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1. How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) define “disability?”

Social Security has a very strict definition of “disability.” To be considered disabled in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must meet the following criteria:
– You cannot perform your previous occupation.
– You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).
– Your medical condition(s) must last or be expected to last for at least one year and/or to result in death.

2. What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded to disabled people who have generally worked five of the past ten years and have paid a Social Security tax on their income. The work requirement can be waived for applicants under age 22. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are made on the basis of financial need to adults and children who are disabled, blind, or have limited income and resources. Whereas Social Security Disability (SSDI) is funded by the Social Security tax, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is financed by general tax revenues.

3. Can I work while waiting for my Social Security disability determination?

Most of the time you can’t start doing “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) and continue to receive Social Security disability benefits. SGA is defined by if you are working and making more than $1,220 (Gross or pre-tax) per month in 2019 (or $2,040 if you’re blind). There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

4. How do Military Retirement or VA Disability benefits affect eligibility for SSDI?

Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a completely separate entity from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it is possible to receive benefits from both organizations concurrently. In many cases, however, even veterans receiving 100% disability benefits from the VA are denied by Social Security. It is always advisable to seek representation before proceeding with an application. Unlike SSI (Supplemental Security Income), Social Security Disability Insurance is not need-based, but rather it is based upon an individual’s capacity for gainful employment. Therefore, receiving military retirement benefits will not affect a candidate’s eligibility for SSDI. If you are a disabled veteran receiving military retirement or VA disability benefits and you are considering applying for SSDI, contact a qualified Social Security Representative now.

5. How long should I wait after becoming disabled before I file for Social Security disability?

You are not required to wait. You can file as soon as your condition prevents you from working a full-time job. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months or years to file a claim, resulting in the loss of thousands in earned benefits.

6. I am on sick leave from my current job. Can I file for Social Security disability now?

Yes. You may file now if you are expected to be out of work for at least one year.

7. I was injured on the job. Can I file for Social Security disability benefits if I have a pending worker’s compensation claim?

You do not have to wait until your worker’s compensation claim is complete. The sooner you file for benefits, the quicker you will be able to collect benefits.

8. Do you have to be permanently disabled to get Social Security disability benefits?

No. You can file a claim if you have a condition that will prevent you from holding a full-time job for a minimum of one year.

9. Why does Social Security consider my age in determining whether I am disabled?

You will have to prove your conditions will prevent you from working any job if you are an adult between the ages of 18-49. At age 50, there are special rules that may only require you to prove your condition prevents you from performing the work you have done in the past 15 years. It is advisable to hire a professional that understands how to apply those special rules if you are over the age of 50.

10. What can I do to improve my chances of winning my claim for Social Security benefits?

Submit a thorough and complete application. A large number of claimants are denied because they do not complete the application correctly. There are over 20 pages of questions to complete that are often confusing if you have not seen one before. You can also hire a professional to complete the application correctly and avoid a denial due to issues with your application. Continue seeing a Doctor. It is hard to prove your condition will continue to keep you from working if you are not seeing a Doctor on a regular basis. We recommend seeing a Doctor at least once every 3 months. Hire a professional to accompany you if you have to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. There may be a vocational expert present to testify about your ability to perform work. A skilled professional is recommended to cross-examine the vocational expert.

11. If I am approved for Social Security disability benefits, how much will I get?

If your claim is for SSDI, it will depend on your earnings while you were employed. To get the exact amount, you may request a detailed earnings statement. If your claim is for SSI, the benefits will be based on the current federal benefit rate (FBR) and any other income or benefits you receive. In either type of claim, you can also get an estimated monthly amount if you have hired a representative to file your claim. An experienced representative will have the ability to calculate an estimated monthly amount.

12. Who decides if I am disabled?

If you have enough work credits to qualify for benefits, the Social Security Administration will use a Five Step Evaluation process to decide if you are disabled.

13. How do I apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI)?

You need to complete an application with the Social Security Administration. Your chances of winning improve if you use a representative like Premier Disability. We’ll communicate with the government on your behalf and be there for every part of your case – from the initial application and all the way through. We’ll also be responsible for completing forms correctly, we’ll file your paperwork, communicate with the Social Security Administration and the courts on your behalf, and our attorneys would attend any court hearings needed if it comes to that.

14. How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?

If you have enough work credits to qualify for benefits, the Social Security Administration will use a Five-Step Evaluation process to decide if you are disabled:
1. Are you working?
2. Is your condition “severe”?
3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
4. Can you do the work you did previously?
5. Can you do any other type of work?

15. What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?

If you are denied at the initial level unless you have already returned to work or expect to return to work in the near future, you should appeal. In most states, you do this by filing a request for reconsideration. You should also consider employing an attorney to represent you. Here at Premier we have attorneys in all 50 states. In a few states, you file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and do not need to go through the reconsideration step.

16. How long does it take to get a hearing on a Social Security disability claim?

Some offices nationwide the wait time can be less than 12 months. There are some hearing offices where the wait time can exceed 18 months and could be close to 2 years.

17. What happens at a Social Security disability hearing?

– Arrive at your hearing 45 minutes early
– Bring a valid government photo ID
– The hearing room itself is normally a small conference room meant for 5-6 people; the hearing room does NOT look like a courthouse or television program
– Most hearings consist of a claimant, attorney, judge, hearing recorder, and a vocational or medical expert
– The judge will interview the claimant and take testimony
– The most common subjects for testimony are daily activities, past jobs, and medical conditions
– The judge will ask the vocational expert about the physical and mental requirements of jobs in the national economy
– The medical expert will testify about the physical and mental limitations imposed by a claimant’s conditions; this includes a thorough analysis of the medical records supplied by the claimant and attorney
– The audio of the hearing is recorded and placed into the claimant’s file
– The attorney will also interview the client, medical expert, and vocational expert to make sure information is recorded and entered into the claimant’s hearing record
– Judges will not issue a decision the day of the hearing
– The judge must write a decision notice, a legal document summarizing the findings and facts of a case before the decision can be made official
– Most judges take more than a month to finish writing their decisions
– Finally, keep in mind the judge reviews a claimant’s file extensively before AND after a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony and establish a claimant’s credibility with the judge.

18. How many levels of appeals are there in a claim for a Social Security disability claim?

Everyone must apply for disability at the initial level. If an initial claim is denied, there is an appeal. Both the initial claim and appeal are handled by your State Agency contracted by the Social Security Administration. If an appeal is denied the next step is to request to see a judge. Most Social Security applicants will go through one or all of these processes. There are states that do not have the appeal stage and go directly from the initial to the hearing stage. These are Alabama, Alaska, some parts of California, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania. If a hearing is denied an appeal can be filed with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia and if they approve the appeal, the case is sent back to the local hearing office for a second court date. If the Appeals Council denies an appeal, an applicant may move the case into their local circuit court. The Appeals Council and circuit courts are very rare.

19. Do I really have to have someone represent me in my Social Security disability claim?

No. You can apply, appeal and go through all levels of the Hearing level on your own. However, your odds of winning your claim increase significantly with an attorney on your side.

20. I am a widow, can I get Social Security disability from my deceased spouse’s earnings?

1. The deceased must have paid enough money into Social Security to qualify for benefits
– Anyone over age 60 can apply for survivor benefits regardless of health conditions
2. The second type of survivor benefit is more complicated, all of the following conditions must be met:
– The deceased must have paid enough money into Social Security to qualify for benefits
– The surviving spouse must be age 50-59
– The surviving spouse must be disabled
– The surviving spouse’s disability must have started within 7 years of their partner’s death

21. My doctor says I am disabled so why is Social Security denying my disability claim?

Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration is the one that determines whether or not you are considered disabled in accordance to their rules regardless of what your doctor says.

22. How many years of back pay can I get from Social Security disability?

The amount of money depends on many factors (how much you paid in/how much you made while working among a couple factors); however, the national average monthly benefit amount for the disability benefits is about $1,200 per month. If you are approved, you can receive up to twelve months of Social Security Disability back pay for months prior to your date of application. When figuring out how many months of back pay you will receive, first add up the number of full calendar months between when your disability began and when you are expected to receive your first check and then subtract five months. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration doesn’t pay the full first 5 months of disability. For example, if you expect to receive your back pay in April it will only include benefits through March.