Social Security Disability law can be thoroughly confusing. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by our clients whose SSD benefits were denied.
You can discuss these and any other Social Security Disability questions with us by calling us toll free at (800) 562-9830. We make sure that your specific concerns are given the attention they deserve .
Q: What is Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability is a wage replacement program set up under the federal Social Security Administration (SSA). It is designed to help qualified disabled individuals who cannot work obtain their social security benefits earlier than they would normally be entitled to them (before their normal retirement age.)
Q: Who is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?
Social Security Disability works like an insurance plan. To be eligible, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- You have paid social security taxes over a sufficiently long period to be fully insured;
- You have contributed to the program recently enough to have disability insured status. To be fully insured under the system, you need to have paid into the social security system for approximately five out of the last 10 years.
If you stop work—which means you stop paying social security taxes—eventually your insured status will lapse. Other provisions may influence your eligibility depending on your circumstances.
Q: What is the difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Social Security Disability is taken from the pool of funds that are used for retirement benefits. Qualified applicants must meet the contribution requirements though paying appropriate Social Security taxes.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a federal welfare program for the disabled, blind and those over 65. In contrast to social security disability, benefits are paid out of general revenues, not out of the social security trust fund. Many states supplement the federal SSI benefit. Thus, the SSI benefit amount varies from state to state.
Q: What Does It Mean to be “Disabled?”
Disabled is defined as an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any physical or mental impairment which can be medically determined, and
- which can be expected to result in death, or
- which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months
Q: What is Substantial Gainful Activity?
Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is work which involves significant physical or mental activities that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month. Generally speaking, if you earn more than a certain amount of money a month, you are engaging in SGA and the SSA will conclude that you are not disabled and not eligible for disability benefits.
The level of income deemed to reach SGA status is different for blind and non-blind claimants. In 2013, the monthly SGA for claimants who are blind is $1740. The 2013 monthly SGA amount for those who are not blind is $1040.
Q: My application for Social Security Disability was denied. What can I do?
It is critical that you file an appeal immediately, within the 60 day deadline. An appeal is a formal request for reconsideration.
The reality is, most Social Security Disability claims are denied initially. Many denied claims are won on appeal. Most people whose claims were denied make the grave mistake of either giving up or waiting too long to take action.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to represent me in my Social Security Disability appeal?
An attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability can help you in critical ways during the appeals process. Success at a disability hearing often depends on careful and efficient case preparation and, additionally, on a skillful presentation of your case. A good lawyer will
- evaluate your claim to determine your chances of winning an appeal
- aid you in filling out all SSA forms and handle all SSA paperwork
- correctly calculate your benefits
- gather your medical records and review them for evidence to support your claim, as well as make suggestions for any additional testing required to prove your case
- supplement your claim file with additional medical records
- makes sure all SSA deadlines are met
- know how to cross-examine expert witnesses who may question your inability to work
- file a lawsuit in Federal Court if necessary
- recommend other benefits to file for that you’re unaware of
Q: How much will I end up paying an attorney?
Social Security regulations allow for claimants to be represented by attorneys on a contingent fee basis. This means you can hire a lawyer to represent you without paying any money up front. The attorney gets paid a percentage of the past due benefits only if you win your case. The attorney does not receive any percentage of future disability benefits
The standard contingency fee arraignment set by SSA pays the attorney 25 percent of all past due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000 if the case is won before appealing to the federal district court. If a case must be appealed to federal district court the $6000 maximum cap is lifted and the fee is up to 25 percent of all past due benefits.
Q: I have more than one impairment. Each impairment by itself does not disable me; it is the combination of conditions that disables me from working. Will I be able to get Social Security Disability benefits?
Social Security must consider how the combination of the your impairments affects your ability to work. So yes, the combination of your impairments can constitute a determination of disabled. Many claimants have more than one health problem and the combined effects of all physical and mental conditions must be considered.
Q: How long can I receive Social Security Disability benefits?
SSA is required periodically to review the cases of all people who are receiving disability benefits. Usually cases are reviewed every three years; but some cases are reviewed more often. You will be asked to complete a form about your medical treatment, and how your condition has changed since the time you were found eligible for disability benefits. To help insure that your benefits will continue, the very best thing you can do is to continue seeing your doctor.
The Social Security system is filled with red tape and confusing terms. Our Social Security Disability Glossary will also help you understand common SSDI concepts and terms.
A small misunderstanding can hurt the outcome of your case. Often people don’t understand the most important aspects to the approval of their claim. No matter where you live, we can help.
Ask Us About Your Claim Today.
If you were denied long term disability benefits, Social Security Disability or Veterans’ Disability Compensation, we are prepared to help you now. 1-800-562-9830
Marc Whitehead is Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy.