Contents

Q:

What are Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

A:

SSD and SSI are disability programs created by the Federal government to provide individuals with qualified disabilities a source of income while they are unable to work.

Q:

What Is the Difference Between SSD and SSI?

A:

SSD is a benefit for which you will qualify if you have worked long enough in the recent past and paid taxes on your income. It is the same benefit that you would receive upon retiring at the age of 65. SSI is only available to adults and children who are blind, disabled or age 65 if they meet certain income requirements. This program is meant to help those who do not have any substantial income or assets.

Q:

Are the Rules for Proving Disability Different Under SSD and SSI?

A:

No. The same standard is used in determining disability under SSD and SSI.

Q:

Can I Receive Both SSD and SSI at the Same Time?

A:

Yes. There is no rule that prohibits a person from receiving both SSD and SSI at the same time. Whether you will be eligible to receive both benefits will depend on the amount of your SSD benefit and how much other income and assets you have.

Q:

How Long Must I Work Before I am Eligible for SSD?

A:

Social Security assigns credits for the amount of earnings you receive and pay taxes on during the year. Each year the amount of earnings needed to earn one credit changes. You can earn up to 4 credits per year. Normally, to qualify for SSD you need 40 credits during your lifetime (10 years) and 20 of those credits (5 years) must be earned within the last 10 years. Special rules apply to younger workers and they may qualify for benefits with less credits.

Q:

How Much Will I Receive in Monthly Benefits from SSD and SSI?

A:

The amount of your SSD benefit is based upon an average of your earnings over your lifetime; each person's benefit is different. SSI benefits are paid at a fixed rate. Depending on where you live your state may add money to your check. However, if you or your family have other income, your check may be less.

Q:

When Should I Apply for SSD and SSI?

A:

You should apply for SSD and SSI when you have been out of work or are expected to be out of work for a period of twelve continuous months.

Q:

How Do I Apply for SSD and SSI?

A:

You can apply for benefits over the phone, by mail, on the internet, or by going to the Social Security office that is nearest to you.

Q:

Can the Social Security Administration refuse to take my application for benefits?

A:

No. You have the right to file an application for benefits. If the Social Security Administration feels that you do not qualify for benefits then it can deny your claim.

Q:

What If the Claims Representative at Social Security Tells Me That I Don't Have a Chance of Receiving Benefits?

A:

File an application anyway. The claims representative is not the person who ultimately will make the determination as to whether you will qualify for benefits.

Q:

Who Decides if I am Disabled?

A:

The local Social Security office will.

Q:

What Information is Used in Determining Disability?

A:

Social Security will base its determination on information it receives about your condition from you, your doctors, your hospital records and in some cases, on information it receives from doctors hired by Social Security.

Q:

How is Disability Determined by Social Security?

A:

Social Security uses a multi-step process for determining disability:

  1. Have you been out of work or are you expected to be out of work for a period of 12 continuous months?
  2. Are you engaging in substantial gainful activity? (SGA)
  3. Do you have a severe impairment?
  4. Are you capable of doing your past relevant work?
  5. Does your condition meet one of Social Security's listed impairments?
  6. What is your residual functional capacity (RFC)?
  7. Considering your RFC, are there jobs which exist in significant numbers which you could do?

Q:

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

A:

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is the level of earnings that Social Security feels is indicative of your ability to work.  As of January 1, 2005, if you are earning more than $830 per month , you will be considered to be capable of working.

Note:  The level of earnings used to determine SGA will change every January in accordance with a cost of living increase determined by the Social Security Administration.

Q:

What is a Severe Impairment?

A:

A severe impairment is one which substantially interferes with your ability to do normal daily activities such as standing, walking, sitting, lifting, breathing, speaking, seeing, hearing, concentrating, etc.

Q:

What is Past Relevant Work?

A:

Social Security considers the last 15 years of your work history to be relevant. Despite your impairments, if you are capable of doing any job that you held within the last 15 years you will not be disabled under Social Security's rules.

Q:

What is a Listed Impairment?

A:

Social Security has attempted to organize and categorize different illnesses, diseases and impairments in what it calls Listings. These Listings provide a textbook definition of the illness, disease or impairment. If you meet all the criteria set out in the Listing, you will be found to be disabled.

Q:

What Happens if I Don't Meet a Listing?

A:

If you do not meet a Listing, Social Security will then go on to the next stage of the evaluation process in order to determine if you are disabled. The next step in the process is to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC).

Q:

What is RFC?

A:

Residual Functional Capacity is what you are still capable of doing despite your impairments. Unless you are confined to a bed or a wheelchair, you still will be able to sit, stand, walk, lift, bend etc., even if it is for brief periods of time. The fact that you can do some or all of these activities does not mean that you are not disabled.

Q:

How is My Residual Functional Capacity Determined?

A:

Your RFC is determined by medical reports and records provided by your doctors. In some cases, if the medical evidence in the case is insufficient the Social Security Administration may hire a doctor to examine you and give an opinion on your RFC.

Q:

Are There a Significant Number of jobs I Could Do?

A:

Once your RFC is determined the Social Security Administration looks at your age, education and prior work experience to determine if there are other jobs in the economy which you could perform. If there are very few jobs which you could perform in light of your impairments, you will be disabled under Social Security's rules.

Q:

What If There Are jobs Which Exist But There Are None Available?

A:

SSD and SSI are disability programs. Therefore, whether a job is actually available is irrelevant in the disability determination.

Q:

Does Social Security Take Into Account How Hard it Will Be to Find a job Once an Employer Knows About My Disability?

A:

Social Security does not consider these types of factors in making a disability determination. It only considers whether you can perform the mental and physical requirements of a job. Note: It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because you have a disability.

Q:

What to Do if I Am Denied Benefits?

A:

If you are denied benefits, you have the right to file an appeal with the Social Security Administration either by mail, phone or in person at your local office.

Q:

What Are the Levels of Appeal?

A:

There are four levels of appeal. If you are denied benefits after your initial filing, the appeal is called a Reconsideration. The Reconsideration is reviewed by the same administrative agency that made the initial determination. If your Reconsideration is denied, the next step is a Request for Hearing by an administrative law judge. If you are denied benefits after a hearing with a judge, your next appeal is to the Appeals Council, which is also an administrative body within the Social Security Administration. If your appeal is denied by the Appeals Council you then have the right to file an appeal in Federal Court.

Q:

Can I Skip the Other Appeals and Go Directly to Federal Court?

A:

No. You must follow the appeal process outlined above. This is called exhausting your administrative remedies.

Q:

Do I Have the Right to Legal Representation?

A:

Yes. You have the right to legal representation at all times. Although you do not need an attorney to file an application for benefits, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a lawyer in order to prepare your case in the most effective manner possible.

Q:

If I am Approved for Benefits Will They Start Right Away?

A:

There is a five month waiting period for SSD benefits. Therefore, you will not receive SSD benefits until the sixth month of your disability. There is no waiting period for SSI; these benefits are payable immediately.

Q:

Can I Get Benefits Retroactively?

A:

You can receive SSD benefits retroactive to one year from the date you filed your application, if you were disabled back to that time. However, the 5 month waiting period still applies. SSI benefits are only payable from the date you filed your application.

Example: Alex became disabled on June 13, 1994. She filed an application for SSD and SSI benefits on June 13, 1995. She was awarded benefits on January 1, 1996. Alex's SSD benefits would be retroactive to June 13, 1994, but the first month that SSD benefits would be payable to her would be December 1994. SSI benefits would begin on June 13, 1995, the date of her application.

Q:

Am I Entitled to Medical Insurance if I am Found to be Disabled?

A:

Yes. Medicare is provided to individuals who qualify for SSD. Medicaid is given to recipients of SSI.

Q:

Is There a Waiting Period for Medical Insurance?

A:

There is no waiting period for Medicaid. There is a 29 month waiting period for Medicare.

Q:

Do I Have to Pay a Premium for Medical Insurance?

A:

There is no premium for Medicaid. There are two parts to Medicare, Part A and Part B. Part A is usually provided free of charge and covers most hospital expenses. Part B, which is optional, covers doctors visits and other related expenses. There is a monthly premium for Part B coverage.

Q:

If I am Found to be Disabled Will Other Members of My Family be Entitled to Benefits?

A:

If you qualify for SSD, other members of your family may be entitled to benefits. These would include (1) your spouse, if he or she is caring for a child under the age of 16 or a child over 16 who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits, (2) your unmarried children who are either (a) under 18, (b) under the age of 19 if they are still enrolled in elementary or secondary school as a full-time student, (c) over 18 and disabled (the disability must have began before the child reached age 22).

Q:

What Benefits Will My Family Members Receive?

A:

Qualified family members will receive monthly cash benefits. However, medical coverage is not provided to family members unless they themselves are disabled.

Q:

How Long Can I Receive Benefits?

A:

You can receive benefits so long as you remain disabled and meet the other nondisability requirements, such as the income limitations for SSI.

Q:

Will I Have to Supply Additional Information to Social Security in Order to Continue Receiving Benefits?

A:

Social Security can periodically review your case to determine whether you still meet the requirements for disability. This is called a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). You do have an obligation to provide Social Security with information about your condition. You should provide as much information as possible in order to insure that a proper determination is made.

Q:

What if Social Security Finds That I am No Longer Disabled?

A:

If Social Security finds that you are no longer disabled after a CDR, you have the right to appeal that determination. The appeals process is the same as the one described above.

Q:

Will My Benefits Stop After a CDR Which Finds Me Capable of Working?

A:

You have the option of receiving benefits during an appeal based on a CDR.

Q:

If I Receive SSD Will I Still Be Able to Collect My Retirement at 65?

A:

Receiving SSD does not disqualify you from receiving your retirement benefit at age 65. If you remain disabled until age 65, your SSD benefit will automatically switch over to retirement. Normally this only an administrative change and will not change the amount of the benefit you receive.

Q:

Can I Try to Return to Work While Receiving SSD or SSI?

A:

Social Security tries to encourage people to return to work. In furtherance of this goal, SSD and SSI beneficiaries are entitled to a "Trial Work Period". The trial work period can last up to 9 months.  During those nine months you will be able to receive your full social security benefit regardless of the amount of your earnings.

Q:

What Happens to My Benefits After the Trial Work Period Ends?

A:

After the nine month trial work period Social Security will look at the work you are performing and make a determination as to whether it is "substantial gainful activity" (see above discussion on SGA). If Social Security determines that you are engaging in SGA. you will be able to receive benefits for an additional three months.

Q:

How Does Social Security Determine If I am Engaging in SGA?

A:

As stated above, SGA is determined by the level of your earnings.   As of January 1, 2005, earnings over $830.00 per month will be considered SGA and will disqualify you from receiving further benefits. However, some expenses for items which you need in order to work can be deducted from the amount of your earnings when the SGA determination is made. These items are called Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE).

Q:

What is an IRWE (Impaired Related Work Expense)?

A:

An IRWE is an item which you require as a result of your disability which you need in order to work. IRWEs can include the cost of medications, prosthetics, attendant care, special transportation, etc. One limitation on IRWEs is that you can only deduct the cost of items for which you yourself have paid. If the item was paid for by the insurance, you will not be able to claim the expense as an IRWE.

Q:

What If My Earnings Fall Below the SGA Level After My Trial Work Period Ends?

A:

You will be entitled to collect your monthly benefit for any month in which your earnings fall below the level determined to be SGA for 3 years following the completion of your trial work period.

Q:

What Happens to My Medical Insurance After My Trial Work Period Ends?

A:

Even though your monthly Social Security ends after your trial work period, you still may receive Medicare for up to 39 months. After 39 months you will be allowed to purchase Medicare coverage if you choose.