Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients going through the applications or appeals profess for SSDI or SSI.
To discuss the specifics of your case one on one with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us today by calling 1-888-774-7243 for your free consultation.
Why should I hire you as my disability attorney?
Look at my biography page on this site and I think you will be convinced that I am the right attorney for you.
I was a lawyer for SSA for 10 years. I have personally trained the ALJs who decide these cases. I have taught the legal education courses other disability attorneys attend in order to learn about the law. Unlike some others, we are a full service disability firm who will sue SSA in federal court if necessary to win your case.
If you know an attorney who works for SSA in federal court ask them who they would least like to have to face on the other side. Their answer will tell you a lot.
First, we don’t charge a fee unless we win. Second, if we win, we generally receive 25% of past due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. This is true for the vast majority of cases. For federal court cases it is a flat 25%. This is consistent with the Social Security Act which largely determines fees in these cases. SSA sends a check directly to us if we win so you never have to make payment arrangements. All benefits you receive in the future are yours alone.
What can you do for me as my Social Security disability lawyer?
A lot. We can gather medical evidence. We will analyze your case to come up with the best strategy for winning, consistent with Social Security’s regulations, rulings, and relevant case law. We can explore obtaining additional medical testing. We can guide your application through the various levels of appeal. We can pursue subpoenas for medical records that certain doctors or institutions have failed to provide. We can complete the blizzard of paperwork that SSA bombards you with during this process. If a hearing is necessary, we can prepare you to testify. We will cross-examine medical and vocational experts at your hearing. We will stand up for your rights at a hearing and make sure that your best argument for disability is stated convincingly to the judge. We will prepare a brief for the judge beforehand so that he understands why you are disabled. If the judge requires more evidence or explanation after the hearing, we can take care of all of that. If your claim is denied at every step of the administrative process, we can sue the federal government in court to force SSA to abandon its erroneous decision
What does Social Security mean by disabled?
This is actually a rather complex question, but here is a pretty solid summary of what it means is to be disabled. Essentially you must be medically unable to work a full time job due to medical conditions. It is not enough to show merely that you cannot do your old job. You must also show that you are unable to do other work as a result of your medical condition. SSA will look at your age, education, past work experience, and functional limitations in making this determination. However, if you are 50 years of age and older, you have a much better chance of winning. Your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or result in death.
What medical conditions do I have to suffer from in order to get disability?
The truth is almost any medical condition or combination of medical conditions could be the basis for a finding of disability. The only test is whether that medical condition precludes you from being able to work a full time job.
How long does it take to get a final determination that I am eligible?
It can take anywhere from two months to several years. It totally depends. The nice part if you win is that you can receive a large check for past due benefits. However, the wait can seem like an eternity. Because it takes so long and you may only have one shot at this, you better have a good lawyer backing you up.
How much can I get if I win Social Security disability benefits?
It depends on your earnings history. Look at the last earnings statement SSA sent you and it will tell you the amount of benefits you would get if you were found disabled today. This is a good rough idea of your monthly benefit amount. However, there is a 5 month waiting period for disability benefits. Essentially SSA will not pay you for the first five months you were disabled. They claim it is to prevent payments for temporary disability, but the reality is that this rule exists to save the government money.
How much would I get per month if I win SSI benefits?
The basic SSI check is the same nationwide. Effective January 2008, the SSI payment for an eligible individual is $637 per month and $956 per month for an eligible couple. If a state provides a supplement which Social Security includes in the SSI check then your application for SSI in that state includes the state supplement.
I am working. Can I still be found disabled?
Maybe. If you are working full time then you probably have no chance. If you are working part time, then it gets to be a little less clear. If you are working part time with substantial earnings then you probably do not have a good chance. However, if you are only working a few hours a week and do not have a great deal of earnings, you may have a chance. But remember SSA will always use any work activity against you to try to show that you are not disabled.
Can I get disability or SSI on the basis of drug or alcohol abuse?
No. However, most people who suffer from these conditions have an underlying psychological disorder such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, or a personality disorder. Generally, if SSA cannot separate out what limitations stem from your abuse as opposed to your underlying psychological disorder then you should be awarded benefits. However, most of SSA’s judges do not understand this and will deny you benefits if they see a history of drug or alcohol abuse. That’s why it is important to have a good lawyer who can educate the SSA judge or, if necessary, fight in federal court to get you the benefits you deserve. It is absolutely not true that people with abuse issues are precluded from obtaining benefits.
Can I get partial disability or short-term disability from Social Security?
No. You are either disabled under the Social Security Act or you are not. There is no such thing as short-term or partial disability under Social Security law.
I have a really bad medical problem, but I’m OK on medication. Am I disabled?
No. If medication or other treatment allows you to work you are not disabled. It does not matter what your underlying diagnosis is.
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?
Here is a rough description of those two different programs administered by SSA. SSI is generally for very poor people with little or no work history. To get SSI, Social Security has to examine what resources you have. Social Security disability is for people who have a good work history and are not impoverished. For this program, SSA does not care what resources you have. However, you must generally have a good work history and worked roughly 5 of the past 10 years.
If I do not technically qualify for SSI, do I technically qualify for Social Security disability?
No. There are a lot of people who fall between these two programs. They are not poor enough for SSI, but they have not worked long enough or recently enough for Social Security disability. The best way to find out if you are technically eligible for either program is to contact an attorney.
I talked to some lawyers and they told me to file on my own and then call them back once I am denied. I would rather have representation throughout the process of applying. Will you take my case before I am denied?
Yes. We are a full service law firm who will help you through the confusing application process all the way up through any federal court litigation. Many attorneys will not take cases at the initial level because they don’t believe their fee would be high enough if they won. We don’t care. Although it is very difficult to win at the initial stage, your claim will be better prepared and presented if you sign with our office from the beginning. Our fee may be small if we win at the initial stage, but we are happy to get our clients the best results possible.
Other jobs that I could do will not pay as much as my old job, does that mean I am disabled?
No. SSA does not care that you would make less money at a different job. If you are medically able to work at a job on a full time basis, then you will not be found to be disabled.
Is it enough that my doctor says I am disabled?
Definitely not. While it helps that your doctor agrees that you cannot work, that by itself is not enough.
How can I apply for Social Security disability or SSI benefits?
You can call SSA’s 800 number at 1-800-772-1213 and schedule an appointment to file applications for benefits. Although you can apply over the internet for some benefits and can sometimes make phone appointments, the best way is usually to call the 800 number and set a time for an in person application at a local SSA office. Or you can call our office at (215) 464-7200 and we can help you through the process.
Should I apply for SSI or Social Security disability?
It is better to apply for both and let SSA explain to you why you may or may not be technically eligible.
Do I have to wait a year or can I apply now?
You can and should apply now. It often takes a long time to go through the Social Security disability adjudication process. Don’t wait even one more day. Call SSA as soon as possible.
I applied and got denied. Is that the end of the story?
No way! Call (215) 464-7200 or Contact us Now!
Who ultimately decides if I am disabled or not?
The short answer is the Social Security Administration. Your application at the initial level will be decided by state agency personnel who work for Social Security and who have never seen you in person. They review the medical and other evidence which is in the record. The vast majority of people get turned down at the initial level. At the next step of the process in Pennsylvania, an administrative law judge will hold a hearing, review the evidence in the record, and make a disability determination. Even if your doctor says you are disabled, that is not enough. The judge will look at the whole record and make his own independent determination.
What evidence does SSA consider?
Only the evidence that is actually in the record. Many times the record is missing vital medical reports and notes. If they are not in SSA’s official record, they will not be considered. This is where we can help. We can help make sure that all of the relevant evidence is contained in the official record.
SSA has sent me a lot of confusing forms, can you help?
Of course! We are proud to be a full service Social Security disability firm that helps our clients at every stage of the process from application through completion of the claim.
I have been disabled for four years, but I haven’t applied yet. Can I get benefits for that whole time period?
No. For SSI you can only get benefits starting with the month after you filed your application. For Social Security disability, you can only go back retroactively 12 months. That is why it is so important not to wait to file an application.
Can a child receive SSI or Social Security Disability benefits?
Yes a child can receive either SSI or disability benefits. Remember there is a poverty standard for SSI. For disability, their benefit would be based on their parent’s earnings records. Child’s cases have special rules and a complex evaluation process. You really should consult a lawyer for such cases. Some firms will not take child benefit cases, but we do. Learn more about Children and Social Security disability »
I am disabled, but I have a lot of money saved up. Can I get SSI or Social Security disability?
You cannot get SSI. However, you would still be eligible for Social Security disability.
What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
There are a lot of differences, but here is a rough basic difference: Medicaid is for the poor and Medicare is not. If you are approved for SSI you will be covered by Medicaid. However, many doctors do not participate in the Medicaid program because it pays so little. If you have been on Social Security disability for 24 months, you qualify for Medicare coverage. A lot more doctors accept Medicare than Medicaid because it pays more. If you are eligible for both SSI and Social Security disability, you may receive coverage from both Medicare and Medicaid.
Why did my neighbor get disability and I got denied? I am much worse off than him?
Who knows. First, they may have more problems than you can see from the outside. Second, in this gigantic system results can be very inconsistent. Third, maybe he hired Chermol and Fishman! Learn more about Why Some People Get Social Security Disability and Others Do Not »
Can I get VA disability benefits and Social Security disability?
Yes you can. Call 215-464-7200 or Contact Us Now!.