Social Security Disability FAQ


How Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

  • A person must have a disabling medical condition lasting a minimum of 12 months and earning above the level of Substantial Gainful Activity or have a medical condition that may result in death.
  • A person must be under 65 years of age
  • A person must have a physical or mental condition preventing them from taking part in any advantageous activity
  • A person must have obtained 20 Social Security credits in the past 10 years until the onset of disability


What is the Legal Definition of Social Security Disability?

A person is considered disabled if they have a physical and/or emotional condition preventing them from performing substantial gainful activity, also considering age, education and past work history. The condition must have been expected to last a minimum of one year or may result in death.


What is the Cost of Filing for Social Security Disability?

The only expense may come from the cost of medical reports from ones doctors. There is no cost for filing a Social Security Disability application.


When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

One should apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as that person and their doctor agrees that a disability is going to last for a full year. A person will not be eligible for benefits if the condition does not last a full year. Those who have been working despite their disability and know the condition is not going away should apply as soon as they stop working.


Are There Retroactive Social Security Disability Benefits?

Yes, a person can obtain retroactive benefits for up to a year before they have applied, so long as they were not working and can prove they were disabled.  Retroactive Social Security benefits are intended for the months prior to an application date for up to 12 months, provided a person was not working and was in fact disabled.


How Long Do I Need to Appeal After Being Turned Down for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Typically we are given 60 days to appeal a denial of Social Security Disability benefits. A person or their representative may appeal a denial in the same way they have filed an application either in person or by mail.


I Have Applied for Social Security Disability Benefits. When Can I Expect A Formal Interview With Social Security?

There is no face to face interview during the initial stage of the application process.  However, a person will be able to explain their medical condition at the Administrative Law Judge hearing.  Note, this is the most crucial stage of the process.


How Many Stages Are There in Social Security Disability?

There are four stages in the Social Security Disability application process.

  • The initial stage - A person has 60 days to appeal after the initial denial, an average of two-thirds of people are denied.
  • The second stage – Also known as Reconsideration where a person has 60 days to appeal.
  • The third stage – This is the hearing stage where a person meets with the Administrative Law Judge. If one is denied they have 60 days to appeal to the Appeal Council.
  • The fourth stage – This is if a person is denied at the Appeals Council, they have the right to file with the federal court, which is very difficult and requires a lawyer.


How Long Does the Initial Decision Last?

An average of six months can be expected to hear back with the initial decision.


Why Am I Required to go to a Social Security Doctor?

Social Security believes that their doctors are better able to make decisions than your personal doctor. Government doctors vary in ability and integrity. Many stages hire unbiased and board-certified physicians to evaluate patients. Some states also hire “volume” providers who are typically general surgeons who could not get a job anywhere else.


If I Was Denied for Social Security Disability Benefits Recently. Should I File Again or Appeal?

In most cases it is more beneficial to appeal rather than to re-file.  In some instances particularly after a denial at the hearing, one may consider doing both especially if there is new additional medical proof which would make a case stronger than before.


Does Age Play a Role in Being Awarded SSD Benefits?

The older a person the more they are thought to be un-trainable and less able to adjust to a new work environment, meaning they are less employable.  It is generally easier for younger individuals to have a case ruled in their favor rather than older individuals.


What Makes A Strong SSD Case?

A strong Social Security disability case is a case where medical evidence is extremely strong. Particularly the strongest cases are the ones where a doctor supplies a profound narrative.


Are Some Disability Cases More Easily Won Than Others?

Yes, in some cases a person can be automatically disabled such as a person who is legally blind or deaf.  In psychiatric cases they are generally harder to win than others due to the mass amount of psychiatric patients fighting the process or they may not see their doctors on a regular basis.  Pain cases are very difficult to win because there is no readily determinable injury. These cases may consist of people who have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue disorders.


I Have Been Denied and Have Been Advised to Apply for a Hearing. How Long Will it Take to Get a Hearing?

On average it lasts well over one year to get a hearing. However it may also last less than a year to get your hearing and in some cases less than two years.


Can I Expedite My Hearing?

In some cases judges will weed out the cases that can easily be granted because of their strong medical evidence or a serious medical condition.  For these individuals an attorney can write an on-the-record letter to a judge to expedite the hearing.  This letter summarizes the overwhelming evidence of disability in order to persuade the judge to agree and grand benefits without a hearing.


 Can I Qualify for SSD If I’ve Never Worked?

Yes, a person can qualify for benefits based on another person’s earning records. A person can qualify if they are a disabled adult, child, or widow/widower, or a dependent child.  Generally a worker must work in order to be eligible for Social Security disability.


If I am a Veteran Am I Eligible for SSD in Addition to Other Veteran Benefits?

Yes and no. There are two forms of veteran disability benefits.

  • Service Connected – This is where the disability is related to something that happened during service.
  • Non-Service Connected Disability – This is similar to Social Security in that you are either disabled or you are not.


How is a Representative Paid in A Social Security Case?

A representative is eligible to receive a direct payment on average 25 percent of the past-due-benefits. In most cases a representative will only charge when a positive verdict is made or the case is settled.  A cap has also been set by the Commissioner at $6,000 and is continuously subject to change.


Do Represented People Have a Better Chance Winning A Case Than Unrepresented People?

Yes. The SSD process is a complicated process with many deadlines that must be met and many reports to be obtained.  It is necessary to know exactly what type of information is needed from doctors. Often times there are doctors and vocational experts who testify during the hearings, which make it nearly impossible for an untrained person to effectively cross-examine these professionals.


Do I Need to Attend A Hearing in Front of an Administrative Law Judge?

If a person been denied twice and requests a hearing, they have the right to attend the hearing, however they are not required to.  Waiving your right to testify in person would be a very unwise decision because the judge will only look at a cold written record without that person’s ability to explain how their impairments are preventing them from working.


How Should I Dress In Front of the Administrative Law Judge?

Administrative hearings are typically non-formal, however they are not casual.  A person is expected to use their best judgment and dress appropriately.  In some instances people will dress in a way that suggests their disability. Most people with a psychiatric condition who also have problems coping with daily activities dress sloppy, appear dirty, and my not shave.


Can I Bring My Doctor to the Hearing?

Yes. This is a great way to help persuade the judge, however this may cost a great deal of money.  Most of the time a person must make sure the doctor is compensated for their time.


Will An Administrative Law Judge Make A Decision on the Spot?

Possibly, most of the time they have questions to go over and may be waiting on additional evidence. This evidence can consist of an updated report from your doctor to see if your condition is still disabling.


Am I Allowed to Bring A Witness With Me?

Yes. Friends, Spouses, and former employers can be great witnesses and they can be requested to testify.  Typically these people will testify what they have observed to show that a person has tried to work and could not.


How Are My Monthly Benefits Calculated?

Monthly benefits are calculated on how much you have contributed.  The more money you made, the more Social Security benefits you will receive.


How Much Money Will I Get for Social Security Disability?

There is an enormously complicated formula to determine how much money one will receive. However, the more money you make, the more money you will get. This is because a percentage is taken out of each of your paychecks.  The average amount of money for disability is currently $750 per month.


I Have Recently Been Awarded SSD Benefits, How Long Will I Receive SSD?

A person who has been awarded Social Security disability benefits will receive disability until they stop being disabled or become retirement age.  The law requires everyone be reviewed every three years to see if they have remained disabled.


I Am Currently Receiving Benefits, but it isn’t enough to live on. Can I Receive More Money?

No. Social Security disability is based on how much you have contributed, not how much you need to live from.


Can I Work or Earn Money While My Case is Pending?

Yes and no.  If a person is suffering from a condition preventing them from working for the last couple of months, goes back to work, and is still unable to work, this is considered an unsuccessful work attempt.   This will not prevent you from receiving your benefits.  However, if a person been working in spite of significant health problems and working around 30 hours per week, it is likely that a judge will not pay that person benefits no matter how sick they are.  In most cases, those who struggle through work generally have a harder time winning than those who stop early on.


If I Won My Case, How Much Can I Make and Continue to Receive SSD Benefits?

Often times it is considered that a person making less than $1,010 per month is not working.  However, take caution because the Social Security Administration may say you are working and not disabled.  The safest way to be considered as not working is to actually not work at all.


If I Return to Work Full Time What Will Happen to My SSD Benefits?

If a person returns to work full time for a time period longer than a few months, most likely that person will no longer be considered disabled and their benefits will be stopped.


If I Was Disabled Many Years Ago and Went Back to Work. Can I Now Get Money for That Period of Time?

No.  There is no way for the government to accurately assess these claims even though a person may have medical records from that period of time.  The government also never had a chance to examine this person themselves, so they will not be able to grant any benefits.


Will My Spouse Be Eligible for Benefits I Receive?

Possibly. If a person is disabled and their spouse is currently working and has no dependents, the spouse will not receive any money.  If the spouse is not working but stays at home raising children under the age of 16, the family can receive benefits.

The benefits are determined by how much the family is entitled to.  This cannot exceed 150% of what the primary wage earner make, so if you are making $1000 per month and you have two children under 16 with a husband that does not work, you will get $1000 and the family will share $400.


Does My Spouses Income Have Anything to do With My Case?

Most of the time it does not matter how rich or poor your spouse is because everyone applies to their own earning record.  However, any income by the spouse is deemed available to that person.


Can My Kids Get Benefits if I Am Disabled?

Yes. Children may receive benefits if n eligible parent is disabled, retired or deceased.  These children may receive benefits until they graduate high school or until they reach the age of 18, whichever comes later.  The amount will depend on how much the adult receives, however adults who never earned much money may discover their children do not receive cash benefits.


Can My Disabled Child Receive Benefits On My Earning Record?

If a child is over the age of 18 they can receive the adult’s benefits or if the child’s disability began prior to age 22 and either parent is disabled, deceased, or receiving Social Security retirement.


Am I Allowed to Get Workers Compensation and/or State Disability and SSD?

Yes. However the law states that a person cannot get more than 80% of what they were earning from the combination of workers compensation, specific state pensions, and SSD.


Does Social Security Disability Affect My Social Security Retirement?

No. If a person gets disability, they will continue to receive disability as long as they remain disabled until they reach retirement age. At this point this person will be transferred from a disability trust fun to a retirement trust fund.

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