SSDI FAQs - Part 1

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a government issued program which provides monthly cash benefits to those who are totally disabled from gainful employment due to a physical or mental incapacity. The program established a trust fund which is financed by payroll tax from which benefits are paid to the disabled.

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What is the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are paid to those who qualify for the program based on their inability to work due to a physical or mental impairment. Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based entirely upon one’s assets (or lack thereof). When one goes to their local Social Security Administration Office, or the SSA’s website, to apply for disability benefits, they should make sure that they are applying for SSDI.

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How Do I Qualify For SSDI Benefits?

Generally, in order to qualify for SSDI benefits, one must be able to prove that:

  • You are eligible for benefits by having worked enough to have enough “work credits.” Generally this means you must have worked for 5 out of the past 10 years before the date of onset of your disability in order to qualify for benefits;
  • You have a documented medical condition severe enough to prevent you from working on a consistent basis;
  • You have a medical condition must be one of the medical conditions recognized by the Social Security Administration.
  • Your disability or impairment must be preventing you (for at least 12 months) from doing the same kind of work you were doing before you became disabled or impaired; and
  • You are not employable in another occupation which can accommodate your physical or mental impairments.

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How Much Money Will I Get If I Am Approved For SSDI?

This depends on how much you have earned over the course of your work history. The more money you earned, and the longer you worked, the more money you paid into the system and thus the more money you are entitled to each month.

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What Should I Do to Get SSDI?

The first step in trying to obtain SSDI benefits is to go to your local Social Security Administration office, or the Social Security Administration’s website ( www.ssa.gov/onlineservices) and complete an application for benefits.

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Where Can I File For SSDI Benefits?

You can apply at your local Social Security Administration office or apply online at www.ssa.gov/onlineservices. You can find the closest SSA office by entering your zip code at https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp.

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If I Am Receiving Workers' Compensation Benefits, Am I Still Entitled to SSDI?

Yes, however your Social Security Disability benefits may be reduced, or “offset” due to your receipt of weekly workers’ compensation benefits. Often times it is advantageous to someone who is receiving both weekly workers’ compensation wage loss benefits and monthly SSDI benefits to contact an attorney to negotiate a lump sum settlement of your workers’ compensation claim, which allows you to collect a lump sum of money in lieu of future weekly payments, and then start collecting your maximum monthly Social Security Disability benefit entitlement. For more information on how your workers' compensation or SSDI benefits may be affected be your receipt of both at the same time, you should contact us to determine whether you are maximizing your receipt of benefits.

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How Long Can I Collect SSDI For?

You can continue to receive SSDI for as long as you remain disabled or until you reach retirement age. Once you reach retirement age, your Social Security disability benefits are converted to Social Security retirement income. The Social Security Administration does conduct periodic reviews (“continuing disability reviews” or “CDRs”) of disability recipients to determine whether their condition still qualifies them for disability benefits. These are typically performed once every three to seven years. If your medical condition improves over time your benefits may be discontinued. Other reasons why benefits could be terminated are returning to gainful employment (earning over $1,040.00 per month in 2013) or being incarcerated.

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How Serious Does My Injury Have to be For Me to Receive SSDI?

The medical condition you are alleging is causing disability must be serious enough to prevent you from returning to gainful employment for at least 12 months. The Social Security Administration also considers your age, education, and previous work history in addition to your medical condition to determine whether you are totally disabled from gainful employment.

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How Much Do I Have to Pay My Attorney to Represent Me in an SSDI Claim?

United States federal law restricts what your attorney is allowed to charge you on a Social Security Disability claim. There are absolutely no upfront or out of pocket costs associated with hiring an attorney to represent you in a Social Security Disability Claim. If we are successful in obtaining benefits, our attorney’s fees are 25% of any retroactive (past due) benefits paid to you, capped at a maximum of $6,000.00. By law, attorneys are not allowed to take a few on any future benefits awarded to you and received by you.

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When Should I Apply For SSDI Benefits?

You are eligible to file for Social Security Disability the day after you stop working or the day after your earnings drop below $1,040.00 per month due to disability. Due to the extreme backlog of claims and the long wait for your claim to be processed, it is advisable to file an application for SSDI as soon as your doctor has determined that you medical condition is likely to cause a prolonged period of disability. If you apply for benefits and your condition worsens over time, you will be allowed to submit additional medical documentation showing that your condition has worsened to the point where you are now disabled.

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Can I Work While on SSDI?

You are not allowed to collect SSDI if you are gainfully employed. The threshold for “gainful” employment is $1,040.00 per month for 2013, so one can work if there income falls below the “gainful” employment threshold. The Social Security Administration also allows for a “trial work period” of nine months where you can attempt to return to work, earn above the $1,040.00 per month threshold, and still collect SSDI benefits. After the 9 month trial period expires, once can still collect SSDI for any month that earnings fall below the $1,040.00 per month threshold, for up to 36 months.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Approved For SSDI?

The answer to this important question depends on a number of factors. Approval could take anywhere from one month to two years, depending on factors such as the severity of your medical condition, the present backlog of claims at the claims examiner’s office, and the time it takes for your medical providers to send your medical records to the claims examiner. If the initial application and request for reconsideration is denied, it may take up to two years from the date of your initial application to get your case before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing.

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Can My Spouse of Children Receive SSDI?

Yes. If your spouse is over the age of 62 or is under the age of 62 and caring for your child who is under the age of 16 they are eligible for benefits. A divorced spouse may also be eligible for SSDI benefits if you were married for more than ten years and have been divorced for two years or less. If you get married after you become disabled, your new spouse and his or her children may be eligible for benefits as well.

Your children are also eligible for benefits. Social Security defines a “child” as a natural child, adopted child, dependent stepchild and possibly a dependent grandchild, depending on the circumstances. Eligible children must be under age 18, under age 19 if they are a full time high school or elementary school. Disabled children over the age of 18 and under the age of 22 are also eligible. Eligible children must be unmarried.

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