Frequently Asked Questions
How much will I receive in benefits each month?
If you are found eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits your benefits will be based on your income and contributions over the last 35 years of your employment. In many cases, the Social Security office will use the last 10 years of employment as their basis for determining the benefits. In addition to your contributions, they will also take into account the amount of years you were in the workforce and the age that you decided to apply for benefits. In some cases, spouses or ex-spouses may use some of the credits of their spouse to maximize their benefits. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will receive a monthly payment of up to $771.00 per month for an individual or $1,157.00 per month for an eligible couple. This amount may be reduced, however, if you and your spouse have too much income or resources.
How long does it take to obtain benefits?
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that there is no easy answer to this. It varies significantly depending upon a host of factors. It can take approximately 6 months to receive a decision on your initial application and again on reconsideration. If your application is denied, it can take an additional year and a half or even more to obtain a decision as your claim works its way through the appeals process. If your claim ends up as a federal court appeal this will add even more waiting time to your process- sometimes years. Unfortunately, even with the help of an attorney there often isn't any way to speed up this process. However, due to the long wait times, it's even more critical to make sure that you take advantage of your hearing and appeals opportunities when you get them. An attorney will help you present the best case for disability.
Can I try to return to work if I’m on disability?
Yes. Most people would rather work than live off of disability benefits but are worried that they might try to work and be unable to. These attempts should not affect your disability in many cases. There are multiple special rules that help you keep your disability benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. However, these rules can be very complicated and it's important to talk to your attorney about the details of how these programs work.
Why was I denied disability when I see so many people who are not disabled getting benefits?
While there are some individuals who may be capable of working who are found disabled, this represents a small minority of cases. Contributing to this perception is the fact that there are many individuals who suffer from disabling impairments that are not readily visible or apparent. For example, individuals with mental disorders or chronic pain disorders such as migraines may not always appear to be impaired because the vast majority of people only see them when they are well enough to be out in public. Social Security reviews hundreds or even thousands of pages of medical records and other documentation in reviewing an individual's disability claim and are more likely to err on the side of denying claims than paying them.
Can I be found disabled based upon my mental illness?
The short answer is yes. Just like physical impairments, mental illness can be disabling. However, as there is little in the way of objective testing to confirm or deny mental illness, it is critical to have ongoing treatment for your mental health disorder in order to establish the kind of evidence that will illustrate an inability to work. Merely having a diagnosis is not sufficient to establish disability. Mental illness is widely misunderstood, even by Social Security reviewers and judges. This makes it crucial to have representation that understands what is necessary to establish disability from a mental disorder.
My doctor says I’m disabled- so why I have I been denied?
There may be a difference between your doctor's definition of "disabled" and what Social Security recognizes as a disabling level of impairment. Social Security has specific steps and criteria that need to be followed and met before finding an individual disabled. A doctor's opinion may be extremely helpful in establishing disability, but it does not guarantee a favorable result. This is particularly true if the doctor's opinion does not provide information that helps to establish the specific limitations that would prevent employment. Your attorney can help by asking your doctor the right questions so that their opinion can be as useful as possible.
Will I receive medical insurance?
If you are awarded Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), you will be eligible for Medicare coverage after a waiting period of 29 full months after the date you are found disabled. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will likely be entitled to Medicaid coverage as soon as your entitlement to SSI begins.