Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I have to be out of work for at least a year before I apply?
A: No. You have to have an impairment that is expected to last for at least a year, but you do not have to wait a year before you apply.
Q: Can I draw Social Security benefits and worker's compensation benefits at the same time?
A: Yes, although the amount of your Social Security benefits will likely be reduced if you are receiving both. There are many legal issues that arise when you receive both types of benefits and you should consult your worker's compensation attorney before filing for Social Security benefits. But bear in mind, waiting to file for Social Security benefits can impact both your chances of success and the amount of your potential benefits, so it may be a good idea to consult an experienced Social Security attorney as well.
Q: Do I need to file for Social Security disability benefits if I am receiving private disability benefits?
A: Usually, the answer is yes, with a very few exceptions. You will preserve your full Social Security retirement benefits if you are awarded Social Security disability benefits. Most long-term disability insurance (LTD) plans will require that you apply for Social Security disability benefits, and the amount of your LTD monthly payment will probably be reduced by the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit.
Q: My doctor says I'm disabled, why do I need an attorney?
A: Unfortunately, you can have 10 doctors who say you are disabled and still not obtain your benefits. Doctors know medicine, but many do not understand the detailed rules and regulations that Social Security uses to define "disability." An experienced Social Security attorney can work with your doctors to illustrate the functional limitations resulting from your medical conditions that prevent you from being able to work, which is the primary issue in Social Security's definition of "disability".
Q: Do I have to be permanently disabled to obtain benefits?
A: No. If you are unable to work, under Social Security's rules, for a period of 12 months or more, you can still qualify. If your disability ceases at some point after 12 months, you may still be eligible to receive benefits for the period of time you were out of work. This is called a closed period of disability.
Q: Do I need to appeal if I am denied?
A: Yes. Many claimants have to appeal their cases two times and then go to a hearing before an administrative law judge before they are approved. If you are denied benefits, you should consult a Social Security attorney to discuss your appeal options. You don't have to hire an attorney to appeal a denial, but your chances of succeeding on appeal will be improved with an attorney who understands the rules, regulations and laws of Social Security.
Q: I don't have any physical problems, but I can't work because of a mental disorder. Can I still get Social Security benefits?
A: If you are not working SGA (earning over $1000/month), you will be considered disabled by SSA's rules if you are unable to perform basic work activities. According to SSA's guidelines, the basic mental demands required of all unskilled work include the abilities to: 1) understand, remember and carry out simple instructions; 2) make judgments that are commensurate with the functions of unskilled work, i.e., simple work-related decisions; 2) respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers and work situations; and 4) deal with changes in the routine work setting. If your doctors verify that you have a substantial loss in any of these areas, you will have a very good chance of winning your disability claim, provided they can document sufficient professional analysis of the sources and severity of your limitations.
Q: Why shouldn't I hire one of the national companies I see on TV that represent Social Security claimants?
A: First of all, you will likely end up being represented by a person who lives in another state who has little knowledge or contacts in the local field offices or hearing offices, little knowledge of the judges who will be deciding your Social Security claim, little knowledge of the local job market, and little knowledge of who you are. These firms are built, by and large, on a philosophy or quantity of clients rather than quality of client relationships. In most of these firms, your case will never be seen by an attorney. That's right, you could be represented by a non-attorney representative who will receive the exact same fee as an actual attorney, but will not have the benefit of an extensive legal education and adherence to the strict legal code of conduct imposed upon all state-licensed attorneys. For these firms, you are a number and will be handled by paralegals and various "staff," rather than local attorneys.
On the other hand, if you hire a local attorney, you will get the comfort of having a skilled advocate who is bound by a strict professional ethical code, who spends every day working on issues like yours in front of the very judges who will be deciding your claim. You will be able to speak to your actual attorney about your case and you will be able to meet your attorney before the day of your hearing. Obviously, there are skilled non-attorney representatives that work at the national advocacy companies, and you may end up with one should you make that call. But, on the other hand, you may end up being treated like you are just a number. Your case is too important to take that risk. At the very least, before you hire an attorney, demand that you be able to speak with the person who will be handling your case and make sure you are comfortable with that person's level of skill, understanding of the complexity of Social Security law, and knowledge of your unique situation