Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability












How much do I have to pay if I hire you as my representative?

The Social Security Administration sets the fees we can charge.  By law we cannot charge for our services unless Social Security approves our fees for each case we take.

We are paid directly by Social Security. And we only get paid if we get your disability claim approved. 

If we win your case we are paid directly by Social Security from the past-due amount of your claim, not to exceed 25% or $6,000.00, whichever amount is less

You get to keep at least 75% of the past due benefits, and all disability payments going forward belong to you alone.

How does Social Security define Disabled? 

Social Security uses a very strict definition of disability and their definition is different than other programs such as Workers Compensation or the VA.   

Here is how disability is defined by Social Security:

The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. To meet this definition, you must have a severe impairment(s) that makes you unable to do your past relevant work or any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.

What the law means is that Social Security only pays if they find that your impairments are severe and you are totally disabled.  There are no benefits for partial or short-term disability.  The physical or mental impairment that is causing your disability must be severe enough to prevent you from being able to do the work you did before, and you cannot adjust to any other kind of work, and your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

What are the differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?  How do I qualify?

Both SSDI and SSI require you to meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability.   Here are the main differences between the two programs:

  • SSDI pays benefits if you have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2020, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,410 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,640, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
  • SSI benefits are based on financial need and are not based on your work history.  You must still prove you are disabled, and prove you have very limited resources, but do not need a work history to qualify.  For example, disabled children may be able qualify for SSI, or stay at home parents who have too little work history to qualify for SSDI might qualify for SSI benefits if they become disabled.

We can help you determine if you qualify for one or possibly both programs.

Do I really need a representative, or can I represent myself?

You are allowed to represent yourself if you want to.  But this is usually not a good idea.  It is best to have someone that is knowledgeable and experienced with Social Security Disability laws to advocate on your behalf.

Many disabled people are denied Social Security Disability benefits simply because they don’t know how to prove that they are disabled.

Can I work and still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

Maybe, but it can complicate your claim very quickly and you are likely to be denied.  If you are working in 2020 and your earnings average more than $1,260 a month, Social Security will usually not consider you to be disabled.

Why was my application for Social Security Disability denied?

Many disabled people are denied when they apply for Social Security Disability benefits.  There are too many reasons to list them all, but here are some very common reasons for denial:

  •   Lack of a medical diagnosis in your medical records:  If your doctor did not provide a medical diagnosis to explain the symptoms that are preventing you from working, Social Security cannot determine why you are disabled.  The term “medically determinable” in the law means that there is a medical diagnosis that explains why you cannot work. 
  •   Lack of objective medical evidence:  This includes treatment records from you doctor, and reports from tests and evaluations like MRI’s, CT scans, x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, etc.  Medical evidence is needed to help confirm your diagnosis.
  •   Lack of medical treatment:  Social Security depends on your medical records as a primary source of evidence to determine the severity of the medical condition that is causing your disability.  If you do not have a clear record of seeking treatment for your condition, Social Security will have no way to determine that your condition is serious enough to prevent you from working.
  •   History of drug or alcohol abuse:  Drug or alcohol dependency that is documented in your records can seriously complicate a disability claim.  You will normally need to prove that the drug or alcohol abuse is not contributing to your disability, often by having successfully completing a substance abuse rehab program and being clean and sober for a long enough period to prove that substance abuse is not a factor in your disability.   
  •   Not complying with treatment plans:  If you do not follow your doctor or therapist’s treatment orders, including keeping appointments and taking medications as prescribed, it can be hard to prove that you are doing your best to improve your physical or mental health symptoms, and this may cause you to be denied.
  •   Working:  In some cases claimants may perform some limited work while their claims for Social Security Disability benefits are pending, but this can quickly become quite complicated, and may cause you to be denied.  Basically your ability to work is being judged by Social Security to determine if you qualify for disability benefits.  If you demonstrate, by working, that you are able to work and earn income beyond a certain threshold ($1,260 a month in 2020) you will not meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and your claim will be denied.
  •   Missing deadlines:  Most forms requested by Social Security during the process of applying for disability, filing appeals, or supplying medical or earnings records will have a deadline.  Missing a deadline can result in denial of disability benefits.













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