Frequently Asked Questions

When to Apply for Disability

How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for social security disability benefits?

Not even one day. As a general rule, you should apply sooner rather than later. You can file for Social Security disability benefits on the very same day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. There is no reason to file a Social Security disability claim if one has only a minor illness or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, an individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits

I am disabled but have some money in the bank now. Do I have to wait until this money is gone before I apply for social security disability benefits?

No. If you have worked in recent years or if you are applying for disabled widow's or widower's benefits or disabled adult child benefits, it does not matter how much money you have in the bank. There is no reason to wait to file for Social Security disability benefits.

I am disabled and need help with medical bills even more than I need a cash income. How do I get help with medical bills?

Getting help with medical bills is usually tied up with getting approved for disability. You don't start getting help with medical bills until after you are approved and start getting your monthly benefits. So you have to keep going with the Social Security disability claim in order to get the help with medical bills.

Can I receive social security disability benefits in addition to medicare and/or medicaid?

Everyone eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is also eligible for Medicare after a 24-month qualifying period. During this waiting period for Medicare, an individual may be eligible for health insurance through a former employer. The employer should be contacted for information about health insurance coverage.

Typically, a person receiving SSI is eligible for Medicaid. In most states, a decision will be made by the Social Security Administration on an individual's ability to receive

How long does it take to get a hearing on a social security disability claim?

There is variation around the country, but the national average ranges from 256 days to 634 days of processing time.

What is the social security hearing like?

Statistically at this time only about 40% of the claimants who have a Social Security disability hearing win.


Qualification Questions

How does social security determine if I am disabled?

When you apply, your application is sent to a Social Security disability examiner at the disability determination agency in your state. The disability examiner, working with a doctor, gathers your medical records and considers all of your health problems, as well as your age, education, and work experience.

The examiner evaluates your eligibility for benefits, including whether you are able to do your previous work or if you are able to do other potential work.

The disability examiner then makes the initial decision on your application.

Why does social security consider my age in determining whether I am disabled?

The Social Security Act requires the Social Security Administration to consider age in determining disability. As people get older, they become less adaptable, less able to switch to different jobs to cope with health problems. A severe foot injury which might cause a 30 year-old to switch to a job in which he or she can sit down most of the time, might disable a 60 year-old person who could not make the adjustment to a different type of work.

Is there a list of illnesses that social security considers disabling?

Some applicants have medical conditions that are so severe that their conditions obviously meet disability standards. To quickly identify and help these individuals, Social Security has a list of Compassionate Allowances, or conditions that will qualify for benefits based on minimal evaluation and official medical records. There are also 14 categories of "listed impairments" where SSA will consider specific medical tests and limitations to make a faster disability determination, without the need to consider age, education, or work experience. Most types of illnesses, however, can vary from minor to severe. This makes defining disability tricky, as it depends on how badly the illness or disease has affected you.

What can I do to improve my chances of winning my social security disability claim?

First be honest and complete in giving information to Social Security about what is disabling you. Many claimants, for instance, fail to mention psychiatric problems to Social Security because they are embarrassed about them. Individuals who had some difficulties in school fail to mention this fact to Social Security, even though it can have a good deal to do with whether or not the Social Security disability claim is approved.

It is important to appeal because the majority of claims are denied at the initial level, but then approved at higher levels of review.

How long does it take before social security makes a decision once I file a claim for social security disability benefits?

In most cases, Social Security makes the first decision within four months. The second decision is the reconsideration phase which takes about four to six months. The third decision is the hearing with the Social Security Judge and the time frame varies by location.

I am 60% disabled. Do I get 60% of my social security disability benefits?

No, there are not percentages of disability in Social Security disability determination. For purposes of Social Security disability benefits, you are either disabled or not disabled according to the strict Social Security standards. There are not percentages of disability, nor any percentages of disability benefits.

I have several health problems, but no one of them disables me. It is the combination that disables me. Can I get social security disability benefits?

Social Security will review the combination of impairments that an individual suffers in determining disability. Many claimants for Social Security disability benefits have more than one health problem and the combined effects of all of the health problems must be considered.

I got hurt in an automobile accident. I am disabled now, but I expect that I will be able to return to work after I recover. Should I file for social security disability benefits?

If you expect to be out of work for a year or more on account of illness or injury, you can file for Social Security disability benefits.

I am disabled because of a mental illness. Can mental illness serve as the basis for a social security disability claim?

Yes. Mental disorders are a frequent basis for being granted Social Security disability benefits.

Can people suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction get social security disability benefits for their addiction?

Congress prohibits Social Security from paying disability benefits on the basis of alcoholism or drug addiction alone. However, just like anyone else, people suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction can have heart attacks, get cancer or get sick in other ways. Those who become disabled apart from alcoholism or drug addiction can be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.


Employment and Worker's Questions

My daughter has never been able to work because she has been disabled from birth by cerebral palsy. Can she get disability benefits from social security?

Possibly. If the child is under 18 and you have limited income and resources, the child may be able to qualify for SSI child's disability benefits. If the child is over 18, she may be able to qualify for SSI disability benefits without regard to the income of her parents. If her father or mother is drawing Social Security benefits of some type or is deceased, the child may be eligible for disabled adult child benefits.

I used to work, but lately I have been staying home taking care of the kids. I recently became sick. Can I get social security disability benefits?

Possibly. If you worked five out of the last ten years before becoming disabled, you will have enough earnings to potentially qualify for Social Security disability benefits. For individuals 31 or less, the requirements are a little different, since such individuals have not had such a long time to work. Unless a person has been staying home and taking care of their children for quite a long time, it is very possible that they will qualify for Social Security disability benefits based upon their own earnings. A homemaker, depending on their financial situation, may be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) whether or not he or she has worked in the past.

I am disabled, but I have never worked. Can I get social security disability benefits?

If you have limited income and property, you can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you are disabled, even if you have never worked in the past. It is also possible to quality for Disabled Adult Child benefits on the account of a parent if you became disabled before age 22 or for disabled widow's or widower's benefits on the account of a late husband or wife.

I am a widow. I have not worked in many years, but I am disabled. Can I get social security disability benefits?

If you are over 50 and became disabled within seven years after your husband or wife died or within seven years after you last drew mother's or father's benefits from Social Security, you can get disabled widow's or widower's benefits. Perhaps more importantly, if you are poor you can draw Supplemental Security Income benefits no matter what age you are or when you became disabled.

I got hurt on the job and I'm drawing workers compensation benefits. Can I get both workers compensation and social security disability benefits?

Yes, you can receive both at the same time. However, either your workers compensation or your Social Security disability benefits will be reduced to make up for the dual enrollment.

You do not have to wait until the workers compensation ends. It is best to file the Social Security disability claim as soon as possible because otherwise there may be a gap between the time the workers compensation ends and the Social Security disability benefits begin.

I am still on sick leave from my employer. Can I file for social security disability now or do I have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted?

No, you do not have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted. You should file for Social Security disability benefits now, if you believe that you will be out of work for a year or more.

More information is available online about Workers Compensation and Other Disability Payments May Affect your Benefits.


Appeal Questions

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

Yes. You can appeal to the Appeals Council within the Social Security Administration.

What is the Appeals Council?

The SSA Appeals Council reviews decisions made by the Judge. The Appeals Council has the ability to reverse a decision made by the Judge. If the Appeals Council thinks more information is needed, they may remand your claim for another hearing with the Judge.

The appeals process is a long and lengthy process which may take a year or more just for the appeals process not including any suit filed. Unless your insured date expires, I almost always advise clients to just file another claim and identify things that can be done to increase your chance for approval.

If you disagree with the decision made by the Appeals Council, you can file a civil action suit in the United States District Court, and then appeal to the Circuit Court. A Social Security disability claim could go all the way to the Supreme Court. Every one or two years, the United States Supreme Court hears an appeal involving a Social Security disability case.

How long does it take for Social Security to act upon a request for an Appeals Council review?

Time varies from 3 months to a year or possibly longer.

What is "reconsideration"?

When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the next step for a claimant in most states is to request "reconsideration," or a re-evaluation. 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.

How long does it take for Social Security to make a reconsideration determination on my Social Security disability claim?

In most cases, Social Security makes the reconsideration determination within four months.

How long does it take to get a hearing?

Processing time varies by hearing office. Nationally, the average processing time for an Judge hearing in 2013 is 380 days.

Why does Social Security turn down so many claims for disability benefits?

There is no simple answer to this question. One reason is that there is no simple way to determine whether an individual is disabled and to what extent they are disabled. A second reason is that Social Security wants to make sure that everyone who is receiving Social Security disability benefits meets the standard of the Social Security act.

My doctor and/or the VA says that I am disabled, so why is Social Security denying my Social Security disability claim?

Social Security has different, often stricter requirements for determining disability.

Will it help if I ask my Congressional Representative to help me get Social Security disability benefits?

Many Social Security disability claimants become frustrated with claim delays and eventually ask their U.S. Representative or Senator to help. The local Congressional office typically will have staffers who are experienced with Social Security procedures and personnel. A "Congressional Inquiry," as it is called, may help to get a stalled process moving again. However, a Congressional Inquiry will have no impact on how Social Security decides the outcome of the case.


Personal Injury Cases

What types of personal injury cases do you handle?

I can assist with your legal needs for both auto accident injury cases as well as big truck accident cases.

Why should I retain a lawyer for my personal injury case?

All the major insurance companies have teams of lawyers that work only on accident cases. They try to minimize the amount they have to pay out for accident claims. By retaining us as your lawyer you increase the chances of getting a substantially larger payout than you would if you tried to just settle with the insurance company.


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