FAQs

Answers to some of the most common questions about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

No, it is more of a “safety net.” SSDI will pay monthly benefits to you based on the amount of money that you have paid to the system through employment taxes so far.

SSDI is a disability insurance program financed by your Social Security paycheck deductions. Unless your age has prohibited it, you must have worked a total of 10 years (40 quarters), 5 of which must be within the last 10 years (20 of the last 40 quarters). During this work, you must have earned FICA-taxed wages to be eligible for SSDI. By contrast, SSI requires no work time at all, but there are limits to eligibility based on how much property you own or money you have in the bank.

With both SSI and SSDI, you must be found disabled. That is, interpreted as being unable to perform any “Substantial Gainful Activity.” The Social Security Administration oversees both programs.

SSDI benefits are not based on financial need, so your assets and passive, unearned income are not relevant. As long as you have worked the minimum number of quarters required and the SSA determines that you are totally disabled, you are eligible.

If your claim is approved initially, the process should take just a few months, but only about one-third of claims are approved on the first filing. For most people, the appeal process must be used to secure benefits. If your claim is approved after an appeal to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, it is common for there to be delays of a year or more before benefit payments commence.

Medical reports are extremely important in proving your disability. While you can ask that the Social Security Administration provide doctors for “consultative exams,” these are a poor substitute for the reports of a treating physician. If you cannot afford a doctor, you may be able to obtain treatment through a hospital clinic or county health services. If you do not know how to find these services in your area, contact us and we will try to assist in any way we can.

Any decision you make should first take into account what is best for you from a medical care standpoint. However, it may be wise to consult with another doctor, as your treating doctor’s opinion is extremely important in your claim.

You should seek legal counsel regarding your chances on appeal as soon as possible. An appeal must be filed using the proper forms within 60 days of the date of the denial decision. Your chances of winning an appeal are greatly enhanced by retaining a firm of Social Security lawyers like the LaPorte Law Firm to represent you.

You generally have 60 days to submit an appeal after receiving a denial notice, and may be allowed five extra days for the notice to be mailed to you. Under certain circumstances however, the SSA will accept a late appeal if you have a “good cause.” Some reasons the SSA may consider a “good cause” for filing a late appeal are diminished mental capacity or hospitalization, lost mail, etc. However, do not delay even one day in filing your appeal and an explanation letter for the late filing.

If you feel that your claim has merit, you may immediately file a new claim and try again.

When your benefits begin, the SSA will inform you of your duty to report future work income, as it will have an effect on your benefits. In general, however, the SSA does not consider earnings under $1,010 gross per month as substantial, so it likely would not affect your benefits.

You may be able to file for disability benefits if you are still working, but only if your monthly gross earned income is below the annual substantial gainful activity (SGA) level for that year. For example, in 2012, the SGA level was considered to be $1,010 of gross earnings, so a person earning less than this amount that year could have applied for benefits.

While it is true that the Social Security Administration denies many of the claims submitted, it is also true that you can win your case the first time you apply. The best way to achieve success the first time is to know exactly what you are doing, or retain an SSDI attorney who does. The LaPorte Law Firm has disability lawyers with decades of experience who can fill this role. We handle hundreds of SSDI and SSI disability claims each year, and most of them are successful the first time we try.

Many people under the age of 40 mistakenly believe that it is impossible for them to win an SSDI or SSI claim. This is certainly not true. If you have a work history, and if you have a disability that will prevent you from working for one year or longer, you may be eligible for benefits regardless of your age. Contact the SSDI lawyers at the LaPorte Law Firm with any questions about eligibility.