Social Security & Disability2022-01-21T16:03:31+00:00

What do I need to know when applying for Social Security Disability?

The best source of information for Social Security Disability can be found at the Social Security Administration (SSA) website: This site is user-friendly and provides online options for applying for benefits, calculating estimated benefits, and getting answers to commonly asked questions. It also explains the Social Security Administration’s five-step process for determining disability.

If you prefer not to apply online, call 1-800-772-1213 to apply over the phone, or go to the local Social Security office. In any case, it is important you always be truthful; never exaggerate or minimize a disability. And always provide as much detail as possible, including providers’ names, addresses, dates of treatment, tests, medications, and any limitations assigned.

Typically, the older a claimant is, the easier it will be to get approved. For example, if you are over age 55 and cannot do any of the jobs you have done in the past 15 years, you should definitely apply. Similarly, if you are over age 50 and have a severe impairment that keeps you from doing all but the easiest jobs, you should apply. But you do not have to be completely incapacitated to qualify, even if you are younger than age 50. That being said, inability to work and being found “disabled” by the SSA are two different things.

Once you have applied, do not forget to appeal any denials and be careful not to miss deadlines. A missed deadline usually means you have to start over with a new application and it can result in lost back benefits. So it is important to appeal all denials within 60 days. Prompt appeals can also shorten the time it takes to get approved.

Remember that there are two different Social Security disability programs, both administered by the SSA. While many people often lump these two programs and their respective benefits together, they are decidedly different in coverage and eligibility. The first program, authorized under Title II of the Social Security Act, is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – it is just that, a federal disability insurance program. The other program is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), authorized under Title XVI of the Act, which provides a low-income supplement for those who meet the income and asset restrictions. While a claimant can apply for both programs at the same time, the eligibility for each is different.

While attorney fees can be paid hourly, almost all claimants prefer a “contingent fee,” that is a fee paid only if the claimant wins her appeal. The usual fee is 25% of past due benefits up to $6,000.00. Although the usual fee will not normally exceed $6,000.00, appeals beyond the initial administrative hearing are not subject to that limit. In any event, attorney fees are never paid out of current monthly benefits. All attorney fees are also subject to the approval of the SSA and the rate is set by federal law. In addition to the fee, you are always responsible for the expenses incurred in gathering medical records, obtaining medical opinion letters, paying experts for evaluations or testimony, and so forth. These expenses are outlined and explained in the fee agreement with your counsel.

In addition to current monthly benefits, determined by the amount paid in during your working years, you will be eligible for past-due benefits beginning in the sixth month after you became disabled, but not more than a year prior to your application. This will depend on your disability onset date. You will also be eligible for Medicare benefits beginning in the 25th month after your disability benefits began. Finally, if the disability benefit is low enough (depending on your location) and you meet other asset and income limits, you may also qualify for SSI, which could in turn trigger Medicaid eligibility.

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