FAQ - Social Security Disability

Where can I find the forms to sign up for SSI and/or SSDI?

Shults Law Firm has provided a link below for the Social Security Administrations website that has all the forms an applicant will need to fill out during the process – http://ssa.gov/online/ .

Should I hire an attorney to help with my disability claim?

Most SSDI and SSI claims are denied at the initial and reconsideration levels. Unfortunately this is usually the case even if you have hired an attorney. Because the majority of claims are denied at the first two levels, both SSDI and SSI claims will need to go to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). While a disability attorney can’t guarantee that a claimant will be awarded SSDI or SSI benefits, a Social Security lawyer can make sure that a case will be properly developed prior to a hearing date.

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

The main difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSDI is only available to individuals who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits. SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

What is the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of “disability”?

According to the SSA an individual is considered disabled if he has a physical and/or mental condition that renders him unable to perform “substantial gainful activity.” The SSA will also consider a claimant’s age, education and past work history. The condition must have been or be expected to last one year (or to result in death).

What are the costs associated with filing a claim for SSI or SSDI with the Social Security Administration?

The only expenses that any client has are the cost of medical reports from their doctors. There are no costs to file an SSD or SSI application with the Social Security Administration.

Am I eligible for any “backpay” benefits from the Social Security Administration for my disability?

Possibly. An individual applying for SSDI benefits can get backpay benefits for up to one year before you applied. “Backpay” benefits are for the months prior to your application date – up to 12 months, provided you were not working and you were disabled. Backpay benefits are only available for SSDI claims.

I have applied for SSDI (or SSI) and have been turned down – how long do I have to appeal the decision?

Generally an individual has 60 days to appeal any denial of Social Security Disability benefits. You or your representative can appeal a denial the same way that you file an application by either doing it in person, by mail, or through the internet.

How many stages are there in the disability process in Tennessee?

There are five possible stages in Tennessee. There is the Initial Application stage – most people are denied at this stage. You have 60 days to appeal after the initial denial. The second stage is called Reconsideration. Most people are again, denied at the Reconsideration phase. Again, you will have 60 days in which to appeal. The third stage is the most critical. It is the hearing stage. This is where you go in front of the Administrative Law Judge. If you are denied at a hearing, you have 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council. If you lose at the Appeals Council, you have the right to file in federal court though generally that is extremely difficult and cannot be done successfully without an experienced lawyer.

How long does it take to get a decision from the Social Security Administration regarding the Initial phase?

Each state has a separate state agency – Disability Determination Services – that is responsible for making the initial medical determination on a disability case. The amount of time has increased as more people are applying for both SSI and SSDI. Generally 4 – 8 months is not unusual.

My application for SSDI/SSI benefits has recently been denied by the Social Security Administration. Should I appeal or just file again?

It is generally better to appeal rather than to re-file. There are some times, however, particularly after denial at the hearing level that you may want to start the process over and refile. This is especially true if there is some new medical proof that makes your case stronger than before.

What makes a strong disability case?

The strongest disability cases are those where there is trustworthy medical evidence to corroborate your impairments. Particularly, the strongest cases are those in which your personal doctor supplies a thorough narrative of your impairments over a substantial period of time.

Will the fact that I am an older individual play a substantial role in getting me awarded disability benefits?

Yes. The older you are, the more the Social Security Administration considers you to be less trainable and less able to adjust to new work environments- simply meaning, you are less employable. So it can be much easier to win if you are older individual compared to that of a younger person.

Where can I find the forms to sign up for SSI and/or SSDI?

Shults Law Firm has provided a link below for the Social Security Administrations website that has all the forms an applicant will need to fill out during the process – http://ssa.gov/online/ .

Should I hire an attorney to help with my disability claim?

Most SSDI and SSI claims are denied at the initial and reconsideration levels. Unfortunately this is usually the case even if you have hired an attorney. Because the majority of claims are denied at the first two levels, both SSDI and SSI claims will need to go to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). While a disability attorney can’t guarantee that a claimant will be awarded SSDI or SSI benefits, a Social Security lawyer can make sure that a case will be properly developed prior to a hearing date.

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

The main difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSDI is only available to individuals who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits. SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

What is the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of “disability”?

According to the SSA an individual is considered disabled if he has a physical and/or mental condition that renders him unable to perform “substantial gainful activity.” The SSA will also consider a claimant’s age, education and past work history. The condition must have been or be expected to last one year (or to result in death).

What are the costs associated with filing a claim for SSI or SSDI with the Social Security Administration?

The only expenses that any client has are the cost of medical reports from their doctors. There are no costs to file an SSD or SSI application with the Social Security Administration.

Am I eligible for any “backpay” benefits from the Social Security Administration for my disability?

Possibly. An individual applying for SSDI benefits can get backpay benefits for up to one year before you applied. “Backpay” benefits are for the months prior to your application date – up to 12 months, provided you were not working and you were disabled. Backpay benefits are only available for SSDI claims.

I have applied for SSDI (or SSI) and have been turned down – how long do I have to appeal the decision?

Generally an individual has 60 days to appeal any denial of Social Security Disability benefits. You or your representative can appeal a denial the same way that you file an application by either doing it in person, by mail, or through the internet.

How many stages are there in the disability process in Tennessee?

There are five possible stages in Tennessee. There is the Initial Application stage – most people are denied at this stage. You have 60 days to appeal after the initial denial. The second stage is called Reconsideration. Most people are again, denied at the Reconsideration phase. Again, you will have 60 days in which to appeal. The third stage is the most critical. It is the hearing stage. This is where you go in front of the Administrative Law Judge. If you are denied at a hearing, you have 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council. If you lose at the Appeals Council, you have the right to file in federal court though generally that is extremely difficult and cannot be done successfully without an experienced lawyer.

How long does it take to get a decision from the Social Security Administration regarding the Initial phase?

Each state has a separate state agency – Disability Determination Services – that is responsible for making the initial medical determination on a disability case. The amount of time has increased as more people are applying for both SSI and SSDI. Generally 4 – 8 months is not unusual.

My application for SSDI/SSI benefits has recently been denied by the Social Security Administration. Should I appeal or just file again?

It is generally better to appeal rather than to re-file. There are some times, however, particularly after denial at the hearing level that you may want to start the process over and refile. This is especially true if there is some new medical proof that makes your case stronger than before.

What makes a strong disability case?

The strongest disability cases are those where there is trustworthy medical evidence to corroborate your impairments. Particularly, the strongest cases are those in which your personal doctor supplies a thorough narrative of your impairments over a substantial period of time.

Will the fact that I am an older individual play a substantial role in getting me awarded disability benefits?

Yes. The older you are, the more the Social Security Administration considers you to be less trainable and less able to adjust to new work environments- simply meaning, you are less employable. So it can be much easier to win if you are older individual compared to that of a younger person.

Are some disability cases more easily won than others?

Yes. If you are legally blind, you are automatically disabled. If you have Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it’s likely you will be paid right away. On the other hand, psychiatric cases are generally harder to win than others because many psychiatric patients fight the process or they don’t see their doctors regularly. It is also very hard to win a pain case where someone alleges a great deal of pain and there is no readily determinable injury or a lack of medical records to prove the impairment.

I have been denied twice by SSA – How long will it take if I appeal to a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge?

Unfortunately, due to the amount of people applying for SSDI/SSI benefits, it is rare for you to get a hearing in less than one year in Tennessee. In some parts of the country, it can take two years or longer to get a hearing. The national average is well over one year. At Shult’s Law we will do everything in our power to expedite your case.

Is there any way to expedite my Hearing before the Administrative Law Judge?

Yes, although it is rare. In many hearing offices judges will try to weed out the cases they can easily grant because the medical evidence is so strong. If you have very strong medicals or a very serious condition, we at Shults Law will try to do what is called an “on-the-record” letter to the judge hoping to expedite the matter. We write to the judge, summarizing the overwhelming evidence of disability in the hope that the judge will agree and grant benefits without the need for a hearing.

Do you have to be a United States citizen to qualify for SSDI?

As of 2014, Non-citizens can apply for SSD if they are here legally. This can be a complicated process, you will be better served by speaking with an attorney.

Can I qualify for Social Security Benefits in addition to my Veteran’s Bnefits.

Possibly. There are two types of veterans’ disability benefits. One is service related: the disability is in some way related to something that happened in the service. The other is non-service related disability. Service-connected disabilities have various percentages ranging from 0 to 100 percent, while non-service disability is similar to Social Security in that either you are disabled or you are not. You will qualify for additional benefits if the Veteran’s benefits are “service connected.”

How will I pay an attorney to represent me during the Social Security Disability process?

A fee for a lawyer or a person eligible to receive direct payment is usually 25% of the past-due benefits. Here at Shult’s Law we only get paid if you are successful. In most cases, a fee is capped at $6,000. This cap is set by the SSA and is always subject to change.

I have no income – How does the Social Security Administration expect me to live, eat, pay bills, etc?

This is one of the most common questions asked, and it’s the one question to which I have no reasonable answer. Cases usually go on for years while you slowly run out of money. There is nothing anyone can do about it. The government takes their time, and there is no realistic way to make them speed up. It is awful, and we do everything in our power as advocates to move things along, but even we can run into roadblocks.

What happens to my Disability Benefits once I reach retirement age?

Your Social Security disability check is automatically transferred into a Social Security retirement check. Your check will now be coming out of a different trust fund, but otherwise, there is no change.