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Social Security Common Questions

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What does Social Security consider "disabled"?


Generally, to be found disabled, you must be able to prove that you cannot perform any of your past work and any other work. You must also show that your disability has lasted for 12 months, or will be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Disability is defined as "the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months".


There are four major types of Social Security disability benefits.


a. Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) goes to people who have worked in recent years (five out of the last 10 years in most oases) and who are now disabled. Auxiliary benefits may be payable to a worker's dependents.


b. Disabled Widow's and Widower's Benefits are paid to people who are at least 50 and become disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of spouse, The deceased spouse must have worked enough to be insured under SS.


c. Disabled Adult Child Benefits (DAC) go to the children of persons who are deceased or who are receiving SS disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22. Generally, benefits are paid based on the SS earnings record of a parent.


d. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether a person has worked in the past or not. Effective January 2004, the maximum SSI payment for an eligible individual is $564 per month and $846 per month for an eligible couple. The individual has to meet income and resource requirements.



Who decides if I am disabled?


After you file your application, the case is sent to a disability examiner at DDS. This individual, working with a doctor hired by DDS, makes the initial decision on the claim. If the claim is denied, the next step is to appeal and request a hearing except in other states such as Mississippi where there is a second consideration or reconsideration step before the hearing level. Then the case is sent to the Office of Hearings and Appeals. The case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for SS. ( NOTE: IF A REQUEST FOR HEARING IS NOT FILED WITHIN 65 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF DENIAL, A NEW APPLICATION WILL HAVE TO BE FILED AND CLAIMANT MAY LOSE POTENTIAL BENEFITS-unless the claimant can show good cause for not appealing on time.



If approved for disability, how much money will I receive?


It depends on how much you have worked and earned in the past. A yearly earnings record sent by SS will give you an estimate. This can be requested from SS.



How far back will SS pay benefits if I am found disabled?


Generally, 12 months from date of application for social security disability benefits provided you have been disabled far enough back. There is also a 5 month waiting period. SSI benefits start with the first full month after the claim is filed.



How long does it take to get a hearing?


The process is speeding up with more judges being appointed by SS. However, it currently takes approximately 6 months to a year from the date you file a Request for Hearing.. In all cases, we try to get the claim pushed through as quickly as possible. Those claimants who are unable to obtain medical treatment, who are destitute and/or who have serious (cancer, transplant, etc.) disabilities are expedited.



What is the SS hearing like?


The hearings are fairly informal. The only people who are usually there are the judge, a secretary operating a tape recorder, the claimant, the claimant's attorney and anyone the claimant has brought with him/her to the hearing. In some cases, the judge has a doctor or vocational expert present to testify at the hearing. There is no jury and there will not be an attorney representing SSA.


Can I work and still try to get disability?


In some instances, yes. It depends on how much you earn and how long you work. Generally, if a person tries to work even full time and the work is terminated in less than 3 months because of the impairments, it will not count against the claimant.



Will I get medical assistance if awarded benefits?


Yes. If you are awarded disability benefits, you will become eligible for Medicare 24 months after your date of entitlement. If you are awarded SSI, you become eligible for Medicaid.


How long can I receive disability benefits?


You can receive SS disability benefits until retirement age. When you reach retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.



If I win my case, how long will it take before I get my money?


It usually takes 4-6 weeks after a decision is rendered, to receive benefits.