Norris Law Office
Social Security Disability Law Professionals
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
To qualify for disability, you must have a health problem which keeps you from performing any kind of substantial work and that health problem must last or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months, or alternatively, be expected to result in death. Generally, social security will consider a person’s work to be substantial if the person is able to earn a specific amount of money per month. For the year 2009, social security will find your work is substantial if you are earning more than $980.00 per month after deducting allowable amounts. If you are self-employed, social security will consider the value of your work and your role in the day to day activities and management of your business to decide if you work is substantial.
2. What is the difference between social security disability (SSD) and supplemental security income (SSI) ?
Social security disability benefits are paid to people who are disabled and have worked and paid into social security. Supplemental security income is for people who are poor and disabled regardless of whether they have worked in the past. SSI is a form of welfare for the disabled and people over the age of 65.
3. How many years do I have to work to be eligible for social security disability (SSD)?
As general rule, you will be considered eligible for disability benefits if you have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years and your disability began during that period. If, however, you are not eligible for SSD due to your work history, you may be eligible for SSI, depending on your assets.
4. When should I apply for SSD or SSI?
You should apply for benefits as soon as you stop working if you have a reasonable belief that you disability is likely to last at least 12 months.
5. How do I apply for SSD or SSI?
You can apply by filling out an application for disability benefits at www.ssa.gov , setting up a telephone appointment or visiting the local social security office.
6. Can I apply while I am on sick leave?
Yes. You do not have to use up your sick leave before applying for benefits.
7. Can I receive both private disability benefits and social security disability benefits?
Yes. However, depending upon the type of long term disability policy you purchased, your long term disability carrier may be entitled to an offset in an amount equal to your social security disability benefits.
8. Can I apply for SSD while I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. Social Security, however, may pay you a reduced benefit during the period you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. It’s still best to apply so you have your social security benefits in place when your workers’ compensation benefits are discontinued.
9. Do I have to go through a hearing to get SSD or SSI?
No. You only have a hearing if Social Security denies both your initial application and your request for reconsideration. If, however, your application for disability benefits is granted at either the initial or reconsideration level, no hearing is necessary.
10. How long will it take to get an initial decision without a hearing?
It generally takes approximately 4 to 6 months from the date you file your application to get an initial decision.
11. What percent of the cases get approved at the initial and reconsideration levels?
Approximately one third of the applications are approved at the initial level. At the reconsideration levels, approximately 10% of the applications are approved.
12. Why does Social Security deny so many claims?
The cost to the social security system is staggering if your application is approved. Not only do you receive monthly benefits until age 65 but you will also eventually be eligible to have all your medical bills paid by Medicare. For this reason, Social Security must carefully weed out all non meritorious claims.
13. What happens at the hearing?
The hearings are very informal. The people present include the judge, the claimant, the claimant’s attorney and usually a medical expert and vocational expert. The judge will ask you questions about your condition and elicit opinions from the medical expert and vocational expert. Your lawyer will also have an opportunity to ask you questions and cross examine the medical expert and vocational expert. Many times, you will have a good idea as to whether you won by the end of the hearing.
14. How long does it take to get a hearing?
In Illinois, the waiting period varies between 12 and 21 months.
15. Do I have a realistic chance of winning at the hearing if Social Security initially denied my claim?
Yes. 60 to 80 percent of claimants’ applications are approved at the hearing level. This is likely attributable to more claimants being represented by counsel at the hearing level.
16. How am I supposed to live while I am waiting for my benefits to be approved?
At the local level, you can apply for public assistance and depending upon how impoverished you are, you may qualify for food stamps and Medicaid. Local charities also provide assistance to persons who are disabled and impoverished. You may also attempt to work part time. So long as you earn less than what Social Security considers substantial work which is $980.00 per month for the year 2009, you can still receive benefits. In some instances, if you return to work and stop after three months, Social Security may not count your earnings and treat your attempt to return to work as an unsuccessful work attempt.
17. Can I get an expedited hearing?
If you have a very strong case, your lawyer can ask for an on the record review and the administrative law judge can approve your benefits without a hearing.
18. Is there a list of illnesses which automatically qualify me for SSD or SSI?
No. However, Social Security does maintain a list of illnesses and conditions which may automatically qualify you for disability benefits provided you meet all the criteria of signs, symptoms and loss of function set forth by Social Security.
19. What medical evidence do I need from my doctor to qualify for SSD or SSI?
You need medical records and reports which support your complaints. Social Security is required to consider all complaints which are supported by the medical records. The best medical records and reports address both your physical and mental condition and demonstrate how your condition affects your ability to walk, stand, sit, lift, push, pull and work generally. As to mental conditions, your doctor’s records should address how your condition is affected by stress and how your condition affects your ability to concentrate, focus, learn and work with co-workers and others. A report containing a mere opinion that your condition or illness prevents you from working is not sufficient.
20. I have an autoimmune condition which disables me intermittently but not for 12 consecutive months. Can I apply for SSD or SSI benefits?
Yes. If you can prove your condition is recurring, you may meet a medical listing for one of the many autoimmune conditions. You can also ask Social Security to treat any past work you performed for six months or less while your condition was in remission to be treated as an unsuccessful work attempt.
21. What is the amount of my benefit if I win?
Your benefit is calculated based on your principal insured amount (PIA); You can find the amount of your estimated disability benefit by checking your earnings statement which Social Security annually mails to all workers.
22. How long will my benefits last?
Your benefits will last until your condition improves or until you turn age 65.
23. How far back will I be paid disability benefits?
Social Security will only pay disability benefits going back 12 months from the date you filed your claim. There is also a waiting period of 5 months from the date you first became disabled. Accordingly, if you file your claim within 17 months of becoming disabled, you should not loose any back benefits.
24. How long do I have to receive benefits before I am entitled to Medicare?
If your disability benefits are approved by Social Security, you will be entitled to your Medicare card 29 months after your disability onset date.
25. When can I hire Scott Norris Law Office?
You can hire us at any stage in the proceedings. The sooner you hire us, the better chance you have of succeeding .
26. How do you get paid?
We get paid only if we win. Our fee is the lesser of 25% of your past due benefits or $5300.00. This $5300.00 cap is set by the Commissioner and is always subject to change.