General Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a difficult, emotionally draining, and complex process. If you believe you may be eligible for disability benefits, contact one of our Social Security disability lawyers who can review your case and determine whether you are likely to qualify for benefits. Read on for more details.

You must not be gainfully employed. Additionally, you must have a severe impairment that already has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or longer (or is expected to end in death). The impairment must limit your ability to work. The Social Security Administration has a Listing of Impairments. If your impairment meets a listed impairment or is similar to a listed impairment, you could qualify. Even if your impairment does not meet a listed impairment, you may still qualify if it prevents full time work.

There is not a one-answer-fits-all answer to this question. In some situations, the answer is right away. When it is clear that you will not be able to work again, you have appropriate medical treatment, the reasons for your symptoms are documented, and your doctors think that you should file, then there is no reason to wait. Sometimes delaying a bit to get things all in line so that you can present your best case to Social Security may increase your chance of early success.  Attorneys at Roose & Ressler can help you decide the answer to this question.

This is a difficult question, and in the end only you can answer it. We understand that unemployment compensation may be the only way for you to have income that keeps you in your home and food on the table. We also understand that it often is not clear whether Social Security will find that you meet its standard of disability. There is no legal reason that you cannot apply for both programs and even receive benefits under both programs for the same period of time. (This could change. There has been political discussion that could prevent the possibility of a person receiving both types of benefits at the same time.)

But as you consider whether to apply for unemployment compensation, you should consider how it may affect your Social Security disability claim.

There is at least a seeming conflict present if you pursue both disability and unemployment for the same period of time. You must warrant that you are “ready, willing, and able to work” to be entitled for unemployment. You allege that you are “disabled” or unable to work when you apply for disability. In reality, there is not always a conflict because of how Social Security determines disability. Sometimes a person is disabled by Social Security’s standard even if there are some kinds of work that the person could perform.

Some Social Security decision-makers think that a person who pursues benefits from both programs is not credible. The thinking of some seems to be, “How can I trust what a person says about his or her symptoms and limitations who appears to have been dishonest (either to Social Security or to Unemployment Compensation) for the purpose of obtaining benefits?”

Some judges who decide cases at the hearing level appear to be so biased against a person who has received unemployment compensation that they will not find the person disabled during a period of time that they were receiving unemployment.

Receiving unemployment compensation can hurt a disability claim. But it is hard to predict how much effect it may have in any particular case. Attorneys at Roose & Ressler can help evaluate the risk in your particular circumstances.

Social Security disability lawyers should analyze your case thoroughly to determine what is necessary for you to receive benefits. They should assess the best methods on how to prove the crucial facts of your case and gather the necessary evidence. Disability lawyers may request and obtain reports from your treating physician. Additionally, they may recommend that you visit specialists to receive a more detailed report regarding your particular impairments. In some cases, they may ask a vocational expert to provide an expert evaluation. If a case has been closed, a Social Security disability lawyer may ask that the case be reopened. A lawyer should help you prepare to testify (answer questions at a hearing). If there are adverse witnesses, a lawyer may cross-examine them. Your disability lawyer may also prepare a summary of the evidence and argument about your case, either in writing before or after the hearing, or during the hearing.

If your case is denied at the initial application and on the reconsideration appeal, the next appeal is to request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  A disability hearing is a confidential proceeding that is commonly held in a small conference room or by video-teleconference and sometimes by telephone.  During a hearing, you will be asked about your work experience, education, training, limitations, symptoms, and daily activities. The ALJ may ask medical and vocational experts to participate as witnesses at your hearing.

There have historically been long wait times from the date that a hearing is requested to the date of the hearing. The length of the wait varies by hearing location, and at any location the wait time can lengthen and shorten. Wait times are currently short, by historical standards, from 6 to 10 months after you have requested it.

You must start the process over from the beginning if you do not file your appeal within 65 days from the date of your denial letter, unless you have “good cause” for filing it late (a very compelling reason you weren’t able to file on time).

Also often referred to as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, Social Security Disability benefits are monthly cash income and entitlement to Medicare health insurance based on your (or sometimes a family member’s) work history.  Generally, Social Security states: “To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually 10 years). Then, you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability.” 

Supplemental Security Income is federal funded monthly income designed to help qualifying disabled people pay for their basic needs.  Only people with very low or no income and very low resources qualify for SSI.

Non-Medical Requirements.  Both programs have non-medical eligibility requirements.  To qualify for SSD, one must meet earnings requirements (or in some cases have a family member who does).  To qualify for SSI, one must satisfy income and resource limits.  Further, for both SSD and SSI, one cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful activity,” which is usually determined by the amount of one’s gross earnings. The amount is adjusted yearly. Special rules apply for self-employment. If you do not meet the non-medical requirements of either program, you will not be eligible for a benefit no matter the severity of your medical conditions.

 

Medical Requirements.  You must have a “severe” impairment that already has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or longer (or is expected to end in death). “Severe” means that the impairment must limit your ability to work.  If you have a “severe” impairment, your condition(s) is compared to Social Security’s Listed Impairments, a set of rules with diagnostic and severity criteria. If your condition(s) meets (or equals the severity of) the criteria of a Listed Impairment, you are presumed “disabled.” If your impairment(s) does not meet a Listed Impairment, you may still qualify if it prevents you from performing the kinds of work you did in the 15-year period before you became disabled and it prevents you from performing other full time work. 

In summary, below are the minimum medical requirements:

You have a “severe” condition that has lasted or is expected to last a year (or is expected to end in death) and either:

  • Your condition meets or equals a condition that is a Listed Impairment; or
  • Your condition prevents you from performing your past work and from successfully performing other full-time jobs.

Our Roose & Ressler attorneys can help you evaluate whether you may qualify for SSD and/or SSI benefits.  If so, we  will walk you through the entire application/appeal process, making sure you have the best possible chance for approval.

Examples of physical disorders  that are often of a severity that can qualify you for benefits include: 

Amputation

Cancer of any kind

Diabetes

Digestive disorders

Epilepsy

Fibromyalgia

Brain injuries / TBIs

Hepatitis

Lung diseases and disorders

Lupus

Multiple Sclerosis

Neurological disorders

Parkinson’s disease

Rheumatoid arthritis

Sickle cell anemia

Stroke

Examples of mental disorders that are often of a severity that can qualify you for benefits include: 

Bipolar and Depressive disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Autism and related disorders

Intellectual Disorders

Organic Mental Disorders

Personality disorders

Schizophrenia, paranoia, and psychotic disorders

Somatoform disorders

The initial application and the first appeal (reconsideration) are decided by a state agency that contracts with Social Security.  In Ohio, it is called Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD).  The agency gathers medical records from your medical providers that you tell them about and other records.  They may determine that additional medical information is needed and schedule a physical or mental consultative examination for you to attend.  These examinations are provided at no cost to you.  Medical consultants hired by the agency advise them about the severity of the medical conditions and give opinions about the extent of your limitations.  A decision-maker called an Adjudicator then issues a determination.

Social Security Disability benefits will stay in effect for as long as you are disabled or until you reach full retirement age. At full retirement age, your Social Security Disability benefits stop and your retirement benefits will start.  The transition is seamless, and the monthly amount is the same, except for cost of living adjustments.

Frequently Asked Questions About Applying For Social Security Disability

Social Security’s preferred application method is that you file your application online at their website (www.ssa.gov). On-line applications, however, are not required. One can call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or the local Social Security office to get an application started.  The Roose & Ressler Social Security attorneys recommend that you attempt to file applications for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It may turn out that you don’t qualify for both, but let Social Security review your earnings and finances to determine your possible eligibility for both programs.

SSA Office Locator. The Official Website of the U.S. Social Security Administration: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

Yes, if we agree to represent you at the initial application stage, we will walk you through the entire application process. 

Don’t give up, presuming that you are convinced that your medical conditions are continuing to keep you from working!  Be sure to file a reconsideration appeal within the 60-day appeal time.  Many legitimately disabled people have to file one or more appeals before finally establishing that they are disabled.  

You can file your appeal at Social Security’s website (www.ssa.gov).  You can also call Social Security and request that the paper appeal documents be mailed to you.  Your call does not satisfy Social Security’s requirements for filing your appeal.  Your on-line filing must be made or written appeal sent to a Social Security office within the allowed time.

You have 60 days from your receipt of the most recent denial for your appeal to be timely. Social Security assumes you received the notice 5 days after the date on the notice, unless you can prove otherwise.  If you file an appeal after the appeal time, it will only be accepted if Social Security determines that you had “good cause” for filing it late.

Social Security does not require that you have an attorney at any stage of the process.  

An attorney can give you the best possible chance that your claim will be approved.

Sometimes the process is confusing or complicated.  An attorney can explain what is happening and can ease your mind when there is nothing to be concerned about and take action for you when there is a concern.

An attorney can be your partner, walking through the process with you, from beginning to end, including making sure that you are paid all the benefits to which you are entitled when you win.

Roose & Ressler attorneys are ready to speak with you about your claim to see if we can help you.

There is no cost to meet with us initially to discuss your case. Contact us today and schedule a free, no obligation meeting with one of our local attorneys and decide for yourself if you’d like to put our hard working team to work for you. Generally,  we receive a fee only when we help you prove you are disabled.