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Common Questions About Social Security Benefits

Although applying for Social Security benefits should be a straightforward and transparent process, it might be more complex than initially expected. If you or a loved one are applying for Social Security or have been denied this benefit, we are sure you have questions about the process and what to expect.

Following are some answers to the most common questions from our clients at The Law Offices of Sandra Serra in Leominster, hoping they can serve as a guide or reference in your process.

What Is The Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance (Dib) And Supplemental Security Income?

This terminology is confusing because both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a program financed through general tax revenues – not through Social Security trust funds. SSI disability benefits are paid to people who have a disability and who don’t own much or have a lot of income.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, or DIB, is a program that workers, employers and the self-employed pay for with their Social Security taxes. You qualify for these benefits based on your work history, and the amount of your benefit is based on your earnings.

Is It Hard To Apply For Social Security Disability Benefits?

No. There are a number of ways to apply for a Social Security Disability claim. You can contact our law firm for a free brochure describing the application process. If your claim is for SSDI you can file on the Social Security Administration website at However, if your claim is for both SSDI and SSI, or only for SSI, you can either first go to your local Social Security District Office and file the claim in person, or secondly call Social Security. They will arrange for a telephone interview for you. Once the interview for you is finished they will send the necessary forms for you to fill out. All the basic information will have been collected during the phone interview.

Our lawyers prefer to be retained as soon as you have filed your application. Statistics show that people with quality representation have a greater chance of having their applications approved. Our experience shows that the earlier in the process we get involved, the stronger the claim.

What Should I Do If Social Security Denies My Claim For Disability Benefits?

Understand that this is not unusual. Social Security only approves about 30% of disability claims at the initial level. You should file an appeal for reconsideration. You should also think about hiring an attorney to represent you because this risk of denial or long delays in the approval is increased. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Law Offices of Sandra Serra offers free consultation and you pay no fee in the rare event we are unable to secure approval for SSDI or SSI benefits. So DO NOT GIVE UP and DO NOT WORRY! We are on your side!

What Diseases Qualify For SSDI Or SSI?

Any “medically determinable impairment” which makes it impossible for you to work for at least 12 months can qualify for disability benefits. At the Social Security Disability Attorneys we have successfully represented people with many different medical problems including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, chronic headaches, depression, hepatitis C, PTSD, bipolar disorder, congestive heart failure, asthma, emphysema, diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic pain disorders.

Are you having trouble receiving your SSDI/SSI? Contact The Social Security Disability attorneys today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Law Offices of Sandra Serra offers free consultation and you pay no fee in the rare event we are unable to secure approval for SSDI or SSI benefits. Experience that gets results.

Can I Apply For Partial Disability SSDI Benefits?

No, Social Security does not provide partial disability benefits.

I Am 70% Disabled. Do I Get 70% Of My Social Security Benefits?

No. There are no percentages of disability of Social Security benefits. You are either disabled or you are not.

Can I Get Worker’s Compensation And Social Security Disability Benefits?

Yes. Worker’s comp benefits will reduce your Social Security benefits, but in almost all cases some Social Security benefits are still paid. We encourage people to apply as soon as possible so they don’t have a lapse in income between worker’s comp ending and Social Security Disability benefits beginning.

How Do Worker’s Compensation Payments Affect My Disability Benefits?

Ordinarily, disability payments from other sources do not affect your Social Security Disability benefits. But, if the disability payment is workers’ compensation or another public disability payment, you and your family’s benefits may be reduced.

Your Social Security Disability benefit will be reduced so that the combined amount of the Social Security benefit you and your family receive plus your workers’ compensation payment and/or public disability payment does not exceed 80% of your average current earnings.

Will Social Security Consider Both Your Work-Related Disability As Well As Your Non-Work-Related In Determining Your Entitlement To Benefits?

Social Security will consider the combined effect of all your disabilities and impairments without regard to whether they are work-related or not. If there is a combination of severe medical impairments they all will be considered to determine if you are disabled.

How Can I Tell If I Will Be Found Disabled By Social Security?

There is no easy way to tell if you will be found disabled by Social Security. An individual should make the decision about whether to file for Social Security Disability based on their own belief about their condition. If denied, the individual should consult with an attorney to get an opinion about their chances for a successful appeal.

Do You Have To Be Permanently Disabled To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

No. You have to be disabled for at least a year or be expected to be disabled for at least a year. If you expect to be out of work for a year or more due to illness or injury, you should file for Social Security Disability benefits.

My Doctor Says I Am Disabled, Why Is Social Security Denying My Claim?

Social Security’s position is that it is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled. They will make their own decision based on the evidence they choose to consider. Most claims are denied because the medical proof is not sufficient to prove that you are totally disabled. This could be because the doctor does not understand the legal requirements or because Social Security reviewers misinterpreted the medical records. Social Security will rarely deny you have a medical diagnosis, or that you are impaired, but does deny that you proved the legal requirements of being “totally disabled”. Our lawyers and staff work with our clients’ medical providers to make certain that the medical proof is as strong as possible.

The Va Says I Am Disabled, So Why Is Social Security Denying My Social Security Disability Claim?

It is Social Security’s position that VA decisions are not binding upon them. Social Security and VA have very different standards for approving disability claims.

Are you having trouble receiving your SSDI/SSI? Contact The Social Security Disability Attorneys today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Law Offices of Sandra Serra offers free consultation and you pay no fee in the rare event we are unable to secure approval for SSDI or SSI benefits. Experience that gets results.

How Is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Determined?

Substantial gainful activity can be measured in two ways:

Total actual monthly wages (dollars) any work that generates gross (before taxes) earned income that is equal to or greater than $940 (SGA) as of 2008 ($1,570 for blind beneficiaries).

Substantial gainful activity can be the dollar value the Social Security Administration places on work activity even if wages are not paid. If SSA places the value of work to be $940 or more the work is considered Substantial Gainful Activity as of 2008 ($1,570 for blind beneficiaries).

If I Am Approved For Social Security Disability Benefits, How Much Money Will I Receive?

Contrary to popular belief, the amount of collected benefits is not based on financial need. Your potential benefits are based upon the income you have earned throughout all of your work years. Payment of benefits is based on the average amount earned which is determined by your Social Security records.

How Far Back Will They Pay Benefits If I Am Found Disabled?

For Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), payment does not begin until five months have passed after the individual becomes disabled. Benefits cannot be paid for more than one year prior to the date the claim was filed. Supplemental Security Income benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month after the claim is filed.

Can Alcohol And Drug Addicts Really Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

Not anymore. Congress has now prohibited Social Security from paying benefits on the basis of drug addiction or alcoholism. In a nutshell, the law states that if SSA determines that the claimant is disabled but that drug abuse or alcoholism (DA&A) is a contributing and material factor to the claimant’s disability determination, the claimant cannot be found disabled and receive benefits. Put into simple terms, this means that the disability would not be there if the person did not abuse alcohol and/or drugs, and if the claimant stopped drinking alcohol or abusing illegal drugs, he/she would no longer be disabled. If an alcoholic or drug addict becomes disabled for reasons other than their addiction, they can become eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. For example, if you have a severe back impairment, involving multiple surgeries before you were finally diagnosed with failed back syndrome, it would be silly if Social Security could find that if you stopped drinking or using drugs you would no longer be disabled from your back impairment.

However, if you only have mental impairments, you will probably lose your case. This is because most psychiatrists and psychologists would consider your primary problem to be addiction-related. They would have to be able to examine you after a period of sobriety of over a month before they could reach an opinion as to what your diagnosis would be. Often when a person can stay clean for a few months and your doctor can evaluate you both in a clean state and when under the influence, it is not surprising the doctor often notes great improvement in mental functioning after a period of sobriety. For example, alcohol is a depressant. If your alleged impairment is major depressive disorder, it is logical that drinking alcohol will make your condition worse.

Any mention of drug addiction or alcoholism in your medical or social security records or at your hearing is highly detrimental to your claim. We advise that you stay away from illegal drugs and alcohol consumption altogether and get treatment if you can.

If I Am Found Disabled Are My Children Entitled To Benefits?

If a parent is disabled, children who are: under 19, still in high school or disabled prior to age 22 are entitled to benefits. The benefit received by a dependent child is limited to 50% of the parent’s monthly benefit.

Can My Child Collect Disability Benefits From Social Security If He/She Is Disabled And Has Never Worked Before?

This may be possible. Depending upon the age of your child they may qualify for either SSI child’s disability benefits or SSI disability benefits. The child may also be able to obtain adult child benefits if their parents are already receiving Social Security benefits or are deceased.

If I Go Back To Work Will I Automatically Lose My Disability Benefits?

No, the new law has not changed Social Security’s work incentive rules. For more information about Social Security’s work incentives, you should contact Social Security or speak with an attorney.

I Applied For Disability Benefits Three Months Ago And Still Haven’t Received An Answer. When Should I Expect To Be Notified Of The Decision?

The average and actual time it takes to process your claim may be more or less based on:

  • The state you live in
  • The nature of your disability
  • How quickly Social Security can obtain medical evidence from your doctor or other medical sources
  • Whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination

I Have Been Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits For The Past Four Years And My Condition Has Not Improved. Is There A Time Limit On Social Security Disability Benefits?

No. You will continue to receive a disability benefit as long as your condition keeps you from working. But, your case may be reviewed periodically to see if there has been any improvement in your condition and whether you are still eligible for benefits. If you are still eligible when you reach 65, your disability benefits will be automatically converted to retirement benefits.

I Understand That To Get Social Security Disability Benefits Your Disability Must Be Expected To Last A Year. Does This Mean That You Must Wait A Year After Being Disabled Before You Can Get Benefits?

No, you do not have to wait a year after the onset of the disability before you can get benefits. You should file as soon as you can after becoming disabled and benefits begin after a 5 month waiting period. The waiting period begins with the month Social Security decides your disability began.

Why Is There A Five-Month Waiting Period For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments. Social Security is designed to provide a continuing income to you and your family when you are unable to do so. Benefits continue as long as you remain disabled.

Can My Congressman Help Me Get My Social Security Benefits?

The local Congressional office will usually have staff that is experienced with Social Security procedures. A “Congressional Inquiry” may help to get the case moving, but that inquiry will have no impact on the outcome of the case.

If I Am Over Age 65 And Already Receive Social Security Retirement Benefits, Can I Receive Additional Benefits If I Am Disabled?

No. You cannot receive additional benefits for disability after age 65.

Are you having trouble receiving your SSDI/SSI? Contact The Social Security Disability attorneys today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The The Law Offices of Sandra Serra offers free consultation and you pay no fee in the rare event we are unable to secure approval for SSDI or SSI benefits. Experience that gets results.

Is It Easier To Prove Disability For Social Security Benefits For Those Approaching Advanced Age (50+)?

Yes, the combination of advanced age, severe mental or physical impairment and limited work experience can seriously affect a Claimant’s ability to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Read more about the Grid Rules here.

Can You Request Social Security To Estimate Your Disability Benefits?

Yes, by going to your local Social Security office and requesting Form SSA-7004-SM-opu, Request for Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement. Social Security Administration Earnings Record.

How Do I Get Medicare?

Medicare is the federal government’s health insurance program and is available to people on retirement or on SSDI. If you are on SSDI you will become Medicare eligible on the 30th month after your onset date, that is, the date that Social Security says you became disabled.

How Do I Get Medicaid?

Medicaid is the joint federal-state health insurance program that covers certain categories of people. One of those categories is the “totally disabled” so that when your SSI claim is approved you will be Medicaid eligible. SSDI beneficiaries may also be Medicaid eligible, however, Medicaid is based upon total family income and assets so you will need to check your state’s guidelines.

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

SSDI benefits may be taxable depending on your total family taxable income. For example, a person filing as an “individual” with a combined income between $25,000 and $34,000 would have to pay income taxes on 50% of the SSDI benefits. If the combined income is more than $34,000 then 85% of the SSDI benefit is taxable. You should consult with an experienced tax expert when your claim is approved to make certain that you plan for any tax liabilities.

If Social Security Tries To Cut Off My Disability Benefits, What Can I Do?

You should appeal immediately. If you appeal within 10 days after being notified that your disability benefits are being ceased, you can ask that your disability benefits continue while you appeal the decision cutting off your benefits. You may also want to talk with an attorney about representation on your case, but you should appeal immediately.

Are There Rules For Immigrants To Qualify For The Social Security Disability Programs?

Yes. You must be a legal United States resident. The Social Security Administration provides an explanation of the rules. Another source of information for immigrants and Social Security is the People’s Guide.

What Is A Representative Payee?

Sometimes people are unable to manage their money. When this happens Social Security should be notified. They can arrange to send benefits to a relative or other person who agrees to use the money to take care of the person for whom the benefits are paid. Social Security calls the person who manages someone else’s benefits a “representative payee.”

Do I Need An Attorney To Represent Me In My Social Security Disability Claim?

No, you do not need a lawyer in order for you to file and pursue a claim for disability benefits. Any claimant can represent themselves in all phases of the Social Security Disability process. However, the Social Security Administration’s own statistics show that claimants with representation are far more successful in winning their claims than those who don’t have a lawyer.

Your attorney will act as a buffer between you and administrative bureaucrats. Claimants receive a great deal of paperwork from the Social Security Administration – forms, circulars, notices, requests, addendums and affidavits. This paperwork is often complicated and confusing. What has to be filed? When? Where? With Whom? Why? How? Your attorney knows and will help to ensure that all of your paperwork is completed and filed correctly, and on time. A missed deadline can be critical to your claim.

When you hire an attorney, you benefit from the attorney’s claims-handling experience.

How Do Lawyers Get Paid For Representing Social Security Disability Claimants?

In most cases, the attorney receives 25% of the past-due benefits if the claimant wins, and no fee if the claimant loses. Clients are responsible for medical expenses.

Do Not Give Up. Call To Learn Your Options.

Whether it was the first time you filled out the application or you received a denial, let’s discuss your case and possibilities in a free initial consultation. For almost 17 years, we have helped our clients from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York get their benefits. Call 978-300-7365, our toll-free number, or fill out this online contact form to schedule an appointment in our Leominster office. Hablamos español.