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FAQ: Social Security Disability and SSI

QUALIFYING FOR BENEFITS

What is the difference between SSD and SSI? VIDEO

The Social Security Administration has two programs that are for persons who become unable to work because of medical impairments.

SSD vs SSI
The first is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD). This insurance program was added by Congress to the Social Security Administration’s original retirement benefit program in 1956. A part of the wages withheld from your paycheck has been used to buy you this disability insurance. If you become medically unable to work for one year or longer, you can make a claim for payment on your disability insurance policy. If the claim is approved, monthly insurance payments are then made to you and to your qualified dependents.

The Supplemental Security Income program is commonly known as “SSI”. It is intended to be a supplemental payment for those who do not have enough of a work history to become eligible for disability insurance benefits. SSI also provides a supplemental payment to persons whose disability insurance payments are not high enough to provide a minimum level of support. To be eligible for SSI, you must first of all be disabled, but you must also be financially needy in terms of income and resources.

Generally, when you apply for “disability” you will be asked to complete applications for both types of disability benefits. Social Security will screen you for eligibility under both programs.

What are the chances that I will qualify for disability benefits? VIDEO

Requirements to Qualify for Disability Benefits
To qualify for disability, you must prove that you have medical impairments that prevent you from engaging in regular employment for a time period of one year or more. The law requires that your age, your education and your work experience be considered in making the decision, because what may be a disabling impairment for one person may not be disabling for another when these additional factors are taken into account.

How good your case is depends on many things. When you hire Goss & Fentress to represent you, our attorneys investigate your case during the appeal process, secure all additional evidence that may be relevant to the outcome, and then evaluate your chances of success.

If we then feel there is no chance of success, we will tell you. What we generally find, however, is that with experience and preparation, there usually will be an opportunity to succeed.

How do my age, education and work experience affect my right to disability?

Disability is not purely a medical issue. To be found disabled, you must be unable to perform work activity that is generally available in the national, state and local competitive economy. Therefore, in making a determination as to whether you are disabled, Social Security also analyzes the competitive job market as well as your medical condition. This reflects a recognition that what may be a disabling condition to one individual may not be to another. Disability depends on the nature of the medical condition and the type of employment prospects available to the claimant for disability.

The disability standard requires that you not only show that you are unable to do the work you have done in the past. You must also prove that you are unable to do any other work that exists in the competitive economy. This is a high standard.

Therefore, in addition to considering your medical impairments, these vocational factors also are taken into account in developing your potential for competitive employment:

  • Work Experience: Skills acquired during a working career broaden the range of work opportunities. This becomes more important for older workers because, as stated above, employers are less likely to invest in training older workers. If you bring an array of job skills to the competitive workplace, you have more job placement opportunities, even with medical limitations.
  • Education: More education makes for a broader range of job prospects. This becomes particularly important when the claimed disability is a physical one. Workers with less education will generally find that work opportunities are more restricted to physically demanding jobs, where physical limitations make it harder to perform the job duties.
  • Age: The simple fact is that the older a worker is, the less value he has in the working world. This is because job training costs employers time and money, and the preference of employers is to invest in younger workers who have more years to generate a return on the employer’s investment in training. The regulations that are used to determine if an individual is unable to work are sorted into age groupings to reflect this reality, particularly when physical impairments are the basis for your claim.

Can I get disability approved while I am still working? VIDEO

Generally, the answer is no. This is because you need to show that you are presently unable to work to qualify for the benefits. It’s going to be pretty hard to do this if you are still working in a substantial way.

There are some exceptions to this general rule. If you are working only a few hours a week, or on an occasional or intermittent basis, and are unable to work more than this, you may still qualify. There are strict earnings tests that apply to this situation and your earnings must not be considered substantial.

On the other hand, after you qualify for and begin receiving disability benefits Social Security allows you to try to get back to work while still receiving your monthly payments.

What does my “Date Last Insured” mean?

The issue of “Date Last Insured” arises at times in Social Security disability insurance claims. It is not an issue in SSI claims.

Social Security Disability Insurance Covers:
Your payroll tax withholding is used to pay premiums that buy you Disability Insurance Benefits. Unlike your Social Security Retirement benefits, which become fully vested, your disability insurance coverage requires that you be “currently” insured as a worker. This means that you have to generate paychecks out of which payroll tax is withheld to buy ongoing disability coverage. When you stop working, and the paychecks stop, so do the premium payments. There is a period of extended coverage (up to five years) after which your disability insurance policy lapses. The date the coverage lapses is called your “Date Last Insured”. It is determined by the Social Security Administration as part of the claims process when you apply for disability insurance benefits.

In a Social Security Disability Insurance claim, you must establish that you became disabled prior to your Date Last Insured.

If my deceased spouse worked, can I get disability on his/her earnings record?

If you are a widow or widower, you can receive disability benefits on your deceased spouse’s earnings record as early as age 50, if you are disabled AND your disability started before or within seven years of your spouse’s death. If you were divorced from your deceased spouse, you may qualify for disability benefits the same as a widow or widower provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more.

The Social Security Administration uses the same definition of disability for widows and widowers as it does for workers.

You can receive survivors benefits on your deceased spouse’s earnings record at any age if you take care of your deceased spouse’s child who is under age 16 or is disabled and receives benefits on your deceased spouse’s record.

For details about Social Security Benefits Call Us
A widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse cannot apply online for survivor’s benefits. You must apply in person at your local Social Security Administration District Office.

Can I get SSI benefits for my disabled child?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available to disabled children in some cases where the child has severe physical or mental illness or injury. Special rules apply to the consideration of whether a child is “disabled”.

In addition to general physical health and wellbeing, the factors that are considered in determining child disability are the child’s ability to:

  • Acquire and use information
  • Attend to and complete tasks
  • Interact and relate to others
  • Care for self

All of the standards are considered from the standpoint of what would be age-appropriate for the child. Significant or severe discrepancies must generally be present.

Household income also matters for SSI Benefits
Household income must also be considered, as SSI is available to only those parents with limited income and resources.

FILING YOUR CLAIM

How do I file for disability? VIDEO

Applications for disability benefits are filed with the Social Security Administration district office in your locality. The Social Security Administrator provides a district office locator on line. The site is found at https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/. When you reach this site, simply type in your zip code as directed to get the contact information for the appropriate office where you should file.

Ways to file for Disability Benefits
There are three ways to file for disability benefits. You can apply for disability benefits in person, at your local Social Security district office. You will generally need to make an appointment by telephone to do this.

If you cannot travel to the Social Security Office, you generally will be allowed to file your application by telephone.

The third method of filing your disability application is by filing online with the Social Security Administration. The site that provides online application services is located at https://secure.ssa.gov/iCLM/dib.

As a reminder, always request a receipt from Social Security verifying that your application has been received.

What is Disability Determination Services “DDS”?

Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration District Offices, working with State agencies that are called Disability Determination Services or DDSs. These DDSs, which are fully funded by the Federal Government, are State agencies responsible for developing medical evidence and making the initial determination as to whether or not you are disabled under the law. In essence, claims examiners at your local DDS function like insurance claims adjusters.

When you file your application for disability benefits, your Social Security Administration District Office is first responsible for verifying initial eligibility requirements, which may include age, employment, marital status, or Social Security coverage information.

DDS Evaluates your Disability Case
The Social Security Administration District Office then sends your case to a DDS for evaluation of disability. Your application and related forms provide the DDS with a description of your medical impairment(s), treatment sources, and other information that relates to your claim for benefits. Usually, the DDS tries to obtain evidence from your own medical sources first. If the DDS claim examiner feels that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, the DDS may arrange for an independent medical examination to secure additional medical documentation. After completing its development of the evidence, medical staff at the DDS makes the initial disability determination.

Then, DDS returns the case to the Social Security Administration District Office for appropriate action. If DDS found that you are disabled, the Social Security Administration completes any outstanding non-disability development, computes the benefit amount, and begins paying benefits. If you are found not to be disabled, your file is kept in the Social Security Administration District Office in case you decide to appeal the determination.

Do I need to get my medical records for my case?

You do not have to get your own medical records for your claim. When you apply for benefits, you provide the Social Security Administration with the names and addresses of health care providers who may have relevant medical records that document your disability. That information is forwarded to the state office of Disability Determination Services (DDS), which is then required to secure these records for your claim.

You should be forewarned, however, that DDS does not always get all of your medical records. Often, claim denials are the result of incomplete documentation. If you receive a Notice of Decision that denies your claim for disability, the notice will contain a list of medical records received and reviewed in making the decision.

With us you don’t need to worry about Medical Records for Disability
If you ask Goss & Fentress to represent you in an appeal of your benefit denial, an important part of our work is to review all potential evidence with you to determine what is missing from the Social Security claim record. We then go after missing records. We also update records of new medical treatment during the course of your appeal. We may ask that you schedule an appointment with your treating doctor to get an evaluation of work restrictions resulting from your medical condition. If you are represented by Goss & Fentress, you don’t have to get your medical records. We have that covered.

Can my claim be denied if Social Security doesn’t get all of my records? VIDEO

The Social Security Administration is not required to collect all of your medical records before deciding your claim.

After you file your application for benefits, your claim is investigated by a state agency called Disability Determination Services, or DDS as it is commonly known. In your application paperwork, you will have provided information about places where you have been treated for your medical problems. The DDS staff will write to these health care providers for medical records, and then will place your claim on a schedule to receive records for review.

DDS will process and decide your case not when all records are received, but when it determines that it has enough medical documentation to make a decision. That decision can be a decision to deny your claim. And DDS alone makes the judgment as to how much documentation it needs.

Because health care providers can be slow to respond to requests for records, and because treatment records are continually being supplemented by evidence of recent treatment, DDS decisions are often made without all available medical records having been reviewed.

In addition, DDS will usually not contact your treating doctors to get their opinions as to whether or not you are disabled. These opinions may well be the most important evidence that could have supported your claim.

At Goss & Fentress, we want to win your case. That requires more than just processing requests for medical records and hoping they arrive. If health care providers are not responding to requests for important medical records, we go after them with determination. We can also ask your doctors to help in your case development if they will make themselves available.

You need all of your evidence presented before anyone decides your case, and we can get that done for you. If your disability claim has been denied, please give us a call.

Does Social Security send me to see a doctor? VIDEO

Usually the answer is no. When Disability Determination Services – or DDS – is investigating your disability claim, it will try to get your own medical records to decide to approve or deny the claim, without sending you to any doctors for medical examinations.

Once DDS has received some or all of your medical records, the records are given to a medical doctor on DDS staff to evaluate them. This doctor will never see you. If the DDS doctor then decides that physical or mental health examinations are necessary to supplement medical records, you will be notified that an appointment has been made for you to be examined by one or more health care professionals. These examinations will be paid for by Social Security.

Each examiner will write a medical report about your examination and send it to DDS. These reports are added to your claim file and are then used by the DDS doctor together with your own medical records to reach a decision in your claim.

As with most doctors’ appointments, these consulting examinations are usually very short, and the examining professional may not have reviewed your medical history before seeing you. It is unusual for any extensive diagnostic testing to be ordered. While sometimes helpful, these reports unfortunately are often vague and unenlightening.

At Goss & Fentress, when we develop evidence in your case, we prefer if possible to work with your doctors. They know your history and have examined you during the course of treatment. If you don’t have a doctor who can help us, we will if appropriate ask your judge to order in independent medical examination if that was not done by DDS.

Give us a call. We can help.

APPEALING YOUR CASE

If my SSI Claim is denied, how do I file an appeal? VIDEO

If your claim for disability or SSI benefits has been denied by the Social Security Administration, you will receive a Notice of Decision by mail advising you of this denial. The Notice of Decision will also inform you of your right to disagree with the denial of benefits, and will give you instructions for requesting a reconsideration of the denial.

Filing the paperwork to request a reconsideration of your claim denial begins the appeal.

If you receive a Notice of Decision that denies payment of benefits, this is a good time to make the decision to hire an attorney to represent you. Missed deadlines or failures to follow appeal processes can cost you the case, even if you could have ultimately been found disabled in the legal proceeding.

Contact Us if you are Denied for Social Security Disability

If you ask Goss & Fentress to represent you, our attorneys will immediately take responsibility for meeting your deadlines and correctly processing the appeal, so that you get to court on time and have your case heard. We have all the experience necessary to get it right for you.

How long do I have to file an appeal? What If I missed my SSI appeal deadline? VIDEO

The Notice of Decision you receive denying your claim will also warn you that you must take action within sixty (60) days of receiving your Notice of Decision. If you miss this deadline, it can be extended only if you have a good cause for doing so. If you did not receive the Notice, for example, and can show it was improperly mailed, this can be a basis for extending the appeal deadline.

If you have missed the appeal deadline without good cause, it may be possible to file a new application for benefits. This means stating over, so it is much better to file your appeal in time.

Contact our Attorneys to file your SSI Appeal
If you ask Goss & Fentress to represent you, our attorneys will immediately take responsibility for meeting your deadlines and correctly processing the appeal in order to get you to court and have your case heard. We have all the experience necessary to get it right for you.

I filed and got turned down and didn’t appeal. Can I file again?

First of all, you should never miss your deadline to file an appeal of an unfavorable decision on your disability claim if you can help it.

If you have missed the deadline for filing your appeal, and you have no reason for doing so that can be legally considered “good cause” for extending the appeal deadline and allowing a late appeal to be filed, there are certain instances where you can file a new claim.

You should think of Social Security Disability Insurance as an insurance policy, like other insurances. Because you have been found not to be disabled in the past does not mean that you will never qualify for benefits under the policy. If your condition has worsened – or you have not recovered from your medical disability – or you have new and stronger evidence of disabling medical conditions, you can file a new claim for benefits for as long as your disability is not beginning after your date last insured and there is an unadjudicated period of disability after you were previously denied. You likely will have waived your right to benefits under the prior claim, however, by not appealing it.

If your claim is for SSI disability payments, and you did not appeal the prior denial, you generally can file a new claim at any time. Again, you may have waived your right to benefits under the prior claims by not appealing, so refiling the claim is the second-best option to a timely appeal.

Don’t miss appeal deadlines for disability case
Missing appeal deadlines often presents complex obstacles to receiving the full benefits to which you are entitled, so it is best to have expert advice from an experienced attorney to navigate through the case if this has happened.

My doctor says I can’t work. Why did my claim get denied?

Many times, disability claimants will have discussed the possibility of trying to work with treating doctors. Your doctor may be concerned that your medical condition may be worsened by work activity, and may advise you not to continue to try to work because of this. Your doctor may even advise you to file for disability, and may give you a letter saying that he or she feels that you cannot work.

It can be surprising that your claim can be denied when this is your situation. But the Social Security Administration takes the position that because your doctor may not be familiar with the laws and regulations that govern entitlement to disability payments, your doctor’s statement that you are not able to work can be disregarded. In fact, these summary letters from treating doctors are often disregarded in favor of opinions expressed by doctors working for the office of Disability Determination Services, who have looked at your medical records.

Treating physician medical opinion is entitled to great weight in your disability claim if it is properly and comprehensively expressed and supported by treatment records. Getting a treating doctor’s opinion as to disability competently presented to your judge is something that a skilled and experienced attorney should do if possible. At Goss & Fentress, we consider development of this evidence critical, and work with you to develop this aspect of the evidence.

I get VA disability. Why did my Social Security claim get denied?

While the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration are both federal agencies, and both deal with medical disability claims, the laws and regulations that govern the determination of disability under each program are very different.

The determination of disability and entitlement for veteran’s disability payments involves a division of medical impairments into service-connected and non-service-connected impairments. The Veterans Administration program also is based on a system whereby partial disability can be awarded based on determining percentages of individual bodily impairments. These individual percentages are then added together to determine a rating upon which partial benefits can be awarded. Of course these ratings can add up to 100% unemployability.

The Social Security disability programs are available only for totally disabled persons. There is no percentage rating system used by medical examiners, and no award of payments for partial disability. Instead, the Social Security disability rating system assesses overall medical condition by looking at specific functional deficits the worker experiences from each impairment.

As a result, the two government disability programs are like apples and oranges – it’s hard to compare results from the two different methods of analyzing disability. Outcomes for disability determinations for the same individual under the two programs are often contradictory.

The one area of overlap, according to recent federal court decisions, is where a veteran has been rated 100% unemployable. The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that the fact that a veteran has been rated by the Veterans Administration as 100% disabled is something that must be accorded significant weight in the consideration of a Social Security disability claim.

YOUR ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING

What are the chances I will be approved at Reconsideration?

It is safe to say that fewer than one in five requests for reconsideration will result in a reversed decision and award of benefits. The statistics are sometimes worse than that.

You should understand that a Reconsideration of your claim is not an appeal to an independent adjudicator. It is instead a request directed to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to have its staff of claims examiners reevaluate the claim more for quality control purposes than to give you an independent and impartial review.

It is true that when you request a reconsideration of your disability benefit denial, your evidence is not reviewed by the same claims examiner who did the first review. However, the same manuals of decision and standards of evaluation are used that brought you the first denial. Same story different day, as the saying goes.

When you file your Request for Reconsideration, you should expect that you are only beginning your appeal process, and will ultimately need an experienced attorney to help you with your appeal. Let us file the Request for Reconsideration for you to ensure that no deadlines will be missed.

Will I have to go to Court? VIDEO

You probably will need to go to court to win the case. Unlike other kinds of legal matters that can be settled by agreement, once the Social Security Administration has denied a claim, it will very seldom agree to pay benefits unless you secure a court order from an administrative law judge commanding that your claim be paid to you.

While it is possible that a judge will issue such an order based on medical evidence alone, most of the time the judge will want the case presented in a court hearing at which you will appear and be asked to testify in support of your case.

At Goss & Fentress, our attorneys begin our preparation for this court proceeding the day you hire us. We are experienced trial attorneys who have over the years prepared thousands of clients for court. We will be with you all the way.

How long will my appeal take? VIDEO

As with virtually all court processes, your disability appeal will take months to process to its conclusion. Patience is required.

Most requests for reconsideration of claim denials are not successful at this first stage of the appeal, and you will probably need to go on with your appeal to the regional court by requesting a hearing in your case.

Just how long the appeal will take depends mostly on the regional court in which your case is heard. Time frames vary widely. The average processing times for all regional courts can be found online at:

http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/05_Average_Processing_Time_Report.html

While the process is not controlled by any attorney, at Goss & Fentress we do everything possible to get to the result as quickly as we can. We do this by always filing our paperwork quickly using online processes to avoid delays. We try hard to secure all of your medical evidence before your hearing day so that there is no delay in the judge’s reaching a decision. Finally, because we have a team of experienced attorneys, we are almost always able to take the first hearing date made available by the court.

Where will my disability hearings be held?

Disability cases are assigned for appeal to regional administrative law courts that are part of the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication Review (ODAR). Your case goes to the regional court for the region in which you reside. Regional courts are located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, to name a few.

Traditionally, the hearings in disability claims were heard in courtrooms located in the regional court buildings in these cities, and claimants were required to travel in some cases long distances to attend the hearing. In recent years, regional judges began traveling to local Social Security District Office buildings to hold hearings closer to where claimants lived to make it easier for them to appeal.

Video Hearings for Disability Cases
Even more recently, the administrative court has begun using video equipment to conduct video hearings, in which you and your attorney appear in a small courtroom located in your local Social Security office. Your judge presides from his own regional courtroom, and video teleconferencing equipment is used to communicate during the hearing. We are notified in advance if the case is to be heard with video communication.

You will be prepared by your attorney for your court presentation depending on what type of procedure is to be used by the court.

What happens at my hearing?

Every hearing is different because every case is unique, and each judge has his or her own style and procedure. Part of our preparation for your hearing is to acquaint you with your judge’s personality, procedure and style. Despite the differences, hearings generally include these components:

  • A short opening presentation during which you are sworn as a witness
  • A review of the medical evidence record with the judge by your attorney
  • A claimant’s statement of the case, which is your testimony
  • A vocational witness’s testimony to present a job history analysis and job market survey

Because all medical records are submitted to the court in advance of the hearing, and because the judge will continue to review the case after the hearing before coming to a decision, these hearings generally last no more than an hour. Also, you usually will not be told whether your claim will be awarded or denied at your hearing. When a decision is made in your case by the judge who has presided over your hearing, the judge issues a written Notice of Decision.

You will meet with your trial attorney in the days prior to your hearing to fully brief you on the case and hearing processes. Because the attorneys at Goss & Fentress prepare the documentary case in advance of your hearing, and prepare you to testify, your hearing can be expected to run smoothly.

LEGAL REPRESENTATION

Do I need an attorney to help me with my case? VIDEO

As with any court case, the law gives you the right to represent yourself.

If you choose to do so, you will be responsible for securing medical records and evaluation reports to present to the court, and for appearing and testifying in your own behalf. You also take the responsibility for arguing the regulations that apply to your claim, and understanding the hearing procedures that your judge will use for the court proceeding.

No matter what you may be told, you should not expect that the Social Security Administration or the reviewing court will “help” you present your case if you do not have an attorney.

As with any case that is to be presented in any court, an experienced attorney representing you can easily make the difference between winning and losing. The attorneys at Goss & Fentress have the experience necessary to make this difference possible for you.

How do I pay my attorney for my appeal? VIDEO

You will receive an initial consultation about your case by appointment at Goss & Fentress for which there is no charge.

If our attorneys can represent you, and if you decide to hire us, we charge 25% of whatever back award becomes due from the Social Security Administration. This agreement is made in writing and is submitted for approval to the Social Security Administration. The approved fee is paid directly by Social Security from your back benefit award. If we are not successful in getting you benefits, no fee is due.

In other words, you never have to get out your checkbook, and never get a bill from Goss & Fentress for our legal services.

Is there a difference between disability advocates and attorneys? VIDEO

Persons who hold themselves out to be advocates wanting to handle your case may or may not be attorneys. The Social Security Act provides that a disability claimant may be represented by the person of his or her choice. An “advocate” is any person you appoint as your representative. Your representative – or advocate – is not required by Social Security to have any professional qualifications.

So not all “advocates” are actually attorneys.

While the original intent of the law may have been to provide equal access to justice for all, this has created a fair amount of confusion when you are investigating who to hire for your disability case. It has become more and more difficult to determine while searching for representation whether you are actually contacting law firms or groups of non-attorney advocates.

Make no mistake about it – you will most likely need to present your case in court to an administrative law judge. In the courtroom you will be expected to present and explain your medical evidence. You will need to support your position as to how complex laws and regulations apply to your case. You almost certainly will need to testify in support of your case, and to examine and cross-examine expert witnesses at your hearing.

While non-attorney advocates may argue that it makes no difference whether your representative is an attorney or not, attorneys become licensed to practice law only after years of being educated in the law and in the art of trial practice. Representing you in court is what we are professionally trained to do.

Hire Us as your Disability Attorneys

At Goss & Fentress, our attorneys have degrees from some of the finest schools in the country. All are professionally licensed to practice law in a variety of state courts, and all have years of experience in both state and federal courtrooms throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

We are not just advocates. We are experienced trial attorneys. You have a choice. Let us help you.

AFTER YOUR CLAIM IS APPROVED

How much will my SSI payment be? VIDEO

If you are determined to be disabled, you will be entitled to receive a monthly disability payment. You also will generally receive a “back award” of benefits for some part of the time that has passed during the application and appeal process .

If you are covered for disability insurance, the monthly payment amount is determined by your earnings during your working career. The more money that has been withheld from your wages over the years, the higher the benefit payment will be. The Social Security Administration has a personal account feature on its website that will tell you what you can expect your payment to be. Just click to http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ and follow the directions to create a secure account that gives you this information.

SSI payment is different from Disability payment

SSI is different. There is a basic monthly amount determined by the state in which you live. This benefit amount is reduced by other income or support you receive. The determination of what your SSI payment will be is made by the Social Security Administration only after you have been approved for payment.

How much will my back award be?

When you apply for disability, two issues have to be determined. The first is whether you are disabled or have been disabled during any period for which you are requesting benefit payments. The second issue – if you are to be considered to be disabled – is when your disability began.

When your condition became disabling (and whether it continues to be disabling) can be a complex issue. With sudden onset of illness (a stroke, for example) or accidental injury, the matter can be simple. Slowly progressing illness, during the first part of which you still worked, presents a more difficult situation. The onset of disability frequently is an issue about which evidence and argument must be presented in court by your attorney.

If your claim is one for disability insurance benefits, determination of the onset date of your disability sets the date from which a back award of benefits can be calculated. Your back award will begin with the sixth month following your onset of disability, subject to the limitation that no back award will extend more than twelve months prior to the date of your application for benefits. The back award will extend through the month of your favorable decision. After that, your monthly payments begin.

If your SSI claim has been awarded, your back award can begin no earlier than the month you applied for benefits, but can begin later according to the judge’s decision about the onset of your disability. The District Office where you filed your application will be responsible for determining your monthly payment and your back award entitlement.

If your claim is awarded, you will receive written notices from the Social Security Administration explaining what your back award is and how it has been calculated.

If my claim is approved, will I get Medicare or Medicaid? VIDEO


Can I work part-time after I am approved for disability?

It is difficult to qualify for disability while you are still working. After you have been approved for your disability, however, there are some special rules that make it possible for you to work and still receive monthly payments. The rules are different for Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI.

You can do some part-time work after you begin receiving your disability payments, as long as the money you earn does not exceed monthly limits. You should verify these limits before you start working

The Social Security Administration also has a trial work period that allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During your trial work period, you receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning, as long as you report your work activity and you continue to have a disabling impairment. The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period.

If after your trial work period you are continuing to work, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not “substantial”, which again is defined with income limits.

Work expenses related to your disability may in certain instances be deducted from income when your earnings are considered in evaluating work activity.

If you are receiving SSI, The amount of your monthly payments is based on how much other income you have. When your other income goes up, your SSI payments usually go down. So when you earn more than the SSI limit, your payments will stop for those months. But, your payments will automatically start again for any month your income drops to less than the SSI limits. If your only income besides SSI is the money you make from your job, then the first $85 of your monthly earnings is subtracted from the income deduction from your benefit payment. Social Security then deducts from your SSI payments 50 cents of every dollar you earn after the $85 deduction.

Are my disability benefits taxable?

The Social Security Administration provides the following information on its website about taxation of Disability benefits:
Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Situations in which you have to pay tax on Disability Benefits

No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:

  • File a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
    • Between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
    • More than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • File a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
    • Between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
    • More than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • Are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits. For more information on this subject, go to http://www.ssa.gov/planners/taxes.htm

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