Social Security Disability FAQ

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Do I Qualify for SSDI Benefits?
Hearing with Administrative Law Judge
Appeals Council via Federal Court
Providing Medical Evidence
What is an SSDI Disability?
Can I File a New Application While My Appeal is Pending?
Dire Needs Claims
Working with Your Doctor
Must I wait 12 Months to File?
Over Age 50 Claims
Can My Family Receive SSDI Benefits?

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income, also known as SSI, is a monthly stipend distributed to disabled individuals with a low level of income. SSI differs from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in that you are not required to have a work history. SSI benefits may also be available for disabled children whose parent or guardian is at a low income level. The Social Security Administration manages the SSI program, but Supplemental Security Income is not paid for by Social Security taxes. SSI is paid out of general U.S. Treasury funds.

Do I Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

The eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplement Security Income (SSI) are stringent. Benefits are for those that have physical, mental or emotional impairments that prevent them from maintaining any type of gainful employment for a period of 12 months or more. The Social Security Act requires medical documentation that proves you cannot work due to your disability. You must have a medically determinable impairment that leads to long-term disability.

Hearing with Administrative Law Judge

If your application for SSDI/SSI benefits has been denied, you may request a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. You have only 60 days from receiving the denial to request this hearing, so it is important that you do not delay. Working with an SSDI/SSI attorney prior to the administrative law judge hearing is usually a good idea. We have represented hundreds of people at disability benefits hearings. We understand the importance of gathering the appropriate medical evidence and other required information. The administrative law judge will not have prior knowledge of your case, so you must make sure that your file includes all relevant information. In addition, you may present new information about your condition at this hearing. Gathering the proper medical reports and forms necessary for a disability hearing can be challenging if you are new to the process. However, with our assistance, you can present a compelling case. You should also be well prepared to speak with the judge at the hearing. The judge will ask you questions about your condition(s) and how it affects your ability to work. We will prepare you for these questions so you feel comfortable answering them. We will also attend the hearing with you and help to explain your case to the judge.

Appeals Council via Federal Court

It is not uncommon for a Social Security Disability Insurance/Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) claim to be denied the first two times. We understand that it is discouraging, but you do not have to give up. There are options available to you if you wish to pursue your claim for benefits further. If your SSDI/SSI claim is denied after the disability hearing with the administrative law judge, you may request a review of your case by the Appeals Council. Decisions at the appeals stage are largely based on the existing case evidence in your file. Consequently, it is important to have all of the pertinent medical evidence included in your file prior to the appeals process. There are two options to appeal a denial after the disability hearing: Request a review by the Appeals Council Take your case to federal court You must request a review by the Appeals Council within 60 days after your claim is denied at the hearing. Do not miss this deadline. It is a good idea to work with a lawyer at this stage if you are not already doing so. The Appeals Council will examine your request for review. The council may find that the disability hearing decision was correct, or it may deny your request for a review. If the council does grant a review, it may decide the case itself or send it to an administrative law judge for further review. If the Appeals Council denies your claim or decides not to review your case, you may then file a lawsuit in a federal district court. There is a 60-day deadline from the date of the appeals denial for filing this lawsuit.

Providing Medical Evidence

The most critical part of the Social Security Disability Insurance/Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) process is correctly providing medical evidence with your application. However, this is a complex task. The requirements are different for every injury and illness. In addition to proving that you have a medically determinable physical or medical condition, you must prove that it prevents you from working in any substantial gainful activity. What to Include in Your Application -To qualify for SSDI/SSI, you must have one or more of the conditions on the SSA’s listing of impairments. This list includes physical and mental illnesses, disorders and injuries. The SSA grants benefits based on an applicant’s ability to perform his or her past relevant work or a different job. To make this determination, the SSA looks at the applicant’s residual functional capacity, which it defines as “the most you can still do despite your limitations.” When determining residual functional capacity, the SSA requires medical evidence from certain medical sources, which may include: licensed physicians, licensed or certified psychologists, and in some cases, licensed optometrists, licensed podiatrists and qualified speech-language pathologists. The SSA requires the medical report to include the following information: -Medical history -Clinical findings (examination results) -Laboratory findings (blood tests, X-rays, etc.) -Diagnoses -Prescribed treatment(s) as well as responses and prognoses -A statement about your residual functional capacity, based on the findings on the above factors In addition, this statement should detail your ability to perform work-related activities, such as standing, walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, handling objects, hearing, speaking and traveling. For those with mental impairments, the statement should describe their capacity to understand, carry out and remember instructions, as well as their ability to respond to supervision, coworkers and pressures in the work setting.

What is an SSDI Disability?

The term disability refers to any physical impairment, mental disorder, brain impairment, disease, injury or other serious condition that significantly impairs your ability to work. Visit our sections on physical disability and mental disorders to learn more about specific conditions that may qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.


Can I File a New Application While My Appeal is Pending?
Pursuant to the new laws, if you file an SSDI appeal, you may not file another new application for SSDI benefits until your appeal has been denied. If your appeal has been denied, you may file a new application for benefits, unless you appeal that decision as well, in which case you must wait until that appeals process is concluded. If you choose not to appeal your SSDI denial, you may file a new application for benefits. However, if you choose to file a new application without appealing your denial, you may have a harder time winning your case, and you will not be able to obtain benefits backdated to the time you initially filed for application for benefits. Since the Social Security Administration may consider your prior denial and assume that your case has already been heard and denied, you may have to demonstrate that the severity of your injury has worsened in order to obtain benefits.

Dire Needs Claims

One of the ways that we are able to expedite some of our clients’ SSDI claims is by pursuing a dire needs claim. Such claims are available for people who do not have housing and people who cannot afford life-sustaining medications. Other limited circumstances may warrant a dire needs claim. Some judges may determine that you are without housing if your home is in the process of foreclosure or if you are living with a friend or family member. Other judges may feel that you are not without housing as long as you currently have a roof over your head. At your initial consultation, we can speak with you about the facts of your case and advise you about how to best proceed with your case. Since we have handled hundreds of Social Security Disability cases, you can be confident that you will receive the experienced and knowledgeable representation you require at our firm.

Working with Your Doctor

Whether you are seeking treatment from a doctor, chiropractor, psychologist, psychiatrist or other medical professional, you must carefully communicate with them to make certain that they are properly noting your records. Here are a few common mistakes you should avoid: -Failing to communicate fully with your doctor: Your doctor may only have a few minutes to talk to you, so he or she may want to focus on the primary problem that you are facing. However, it is critical that you tell your doctor about all of the issues that are impacting your ability to work. If you have a bad back, knee and shoulder, for example, you should talk to your doctor about all three conditions. If you only talk about your back, a judge who is reviewing your medical records could reach a conclusion that your other problems must not be that significant. -Making statements that could be adverse to your case: Your doctor will make notes in your records based on the information he or she receives from you. While you must be honest, you should also avoid making statements that could be taken out of context. You should avoid making any statements that may incorrectly give the impression that your condition is improving or that your condition is not serious. -Failing to follow your doctor’s orders: If you are applying for SSDI benefits because you suffer from severe anxiety and depression, for example, a judge may deny your claim for benefits if you are not taking the medication that has been prescribed by your psychiatrist. The judge may feel that with proper medication you might be capable of gainful employment. -Failing to follow up with treatment: If your doctor has not been able to help you in a significant way, you may be inclined to stop seeing your doctor. However, this would be detrimental to your case. If a certain medication or procedure has not provided the relief you need, you must continue to seek help to document that you still have a medical condition that is impairing your ability to work.


Must I wait 12 Months to File?
To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must have a physical or mental disability that is expected to significantly impair your ability to work for at least 12 months. The key word is expected. If you have a severe physical or mental impairment that may keep you from working for at least a year, speak with an attorney immediately.

Over Age 50 Claims

If you are age 50 or over, it is assumed that it is more difficult to transition to a new field of employment. The Social Security Administration recognizes that it may be difficult to learn an entirely new profession, go back to school or take other critical steps necessary to transition to a new occupation if you are 50 or over. While it may be easier to obtain benefits once you reach age 50, many applicants who are 50 or over still have their applications denied. It is critical that you retain an experienced SSDI attorney who will work diligently to provide the quality legal representation you need.

Can My Family Receive SSDI Benefits?

If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you may wonder if your children or spouse are also eligible to receive benefits. Fortunately, the answer is yes in many cases. -If you are awarded SSDI benefits, we can file an application on your behalf to seek benefits for your children. Your spouse may be eligible for benefits as well. However, there is a maximum amount of benefits that each family may receive, regardless of the number of children in the family. -If you are receiving SSDI benefits and you pass away, your spouse and children may potentially be eligible for survivors’ benefits at the time of your passing. Even a former spouse may be eligible for survivor’s benefits in some circumstances.