Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions for Social Security Disability

Applying and waiting for Social Security Disability to be approved is a stressful and frustrating experience. Most people who apply for SSDI benefits need the funds to help pay daily expenses during their long-term period of disability. That’s why Disability Help Today is so valuable as a representative to prepare your claim and to follow it through until you receive your decision. Knowing the status of your claim, how it is being assessed, and how long it will take to reach resolution is a great relief because not knowing is the worst part of waiting.

You need answers about how Social Security Disability works, how you can qualify, and what you need to do to file your claim. Some of the most frequently asked questions are answered below. If you have other questions or you need more information, please contact us today. We’re here to provide Disability Help Today.

You can file a Social Security Disability claim without the help of a professional advocate, but claims filed without help are often returned to the claimant as incomplete, or worse, denied because the person neglected to base their claim on a qualified impairment even though they should have qualified under the applicable regulations.

Filing an SSDI claim requires the application form to be completed fully, stating the nature of the impairment, the date on which it began (onset date), and a full description of how the disability interferes with the claimant’s daily living functions. The claim must be accompanied with a complete list of all the claimant’s treating or consulting healthcare providers and copies of all the patient’s medical records, lab test results, imaging analysis reports, and other supporting medical documents.

This can be an exhausting exercise for someone who is disabled. Getting help with this process makes everything go more smoothly and avoids mistakes that cause unnecessary delays.

SSD benefits are available only to workers who have substantial employment histories and who paid into the Social Security Disability fund through their payroll tax contributions or self-employment taxes. Workers earn one “work credit” based on their wages and earned income each quarter of every work year, for a maximum of four work credits per year. If someone earned the required amount of income throughout the year, they would also earn four work credits, regardless of which quarters they earned the money in.

Generally, a claimant filing an SSDI claim needs to have earned 40 work credits, half of which were earned during the 10 years preceding their disability claim. However, if a worker becomes disabled early in their working career, a separate calculation is made to determine the number of work credits they need to be eligible for SSD benefits.

Social Security Disability benefits are reserved only for those with long-term impairments that prevent them from working to earn their living. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a qualifying disability as “any physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last at least 12 months (or end in death) and which prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities (SGAs).”

An impairment is considered to prevent the claimant from “substantial gainful activities” in 2023 if they are unable to earn $1,470 per month, or $2,460 if they are blind.

Although someone may think they earn too much to qualify for SSD disability benefits, not all of the income earned is counted by the Social Security Administration toward the income eligibility cap. A trained disability advocate, like the team at Disability Help Today, can review your case and help you learn if you can qualify for disability benefits.

Appeal! Never accept a denial of SSD benefits without filing an appeal. But do not delay. The period during which you can normally appeal an SSD benefit claim denial is 60 days from the date you receive the denial notice. Denials are not that uncommon. In fact, it’s a sad fact that a large number of SSD benefit claims are initially denied. However, more than half of those initial denials are reversed and benefits are awarded following an appeal.

The best practice is to seek experienced, professional advice from a Social Security Disability lawyer or a professional disability benefits advocate. These trained disabilities claim handlers are experts in the rules and regulations that apply to SSD claims and they know how to file the best and most effective appeal for you.

Some initial claim denials are merely the result of an overworked and understaffed Disability Determination Services office, located within and manned by your home state’s workers. Errors are made frequently and many disability claimants suffer from complex sets of impairments that may require a more focused review by an administrative law judge (ALJ) who will here your representative explain your case in specific details. This is also an opportunity for the claimant to tell the judge how their impairment is negatively affecting their life.

A Social Security Disability Benefits hearing is an opportunity for you and your disability advocate or lawyer to review the facts of your case with the administrative law judge (ALJ) who has studied your file and all your medical records. The ALJ is the first Social Security Administration authority who will actually see you and hear you talk about your life. This human interaction is very powerful.

Your advocate or attorney will also be prepared to address all of the specific points of law and the regulations that favor your claim and dispel any errors or misperceptions that may be reflected in an earlier bureaucratic note.

Your hearing may be conducted in person or through teleconference, depending on your location and other factors.

Your representative will advise you about how to answer the ALJ’s questions and probably recommend that you do not tell long narrative stories. Answer the questions directly, without hedging, and then wait for the next question. Finally, it is important to remember not to be a hero. If you are asked how you are feeling, don’t reflexively answer, “Fine, how are you?” If you were fine, you would not be filing a claim for disability benefits.

Back benefits payments are paid to claimants who have waited for their benefits to be approved for longer than the five-month waiting period that begins at the outset of your disability. Social Security Disability hearings usually take place at least 8 to 10 months after a claim is filed and 6 to 8 months after you receive an initial denial notice.

In some cases, an SSD benefits hearing might be delayed even longer.

If the ALJ reverses an earlier denial of benefits, they will also need to set a “disability onset date” or DOD. The disability onset date will determine whether and how many months of back benefits a claimant is due. For example, if an SSD hearing does not occur until 15 months after the claim is filed, and the disability onset date is determined to be 2 months before the claim was filed, then the claimant should receive 12 months of back benefits payments plus any months that pass until they receive their first monthly benefit check. (Two months before the claim was filed plus three months after the claim was filed will toll the 5-month waiting period.)

Back benefits are paid in a separate transaction.

Technically, yes. But remember that both workers’ compensation and SSD benefits are both intended to replace the claimant’s lost earnings.

Many people who suffer employment-related illness or injury need to wait months to finally be granted their Social Security Disability benefits. In the meantime, they are free to claim and collect workers’ compensation benefits until their SSD claim is approved.

However, the Social Security Administration will be entitled to withhold Social Security Disability benefits for the amount the person received in workers compensation benefits. The government will not permit double dipping. A skilled and experienced Social Security disability advocate and a competent workers’ comp lawyer will know that there are legal strategies by which any workers’ compensation lump sum payout can be defined in such a way that the lump sum is intended to be paying an amount spread throughout the worker’s life.

Yes, if they qualify. If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, certain family members may also be eligible to receive benefits, including your spouse and/or your child(ren). However, a family’s disability benefits are limited to a maximum of no more than 150% of the claimant’s monthly benefit.

This means that a claimant who has an eligible spouse and one child may receive the benefits divided three ways between the claimant (100%) and the spouse and child each receiving 25%. But if a claimant has a spouse and three eligible children, the spouse and children would each only receive an amount equal to 12.5%

To be eligible to receive disability benefits based on the main claimant’s earnings, a child must be:

  • Unmarried,
  • under 18 years old, or
  • be 18 or 19 years old and a full-time student ( no higher than 12th grade)
  • be 18 or older and be disabled from an impairment that began before they reached age 22.

No, you do not need to hire an attorney to help with your SSD claim. But preparing and filing your own disability claim can be a big mistake. Anyone thinking about filing an SSD claim should consider how important this procedure will be to the rest of their life. If they mischaracterize the disability because they don’t realize that their disability is categorized under a different section of the Blue Book of Listed Impairments, they may lose out on thousands of dollars of deserved benefits and months or years of unnecessary delay.

Lawyers are not the only professionals who work for disabled people needing to file SSD claims. Trained, recognized, certified Social Security Disability advocates are available to help you from the first step to the last. These experienced disability advocates will help obtain all of your work history, contact all of your doctors and healthcare providers, and gather together all the necessary medical records. Then, they will organize all the information into a coherent, compelling, and persuasive disability claim package that complies with the Social Security Administration’s preferred format.

If you are considering filing for Social Security Disability benefits, talk to a disability advocate at Disability Help Today. You deserve it.