Social Security Disability Benefits Frequently Asked Questions
When you're suffering from a physical disability or mental health condition, you're probably under a lot of stress. You're already suffering due to your health, but if you're unable to work because of it, you may be struggling financially as well. The Social Security system is very complex, so we've compiled a list of the most common questions about Social Security disability.
General Info, Eligibility, and Claim Consultations
What are Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits?
Social Security disability benefits (also called Social Security Disability Insurance) are a part of the Federal Social Security Act. It includes several programs that provide disability payments and other benefits to disabled workers and their families. Benefits are often referred to as Social Security disability benefits, or SSD benefits. SSD benefits may consist of cash payments and medical coverage. Benefits depend on your financial situation and whether you qualify under the appropriate Social Security Administration regulations.
Read more about SSD claims.
What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
People who have never worked, or who have not paid into the Social Security system for the past five years, may qualify for Supplementary Security Income (SSI) benefits. Disabled children also may qualify for SSI benefits. SSI benefits may consist of cash payments and medical coverage. Benefits depend on your financial situation and whether you qualify under the appropriate Social Security Administration regulations.
Who can apply for these benefits? Am I eligible for SSD or SSI benefits?
You can apply for benefits if you are disabled and cannot work full-time; if your disability or medical condition has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year; and if you have a life-threatening disability or medical condition. However, certain qualifications exist for each type of Social Security benefit program. You must check to see if you qualify.
You can help your chances of being approved for SSD benefits by having an official diagnosis by a physician or specialist. You should be undergoing treatment and see your specialist regularly. Symptoms alone are not enough.
What physical disabilities qualify for SSD or SSI benefits?
There are many types of physical disabilities that are accepted by the Social Security Administration, but you must check to see if you qualify under the appropriate Social Security Administration regulations.
Read more about physical disabilities and SSD benefits.
What mental disabilities qualify for SSD or SSI benefits?
There are many types of mental disabilities that may make you eligible for SSD or SSI benefits, but you must check with the Social Security Administration to see if you qualify.
Read more about mental health conditions and SSD benefits.
How does the Social Security Administration determine whether I am disabled?
Disability, as determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), is based on your inability to work. The SSA considers you to be disabled under Social Security rules if you cannot do work that you did before and if the SSA determines that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability must also last, or be expected to last, for at least one year or be expected to result in death.
The SSA reviews medical reports and records provided by your treating physician(s) and/or other medical providers. Other areas of consultation include:
- Your own average monthly earnings (you can work part-time and still qualify for SSD or SSI benefits, but your individual gross monthly income cannot exceed $1,070)
- The severity of your condition (your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered)
- Your vocational background
- Your age
- Your education
- If you're receiving other types of benefits, such as unemployment or workers' compensation
The Social Security Administration evaluates this information and applies it to their criteria in order to determine whether you are considered to be disabled.
Read more about the SSD claims process.
How long can I receive SSD benefits? Can my benefits be terminated?
If you are approved for Social Security disability benefits, they are seen as a permanent life-long benefit. However, there are a few circumstances where your benefits could be terminated. These circumstances may include:
- Engaging in "Substantial Gainful Activity" (the Social Security Administration uses this term to determine if any activity - including working or attending school full-time - is substantial enough to make a person ineligible for benefits); examples of activities that may disqualify you for benefits include going back to work full-time, going back to work part-time and earning over $1,040 gross per month, and attending college or business/trade school full-time
- If the Social Security Administration reviews your case and feels your condition has improved, they may terminate your benefits. Periodically (perhaps every 5 years), the Social Security Administration will review cases. When your case is reviewed, they check to make sure that you still have disabling impairments; are still in treatment; and are compliant with treatment and medication.
- Becoming incarcerated or institutionalized against your will for over 30 days -- during this time, you are ineligible for benefits
If your benefits are terminated, you have the right to file an appeal within 60 days. You have 10 days in which to appeal in order to continue receiving your checks while the appeal is pending. If you are unsuccessful with your appeal but received checks while the case was pending, you will be required to pay back the money you received while the case was pending.
Read more about terminated SSD benefits.
Receiving Other Benefits With SSD and SSI
Can I receive benefits from both workers' compensation and SSD or SSI?
Generally, you can receive benefits from both workers' compensation and SSD. However, if you are receiving workers' compensation, the payments you receive for SSD benefits will be reduced, so that the combined amount of the SSD benefits you receive do not exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings. If your workers' compensation payment stops, your SSD benefits will usually increase. If you are receiving workers' compensation, you probably won't be eligible to receive SSI benefits. However, the only way to find out if you qualify is to contact the Social Security Administration.
Can I receive benefits from both unemployment compensation and SSD or SSI?
If you receive unemployment compensation while your claim for SSD or SSI benefits is pending, and your claim is approved, your retroactive SSD or SSI benefits will be reduced for the period of time you were collecting unemployment compensation. Typically, unemployment means that you're capable of working – you just can't find a job. In order to be successful in your claim to receive SSD or SSI benefits, you must have a disability or condition that prevents you from working at all and that you are not currently seeking employment. There may be exceptions, and you should contact the Social Security Administration to learn if you're eligible to apply for SSD or SSI benefits.
Can I receive benefits from Long-Term Disability Insurance and SSD?
If you are receiving Long-Term Disability payments from your employer and you are approved for SSD benefits, your Long-Term Disability payments may be reduced. As insurance policies tend to vary, you should contact your Long-Term Disability insurance carrier for more information about your policy.
Can I receive benefits from both private insurance, like a pension plan, and SSD?
Yes, you can receive payments from both private insurance and SSD benefits. Your eligibility is not affected by any private insurance you may have, including company pension or 401K plans.
Can I receive benefits from assistance programs and SSD at the same time?
Yes, but only while your claim for SSD benefits is pending. You can receive benefits from an assistance program while your claim is pending, but if you are approved for SSD benefits, your benefits from the assistance program will stop. You should contact the Social Security Administration for more information.
Can I receive benefits from a Public Disability plan and SSD?
Public disability payments that may affect your SSD benefits are those paid under a federal, state, or local government law or plan that pays for conditions not job-related. For example, civil service disability benefits, state temporary benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits may affect your SSD benefits. Your Social Security disability benefits would be reduced so that the combined amount of the SSD benefits, plus the public disability payment received, do not exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings.
Can I continue to receive SSD or SSI when I start collecting Social Security retirement benefits?
If you were receiving SSD benefits and you now qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, your benefits should be switched over to the retirement benefits. In some instances, you can receive an SSI check in addition to your retirement check. To find out if you're eligible, you should contact the Social Security Administration.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
To apply for SSD or SSI benefits, you can contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or visit the SSA website at www.ssa.gov to file online.
You also can make an appointment at your local Social Security District Office.
At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we can help those who are disabled apply for SSD or SSI benefits. Contact us today for a free legal consultation and to get started.
Where can I find a local Social Security Administration office?
We have compiled a list of the Social Security Administration Offices in Pennsylvania.
Will you help me apply for SSD benefits?
Yes, we can help you apply for SSD benefits. All you have to do is call 412-453-8097, or fill out one of our free legal consultations to get started. We'll tell you if we think you qualify for SSD benefits. If you choose Edgar Snyder & Associates to help you, we make sure your application is as complete as possible, and we submit it for you. If you aren't approved, you won't owe us anything. You only pay us if you're approved, or we win your appeal.
Denied Social Security Disability or SSI Claim?
What can I do if my claim was denied?
If your claim was denied and you believe you qualify for SSD benefits, don't worry. You can file an appeal. There are several levels of determination for Social Security Disability benefits. You have 60 days to appeal a denial to reach the next level of determination. If you fail to appeal a denial, you may reapply for Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income. Please keep in mind that 'appealing' and 'reapplying' are not the same thing. Reapplying will mean that you have to start the process over again.
What's the process for filing an appeal?
If your initial application was denied, and you believe you qualify, you have 60 days to file an appeal to reach the next level of determination. First, you can hire a lawyer and have him or her schedule a hearing. Your lawyer should meet with you before the hearing to discuss what will happen and go over questions that are normally asked at the hearing. The hearing will be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge and will follow a five-step consultation. The judge will not issue a decision on the day of the hearing; a "Notice of Decision" will be issued to you and your attorney at the same time, which can take anywhere from two to six months.
Second, you can move on to an Appeals Council. The average processing time for the Appeals Council is 18 to 24 months. The council can review your claim and render a decision, choose not to review the claim, or remand your claim back to the Administrative Law Judge for reconsideration.
Finally, you can appeal to the Federal Court if all else fails. You can file a civil suit in a Federal District Court and appeal ultimately to the United States Supreme Court.
Read more about the appeals process.
How long do I have to file an appeal?
Time is critical if your claim was denied. You only have 60 days to appeal. Otherwise you have to start the process all over again.
If your benefits were terminated, you have the right to file an appeal within 60 days. But, you only have 10 days to appeal in order to continue receiving your checks while the appeal is pending. If you appeal but are unsuccessful, and you continued receiving checks while the case was pending, you will have to pay back the money you received while the case was pending.
Questions About Hiring an Attorney
Do I need a lawyer to represent me in my SSD claim?
You do not have to hire a lawyer to pursue a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim. However, because of the various deadlines and other technical requirements for the application and appeals process, a lawyer can be very helpful.
Hiring an experienced law firm as your advocate during the appeals process could mean the difference in whether you ultimately collect Social Security Disability benefits or not, and receiving the maximum amount of benefits you're entitled to receive.
Why should I hire an attorney?
If your claim was denied or your benefits were terminated, you may want to hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney is not required to file an appeal, but doing so could mean the difference between winning your appeal or not. Our attorneys at Edgar Snyder & Associates can help with your SSD benefits appeal by:
- Gathering medical records and reports
- Gathering evidence particular to your claim
- Gathering documents from your Social Security file
- Determining the best course of action for your claim based on Social Security regulations
- Talking with your physician about your condition(s)
- Suggesting a "second opinion" on your condition by having the Social Security Administration send you to a doctor
- Reviewing prior actions taken by the Social Security Administration
- Providing helpful advice to you on how to prepare for your Social Security hearing.
- Providing legal counsel at the hearing to ensure a fair and proper procedure
- Reviewing, objecting to, or making changes to the written questions being sent to a doctor by the Administrative Law Judge
- Making sure the Social Security Administration gives you your correct benefit payment, if your claim is approved
- Requesting a review of the hearing decision by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
- Requesting a review of the Social Security Administration Appeals Council decision by the Federal District Court
How are legal fees paid?
You pay legal fees only if a lawyer at Edgar Snyder & Associates is successful in getting your Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. The fees to the lawyer are paid from the retroactive benefits paid to you. Retroactive benefits begin from the point you are first eligible for benefits to the date your claim was approved.
Legal fees are set by the Social Security Administration and are generally based on a percentage of your retroactive benefits up to a maximum dollar amount.
We also help people apply for SSD benefits, and the fees are the same. If we help you apply and you are denied, you won't owe us anything.