How long must I be out of work before I can apply for Social Security Disability?
You can file for disability as soon as you stop working, as soon as your earnings drop, or if you are not engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), an applicant must demonstrate their “disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.”
The SSA issues no time requirements for potential applicants seeking to apply for SSD benefits. One commonly held misconception states an applicant must be completely out of work for six months to a year before applying for SSD benefits, but this is not true.
What qualifies as a disability?
An applicant may potentially qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration if they can demonstrate any injury, condition, or illness that is serious enough to limit their ability to work. While not comprehensive, the SSA lists a broad range of potentially qualifying impairments for SSD benefits in their “Blue Book.”
How do I file for Social Security Disability?
You have four options to file for SSD benefits:
- You can go to your local Social Security office and ask them to assist you in filing a claim
- You can call and set up an appointment with your local Social Security office
- You can file online
- You can call Caddell Reynolds Law Firm, and we can take care of everything for you
What is the process of filing for Social Security Disability?
Almost 70% of people are denied disability benefits on their initial application. If this happens to you, don’t get discouraged. Our Arkansas SSD lawyers are familiar with the Social Security Administration’s extensive appeal process.
The Social Security Disability process is as follows:
- Initial Application: Your file is sent to Disability Determination for review and acquisition of your medical records. Medical personnel with Disability Determination make a determination of eligibility. If you are denied at this stage, an appeal is generally warranted.
- Reconsideration: Your file is again sent to Disability Determination for further evaluation of your medical file and updating of your medical information. At either of the initial or reconsideration stages, the Social Security Administration may send you for a physical or mental status evaluation.
- Hearing Stage: If you are denied at the reconsideration level, a hearing will be requested before an administrative law judge (ALJ). These hearings are very different from what you may have seen on television shows. A hearing generally lasts one hour and is conducted at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review before an ALJ, not a jury. Often, the only individuals present include the judge, court reporter, and a vocational expert. At the hearing, the administrative law judge will ask you questions about your past work, health conditions, and how your disability/condition affects your ability to work. The vocational expert will ask questions about whether work is available in the economy for someone with your limitations. The ALJ will issue a decision approving or denying your benefits. If the ALJ issues a favorable decision, you will be paid benefits. If the ALJ denies your claim, however, an appeal may be warranted.
- Appeals Council: You have the right to file an appeal with the Appeals Council or to file a new claim if you are denied benefits by the administrative law judge. Our attorneys can assist you in making this decision.
- Federal Court of Appeals: If you elect to proceed to the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denies the claim, then you have a right to file an appeal before the federal court in your district. At that time, a federal district judge/magistrate reviews your file and makes a determination without the necessity of a hearing as to whether you are entitled to benefits.
What types of Social Security Disability benefits are available?
There are several different types of SSD benefits:
Social Security Disability Insurance (Title II/DIB/SSDI): This is a Social Security benefits program for those who:
- Have paid into the Social Security program through wage withholding for a specific period (most common type)
- Are a disabled widow/widower or the divorced spouse of a Social Security wage earner
Supplemental Security Income (Title XVI/SSI): You do not have to have paid into the Social Security program to be eligible
for SSI. For this type of benefit:
- Your monthly benefits and medical benefits are based on need
- Social Security looks at your household income and assets/resources to determine if you are eligible
How long do I have to appeal a denial?
Social Security provides that you must file your claim within 60 days after the date reflected on the denial letter.
What do I need to win my case?
To win your case, there are several important things you will need. These include:
- Medical records: The most important thing you can do is list the name, address and telephone number of all medical care providers for any health problems that limit your ability to work.
- Medical opinions: We provide forms for our clients’ treating physician(s) to complete on their behalf. A doctor simply putting in the medical records or writing a letter that you cannot work is not sufficient for the Social Security Administration.
- Function/Pain Reports: Social Security will provide you with multiple forms to complete throughout the process. We find that a lot of clients do not take the necessary time to complete these correctly. Be honest, complete, and detailed in your answers. What we find is that most people try to say what they think they can do as opposed to what they can actually do. For example, if a question asks you if you can mow the yard and you can, provide details if there are limitations, such as how long and how frequently. The same goes for sitting and standing. Also, if you mow the yard one day, what kind of problems are you going to have the next? A lot of clients have side effects from medications. The medications may cause you to be drowsy or unsafe to drive. It is important that you detail these facts. Also, various medications and health conditions such as diabetes can cause a need for frequent restroom breaks. When you complete the forms, take the time to detail all the problems that you are having. If you are uncertain, ask your family or friends what they have observed as to your limitations.
How long will my benefits last?
Your disability benefits can be stopped if you improve medically to the extent that you can no longer be considered disabled. Social Security recipients periodically have their cases reviewed to determine whether their condition still qualifies for disability benefits. Also, working after you have been approved can affect your disability. The Social Security Administration has clear definitions as to what constitutes too much income to continue to qualify for Social Security.
How much is my back-pay?
In most cases, you will receive a certain amount of past-due benefits based on how long it has taken the case to resolve. For SSI, you can receive benefits back to the first month after you applied. You cannot receive retroactive benefits back to the date when you actually became disabled. For SSDI, Social Security can pay you benefits for up to 12 months before the date you filed your disability claim.
SSDI pays all back-pay in one lump sum, less the first five months. SSI has a process of paying the back-due benefits over multiple six-month time frames.
Do I get medical benefits?
If you receive SSDI, you will receive Medicare benefits 29 months from the onset date (the date you became disabled). SSI-entitled individuals will receive Medicaid, and that will become immediately available once you are approved.
Why does it take so long to receive benefits?
The reason it takes so long to get a claim through the system is simply that more disability claims are going through the system than the small number of administrative law judges can handle.
How much does Social Security Disability pay per month?
There are two main programs for the disabled under the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For SSDI benefits, the amount depends on how much you have paid in FICA taxes over the years. The maximum payment is $2,788/month based on if you pay the maximum taxable earnings of 128,400 in 2018.
The average SSDI payment for 2018 was $1,197, but SSDI benefits are determined on a case-by-case basis. Current earnings, previous earnings, and the number of dependents—if any—all influence the base amount a beneficiary will receive.
For SSI, the maximum for 2018 was $750/month for an individual or $1,125 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. SSI is a need-based program and, unlike SSDI, does not depend on your past work history. If you currently have a monthly income, half of anything you earn over $85 per month will be deducted from the maximum amount of benefits to determine your SSI amount.
Can I work when I am on Social Security Disability?
Disability is about proving you are unable to work. Therefore, if you are working while filing for disability, that can be used against you. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Contact our Arkansas Social Security Disability lawyers to learn more regarding the specifics of your case.
Which pays more – Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income?
Disability typically pays more than SSI. However, if your SSDI benefit is less than $750 per month (which is the SSI maximum), then the SSDI recipient may be eligible for the supplemental benefit, too. So, the combined amount of SSDI and SSI is the SSI maximum of $750.
Can I get Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Benefits at the same time?
Applicants who cannot qualify for SSI due to excess income or assets may still receive SSD—and SSI may still be available without the work history to qualify for SSDI. In a particular set of circumstances, some recipients may receive both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance from the Social Security Administration at the same time. This is commonly known as “concurrent benefits.” Strict financial and medical requirements apply in these cases.
Do I have to file taxes on Social Security Disability?
For the majority of people who receive SSD benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), benefits are not subject to federal income tax. A few exceptions, however, will apply. Recipients who are married and file jointly will pay no income tax if they receive a total combined income of less than $32,000 per year. This incorporates 50% of their SSD benefits. If the same couple receives a total combined income greater than $32,000 a year, a portion of their SSD benefits will be taxable at the federal level. Note that most states do not consider SSD to be taxable income.
If you do not make more than $25,000 a year and file as an individual or your household income is less than $32,000 per year and you file jointly, you will not have to pay taxes on your Social Security Disability benefits.
Why should I work with Caddell Reynolds Law Firm?
When navigating the Social Security Disability process, whether you are filing an initial claim or wish to appeal a denied claim, it is highly recommended that you work with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. At Caddell Reynolds Law Firm, our SSD attorneys have helped thousands of people navigate some of the most challenging times in their lives. We strive to help disabled individuals recover the maximum benefits they are allowed under state and federal law and, to date, our attorneys have recovered hundreds of millions for our clients.
When you work with our team, you receive personal attention and dedicated representation from start to finish. We can handle everything with your claim so that you can focus on obtaining medical treatment for your injuries/condition. Our goal is to ease the stress you are under and allow you the ability to move forward with your life by effectively advocating for you.