SSA defines work as any activity that generates earned income.
  • SSA defines earned income as the gross (before taxes) amount of income that you receive.

You are required to report all of your gross income to Social Security to avoid overpayments. If you are self-employed, you can report earnings based on your most recent IRS tax return. You can report earnings promptly to the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 (voice) or 800-325-0778 (TTY).

How often will Social Security review my disability claim?

When Social Security (SSA) awards disability benefits, they schedule a review depending on the severity of your disability and on when you may medically improve.

  • If medical improvement is expected soon, Social Security will review your claim within the first three years;
  • If medical improvement is considered possible, Social Security will review your claim at least once every three years;
  • If medical improvement is not expected, Social Security will review your claim every five to seven years.

Do I have to pay taxes on my Social Security disability benefits?

Some people who get financial support from Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. Please contact a tax professional to determine whether you are required to pay taxes on your disability benefits.

What is a representative payee?

Sometimes people are unable to manage their money. If this happens, Social Security should immediately be notified so that they can determine if you need a payee to manage your benefits. They can arrange to send disability benefits to a relative or other person who agrees to use the money to take care of the person for whom the benefits are paid. Social Security Administration (SSA) calls the person who manages someone else’s benefits a “representative payee.”

When will I know if my disability claim has been approved or denied?

This varies for each claim. Applications can take 4 to 6 months, Reconsideration an additional 6 to 9 months, and Hearings can take one year or more following a Reconsideration denial.