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.



John Kelley
John Kelley
21:38 16 Oct 18
I was having issues with an insurance company and I hired fields law firm. The people there are amazing and always quick to answer questions even a couple times on the weekend. I worked with Blake amazing person and very informative on my case. I would highly recommend this firm to any of my friends.read more
Michael Frazier
Michael Frazier
23:58 10 Oct 18
I had the pleasure to work with Michael and Annie on my LTD case. When my claim was denied by the insurance carrier, Michael didn't hesitate to take them on with an appeal. He worked diligently on the appeal and ultimately won this for me. Mind you, this wasn't a huge case but he treated me like it was and as if I was the only case he was representing. He kept me abreast of vital information, it was clear that he knew his stuff and wasn't afraid to take on the big insurance company. Michael was much more than I ever expected given that our relationship was entirely remote, handled by telephone and email only. Not only is he a strong lawyer, he treated me with compassion and respect. I am beyond pleased with him and the Fields Law team. Michael cares about his clients and he gets the job done for them because he knows how impactful an injury can be to both a person's well-being and their financial security. I highly recommend Michael and Fields Law whether you are local to their Minnesota offices or out of state like myself.read more
Melanie Eason
Melanie Eason
20:12 29 Aug 18
Fields Law Firm is great. Patrick Kramer, my lawyer, is fantastic. He and his legal assistant Samantha K. have handled my case for several years. They have kept me informed every step of the way. They are both easy to contact. I have both of their phone numbers and email addresses and they respond promptly to any messages I leave. Without their help I would not have been able to get the disability company to fulfill their promises. It is a relief to leave all the dealings with the disability insurance company in their hands.read more
Jeannie Kerr
Jeannie Kerr
23:37 15 Sep 18
My experience with Merrick Williams of Fields Law Firm has been truly above and beyond satisfactory. His knowledge and professionalism have guided me through a very difficult time. He and his assistant Angela were readily available to answer any questions and address my concerns. I highly recommend him as an attorney and will use his services again if necessary in the future.read more
ebon jordan
ebon jordan
19:51 27 Sep 18
Field Law Firm was great my lawyer Zach Schmoll was more than I could ask for. He always kept me in the loop and explain everything perfectly, got back to me whenever I called less than 24 hrs and was a extremely nice guy. This guy is young and knows what he is doing so please don’t let the age fool you. I had a wonderful experience with Field Law and will refer anyone with legal matters to them.read more
Edward Johnson
Edward Johnson
23:11 31 Oct 18
I highly recommend Fields law Firm if you need some no nonsense attorneys to represent you. I was treated courteously and efficiently each and every time by Mike and his associates. They settled my Long Term Disability case in a timely fashion. and was pleased with the results. Thanks again Mike and Fields Law Firm. You are the best!read more
19:19 09 Nov 18
Fields Law Firm is simply the very best when it comes to representing you & fighting for your rights! They are a "10 Star" Law Firm hands down! Michael Kemmmitt & Sarah Christensen were simply outstanding to work with. They took over my long term disability case after I was being denied my benefits & gave me the moral support & law experience that I needed to win my case. They were supportive throughout my case & they will fight tooth & nail to assure your rights are not being denied. It is so rare to find a law firm that treats you like YOU are the most important person to them. I HIGHLY recommend Fields Law Firm. They are truly advocates for justice.read more
Ben Chadwick
Ben Chadwick
23:20 12 Nov 18
Michael and Samantha were always giving me updates in a very timely manner. They were very good at getting back with me if I had questions, and they didn't have the answer at the time of our discussion. They were very thorough in their handling of my case, and we received a positvie ruling due to their efficiency and expertise. Thank you very much Michael and Samantha, I appreciate all that you did to help me with my case. I would definitely refer people to you, as well as use you in the future. Benjamin Chadwick.read more
Michael Rosa
Michael Rosa
00:01 01 Dec 18
Evan was absolutely fantastic. He was knowledgable, informative and patient. Evan Sanford and Fields law took my case when other lawyers pretty much told me to pound sand. The outcome was a substantial amount of money that will take the pressure off of me for years to come. I would absolutely recommend Fields law.read more
17:49 02 Dec 18
It is very difficult for the average disabled person to battle the disability insurance and Social Security disability industries. I was very sick, exhausted, and stressed out about being denied and told that I can work by someone who doesn't even know me! The paperwork was daunting and had to be filled out multiple times. I chose Field's Law Firm after finding them online. They took over my claims and handled all of the paperwork and appeals that were necessary. They even went to a hearing with me to the Social Security Judge. Field's also kept me in the loop every step of the way. This allowed me to focus more on myself and greatly reduced my financial anxiety. They don't get paid unless you get paid. You truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain! I am truly appreciative of Field's Law Firm!read more
Raphael Roe
Raphael Roe
00:35 04 Dec 18
I had the pleasure of working with Patrick Kramer for my LTD appeal. He walked me through the entire process and answered all my questions. Patrick called me anytime there was new information and went above and beyond what I expected. It was one of the most stress free processes I’ve had to deal with thanks to the team at Field’s! Thank you for all your hard work! -Michael Roe, Monroe, MIread more
Donna Williams
Donna Williams
19:07 06 Dec 18
My attorney, Blake Bauer and paralegal, Samantha Kurschner are wonderful. Whenever I need to speak with one of them, they are always available. If I have to leave a message, my call is promptly returned. They worked diligently on my case and won my LTD claim. I highly recommend Fields Law Firm.read more
Lori Anderson
Lori Anderson
20:33 04 Dec 18
Jodie has been a wonderful person and on top of my social security disability claim. The attorneys are great and very thorough with what they do. Would recommend Fielsd Law Firm to everyone. Thank you for everything you have done for me.
Todd Burge
Todd Burge
15:40 11 Dec 18
I worked with Attorney Hans Lodge on a large debt collection from a creditor. He was able to determine that there was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and swiftly moved into legal action. This whole matter was completely and quickly resolved within a couple of months. This whole situation could not have turned out any better on my end. I highly recommend working with Hans or any of the attorneys at Fields Law Firm!read more
John Notaro
John Notaro
05:09 09 Jan 19
Fields law represented me with class and always had the answers I needed to know every step of the way. Patrick and Jodie always kept me informed when there were updates to my case with a phone call. I can't recommend Fields law enough. I know I couldn't have won my case without the hard work of their entire team. Thank you all and most importantly how you changed my life for the better.read more
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