Answers to frequently asked Social Security disability questions
You may have many questions about who is eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) and how to apply for the process. At Hunter & Everage, we know this is a complex process, so we created this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. If your question is not answered on this page, contact one of our experienced attorneys by calling our Charlotte, North Carolina, office at 704-251-2945 or our Richmond, Virginia, office at 804-297-0838.
Am I eligible for Social Security disability benefits?
To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet both medical and nonmedical requirements. Medically, your health condition must be severe enough to keep you from full-time employment, and it must be expected to last at least a year. The nonmedical rules vary based on the type of claim you have. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must have limited income and property.
Does my medical condition qualify me for disability benefits?
The most important medical factor in qualifying for disability benefits is the severity of your health problems. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a long list of impairments that can qualify you for benefits. But whatever diagnosis you have, the SSA uses information from your health care providers to determine if your condition is severe enough. Your medical impairments must be expected to last at least a year. They must prevent you from doing your job. They also must keep you from performing a different kind of job.
How does my age affect my chances of winning disability benefits?
Depending on how old you are, it could be easier for you to get approved for Social Security Disability benefits. One of the main factors Social Security uses to decide your eligibility is whether you can adapt to different kinds of work from what you did before. Your age will affect your eligibility for different kinds of work. For example, maybe you can no longer perform a physically demanding job in a factory, but you still could work in an office. After you turn age 50, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers it harder for you to adapt to new work. So the SSA becomes less strict in determining if you could do a different job. As your age advances beyond 50, the SSA becomes even more lenient in deciding whether you should be able to adapt to new work.
After I apply, how long does it take to find out whether I will receive Social Security disability benefits?
It can take months to hear the result of your first application for disability benefits. When you need to appeal because you were denied, it can take well over a year to get a hearing with an administrative law judge. In fact, across the nation in early 2017, it took 17 months to get a hearing. In North Carolina, the average was almost 21 months. In Virginia, the wait was 19 months. The wait time varies depending on how many cases your local Social Security hearing office has to process. It’s best to apply as soon as you realize health problems are going to keep you from work for at least a year, so you get this process started. If you wait too long, you can miss out on thousands of dollars in benefits for past months. Because of the time it takes, it can make a big difference to have an experienced lawyer helping with your case. The attorneys at Hunter & Everage can help you avoid unnecessary delays by making sure your application is complete and correct.
How much money will I receive in Social Security disability benefits?
Until you win a favorable decision, it’s impossible to know exactly how much you will receive. For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the amount varies depending on how much you have worked and earned in the past. The average monthly payment nationwide in early 2017 was $1,171. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits program has a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. The amount changes over time. In 2017, the Social Security Administration set the monthly payment at $735 for individuals and $1,103 for couples. If you have some income, it reduces the amount of SSI you can receive.
What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Social Security Disability Insurance covers you if you can’t work because of your health, but you have a substantial recent work history and you paid Social Security taxes out of your paychecks. Supplemental Security Income doesn’t require any recent employment or a record of paying into the Social Security system. If medical problems keep you from working and you have limited income and resources – such as property – you could be eligible for SSI. Children with impairments that limit their ability to function the same way as other children their age also can qualify for SSI benefits.
What should I do if Social Security denies my claim for disability benefits?
First, don’t give up hope. Most people are denied the first time they apply for Social Security Disability benefits. You should consider appealing the decision. Many claims are won on appeal. The appeals process has four steps:
- Reconsideration – First, you can ask for a new opinion from somebody at the Social Security Administration who wasn’t a part of your first decision.
- Hearing before an administrative law judge – If you still receive a denial after a reconsideration, you can go to a judge, who holds a hearing on your case.
- Appeals Council review – If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can ask for Social Security’s Appeals Council to reconsider your case.
- Federal Court – If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you can file a lawsuit in the United States District Court system.
We strongly recommend hiring a lawyer to help you when you need to appeal. At this stage in the process, you have deadlines to meet and complicated arguments to make.
What will happen at my hearing?
When you’re appealing a denial of Social Security Disability benefits and you go to a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), the judge will ask questions of you and other witnesses. The ALJ will ask about your past jobs, your health and how your health limits your ability to work. The Social Security Administration might pay for medical or vocational experts to testify about you. The tone of your hearing is usually informal, but your hearing is an important moment for your case. It’s probably your only chance to meet face-to-face with someone at Social Security who has decision-making authority on your claim. Your attorney from Hunter & Everage will get you prepared and confident to testify, present your arguments to the judge and question Social Security’s job and health experts for you.
Can I still collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits while I work?
You would never choose to have health problems stop you from working. Nobody wants to live on limited disability benefits. Some people continue working part-time while receiving SSDI. But you have to earn below a certain amount to maintain disability benefits. The exact amount changes over time. If the Social Security Administration decides you are working and earning enough to achieve “substantial gainful activity,” it will stop your benefits.
If I was hurt at work and receive workers’ compensation benefits, can I still apply for Social Security disability benefits?
Yes. If an injury on the job means you’ll be unable to work for at least a year, you may have a Social Security Disability case in addition to a workers’ comp claim. While Social Security will consider your workers’ comp status, don’t let that stop you from applying for disability benefits. When your workers’ comp runs out, you want those Social Security Disability benefits to be there when you need them.
How much does it cost for me to have an attorney help with my disability case?
You pay nothing up front. You only pay an attorney fee if you win your disability case. At Hunter & Everage, our attorney fee is 25 percent of past-due benefits, which Social Security awards you and your family when you win your case. The Social Security Administration established the 25 percent fee as a rule for all attorneys who handle disability cases.
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Contact us right away in Charlotte at 704-251-2945 or in Richmond at 804-297-0838 to schedule your free consultation with a lawyer. You can also fill out our contact form to get started on a free case review.