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SSD: The FAQs Of The Matter

Q: When do I apply?
A: Each case is different. Sometimes it is best to delay filing, and sometimes it is best to file immediately. We get better results when we file at the time that is in the best interest of our clients. We can help you avoid the pitfall of filing too soon or too late.

Q: How do I apply?
A: You should contact us or some other Social Security lawyer to file for you. Often, we can increase your chances of winning at the initial level. We can also clarify information that is put in the forms in a way that will make your impairments clear.

Q: What do I need?
A: We will inform you of just what you need. There are different requirements for initially filing, for appealing and at what level, as well as whether you are filing for Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income Benefits.

Q: What kinds of benefits are there?
A: There are several kinds of disability benefits for which a person can be eligible.
Depending on the facts, you may be entitled to one of these benefits, or you may be entitled to more than one. The medical rules are the same for all categories, and you must be just as disabled to qualify for one as for another. The nonmedical requirements are different for each category.

Q: What are Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)?
A: You are only eligible for these benefits if you have paid a certain amount of Social Security tax over a period of time and enough to have disability insurance coverage in force. In general, you must have paid at least a certain amount of Social Security tax in at least 20 calendar quarters during the 40 calendar quarters before your total disability began. In other words, you must have worked and paid Social Security tax for about five out of the last 10 years before you became totally disabled.

There is an easier and different rule for people whose disability began before age 30. Everyone must prove that he or she became disabled while disability insurance coverage was in force, or they are not entitled to benefits, no matter how serious the medical condition is now. If your DIB claim is approved, the monthly payment you will receive is set by your earnings (and Social Security tax payments) during your working career. There is no minimum rate, and the maximum a person can receive depends on the amount of Social Security tax paid and the year it was paid. There is a cost-of-living raise in the monthly payment at the start of most years. In many cases, your minor dependent children will also get benefits in addition to your own.

Q: What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
A: SSI can be paid whether or not a person has paid in enough Social Security tax to get disability insurance benefits. You must be disabled under the same rules as for disability insurance or be blind or over 65. You must also have very little income or property, because this benefit is based on financial need. Social Security looks at all other income and property in the household you live in, not just your own, and also the value of any support (like free room and board) you may get from others, to determine whether you are financially eligible for SSI. Social Security does this in addition to deciding if you are disabled. Also, some children 18 years or younger with a severe disability can get monthly benefits if their family income is low enough.

Q: What are Disability Widow/Widower Benefits (DWB)?
A: This is a special disability benefit for certain widows and widowers, based on the Social Security tax paid by his or her deceased spouse. In order to qualify, you must be between the ages of 50 and 60 and have been married for at least 10 years to the person who was covered under Social Security at the time of his or her death. Also, you must have proof that your disability was severe enough to meet these rules within seven years of your spouse’s death, with some exceptions for those already receiving other kinds of Social Security benefits. If you are awarded DWB benefits, your monthly rate is determined by your spouse’s income and Social Security tax payments. However, a surviving spouse’s pension can usually be paid at the age of 60 regardless of any disability.

Q: What are Disabled Adult Child Benefits (DAC)?
A: In order to be eligible, you must be a child of a person already receiving Disability Insurance Benefits or Retirement Benefits, or of a person who died while covered for Social Security. You must be at least 18 years old, and you must prove your total disability began before the month you turned age 22 and is continuing. The monthly benefit rate is based on a percentage of your parent’s rate. Therefore, it is different in each particular case.

Q: Is it necessary to hire a representative to represent me in my Social Security Disability claim?
A: It is not necessary to hire a representative, but your chances of winning are greatly increased, and all of the work is done for you, normally in a more convincing way than you can do yourself.

Q: How do representatives who help Social Security Disability claimants get paid?
A: Cases are generally handled on a contingency basis. That means the representative receives a fee only if you win your case. Normally, the fee is 25 percent of your back benefits and must be approved by Social Security. If you do not win your case, then there is no fee. There are also costs in each case for which you will be responsible. We keep those small costs as low as possible but incur the costs necessary to properly prepare your case.

Q: Can I get Social Security Disability benefits if I expect to get better and return to work?
A: You must have been disabled for at least one year or be expected to be disabled for at least one year. So, if you expect to be out of work for one year or more because of illness or injury, you should file for Social Security Disability benefits.

Q: I got hurt on the job. I am drawing workers’ compensation benefits. Can I file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits now, or should I wait until the workers’ compensation ends?
A: Yes, you can file. Again, each case is different, depending on your past income and the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you receive. If your case is settled, it can be settled in a way most often to eliminate an offset against your Social Security benefits. We work with workers’ compensation lawyers and teach them how to minimize any offset.

Q: I have several health problems, but no individual one of them disables me. It is the combination that disables me. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits?
A: Social Security has to consider the combination of impairments that an individual suffers in determining disability. Many, perhaps most claimants for Social Security Disability benefits, have more than one health problem, and the combined effects of all these health problems must be considered.

Q: My doctor says I am disabled, so why is Social Security denying my Social Security disability claim?
A: Social Security’s position is that it is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled. However, your treating doctor’s opinion is to be given greater weight than anyone else’s opinion about your ability to work. We take the time and effort to explain thoroughly to your doctor the importance of his opinion and how to give such an opinion. Doctors appreciate that help. Properly written, treating doctors’ opinions can increase your chances of winning your case.

Q: If I am approved for Social Security Disability benefits, how much will I get?
A: For disability insurance 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 that an individual can receive.

Q: VA says I am disabled, so why is Social Security denying my Social Security Disability claim?
A: It is Social Security’s position that VA decisions are not binding upon them. Social Security and VA have very different standards for approving disability claims.

Q: If I am found to be disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
A: For disability benefits and for disabled widow’s and widower’s benefits, the benefits begin five months after the person becomes disabled. However, benefits cannot be paid more than one year prior to the date of the claim.

Disabled adult child benefits begin as of the onset date, but benefits cannot be paid more than six months prior to the date of the claim if benefits are on the record of a deceased or retired parent’s record. However, benefits payable on a disabled parent’s record can be paid up to 12 months before the date the claim is filed.

SSI benefits begin at the start of the month following the date of the claim.

Q: If Social Security tries to cut off my disability benefits, what can I do?
A: You should appeal immediately. If you appeal within 10 days after being notified that your disability benefits are being ceased, you can ask that your disability benefits continue while you appeal the decision of cutting off your benefits. You may also want to talk with an attorney about representation on your case, but you should file the appeal immediately. You will lose your monthly payments until the decision to overturn the decision to take away your benefits unless (1) you appeal within 10 days, and (2) you request your benefits continue. We recommend you go to your local office and appeal in person. You should get a receipt showing you asked that your benefits continue and that it was filed within 10 days. Often such appeals are lost. If you have a receipt, then Social Security cannot rightfully claim that you did not appeal timely and request that your benefits continue.