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Social Security Disability: FAQs


Q. When does Social Security disability apply?

If you become disabled and are unable to work, you might be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.

Q. What is SSI?

The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program. Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.

Q. How do I know if I qualify for Social Security disability?

The test for disability in Social Security cases requires that you have a disability which has lasted or is expected to last for a period of twelve (12) months and that you are unable to do any work.

Q. What if my claim for Social Security Disability gets denied?

If you file a claim for Social Security Disability and/or SSI benefits and are denied, contact our office without delay. You MUST request “Reconsideration” and a “Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge” within sixty (60) days from the date of the denial. If you fail to do so, you must start all over again and can lose a period of disability benefits for which you might be qualified.

Q. How much does it cost to get help with my appeal?

Attorney fees for Social Security Appeal cases are also done on a “contingency” fee basis and are 25% OR the maximum amount allowed by law, whichever is LESS. We only get paid if we win your case.

To decide whether you are disabled, the SSA uses a five step process:

1. Are you working? 

  • If you are working full time, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
  • If you are not working, go to Step 2.

2. Is your condition “severe”? 

  • Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, the SSA will find that you are not disabled.
  • If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, the SSA will go to Step 3.

3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?

  • For each of the major body systems, the SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA will have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, the SSA will find that you are disabled.
  • If it is not, the SSA will then go to Step 4.

      Note: The SSA has two initiatives designed to expedite processing of new disability claims: 
         Compassionate Allowances: Certain cases that usually qualify for disability can be allowed as soon as the
diagnosis is confirmed. Examples include acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and pancreatic cancer.

         Quick Disability Determinations: The SSA uses sophisticated computer screening to identify cases with a high
probability of allowance.
(For more information about changes to SSA disability claims process, visit the SSA Disability Service
Improvement website.)

4. Can you do the work you did previously? 

  • If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the SSA must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied.
  • If it does, the SSA will proceed to Step 5.

5. Can you do any other type of work? 

  • If you cannot do the work you did in the past,the SSA will determine if you are able to adjust to other work. The SSA will consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.


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