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Common Questions About Social Security Disability Claims

When should I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

Most people are eligible to file a disability application the day after they must stop working. If you believe you are disabled and unable to work, and also believe you may qualify for disability benefits, you should minimize the waiting time by filing a Social Security Disability application as soon as possible. It can take a long time (three to five months) to process an application for disability benefits.

When are you considered disabled and eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits?

To qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must be totally disabled. This means that your injury or illness prevents you from doing any “substantial gainful work” and is expected to last at least 12 months or to result in death. Also, you must have earned wages and paid into the Social Security system in at least 20 of the last 40 quarters.

What can a Social Security Disability claims lawyer do for me?

A Social Security Disability claims lawyer can ensure that you have all the required materials and assist you in completing the many forms required in a benefits claim application or appeal. And a Social Security Disability claims lawyer can provide this assistance at any point in the application / appeals process to remove a great portion of this burden from your shoulde

My Social Security Disability benefits application was denied. Can I apply for benefits again?

Yes, and you should. If you have received a “Notice of Disapproved Claim,” you are free to appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeal, which must be followed in order. After the initial denial and for any subsequent claim rejection, you have 60 days to file an appeal. The final level of appeal is to take your case to federal court.

My doctor says I am disabled. Why is the Social Security office denying my claim?

Social Security’s position is that it is not up to your doctor to determine whether you are disabled. The agency makes its own decision independently of your doctor’s opinion. Common reasons for which the Social Security Administration may deny an SSD application include:

  • Your disability is not severe enough. The SSA requires that your disability prevent you from working for at least 12 months or result in your death. Blindness is an exception to this requirement.
  • Your application is incomplete. If the Social Security office cannot establish your disability because medical information is not available to the examiner, the application can be rejected. If the examiner cannot find you for additional information because your contact information is unclear, your application may be rejected.
  • You have failed to follow doctor’s orders. If an applicant has not undergone therapy or treatment suggested by a medical professional, SSD benefits may be denied.

I was ill as a child and have never been capable of working for a living. Does Social Security provide benefits for me?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Social Security disability program that pays benefits to those who have a financial need because their disability has kept them out of the workforce. SSI is available for both disabled children and adults, although the requirements are different for each group.

How much will my benefits be?

The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. The Social Security Statement that you receive each year displays your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefits. If you do not have your Social Security Statement and would like an estimate of your disability benefit, you can request one at www.socialsecurity.gov or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

There are currently three methods available to potential claimants:

  • Filing for disability online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
  • Calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.
  • Walking into the Social Security office without an appointment.

To complete an initial SSD application, you must have a variety of information ready. This includes:

  • Medical records.
  • Workers’ compensation information, including the settlement agreement, date of injury, claim number and proof of other disability payments.
  • Names and dates of birth of minor children and spouse.
  • Marriage and divorce dates.
  • Checking or savings account numbers, including the bank’s 9-digit routing number for direct deposit of benefit checks.
  • Name, address and phone number of an emergency contact.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me in my Social Security Disability claim?

No. Any claimant can represent himself in all phases of the Social Security Disability benefits application process. However, claimants who are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer submit proper and complete applications and typically prevail in their cases more often than those who are not represented.

Can my family get benefits?

Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your years of employment. They include:

  • Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older.
  • Your spouse, at any age, if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled.
  • Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. (The child must be younger than 18 years old, or younger than 19 if in elementary or secondary school full-time.)
  • Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before he/she was  22 years old.
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