Social Security Disability FAQ
On these pages you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about the process of filing for Workers' Compensation and Social Security Disability benefits. The questions and answers below give you an idea of what to expect if we represent you. sHowever, every case is unique. If, after reading this, you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to call. Also, please do not discuss your case with or seek advice from anyone except your lawyer. If you are contacted by your employer, your employer's insurance carrier or a vocational counseling/rehabilitation agency, please refer them to Blaufeld Schiller & Holmes LLP and forward to us any correspondence you have received in that regard. Any direct contact without our participation may jeopardize your case.
The following information is meant to be general in nature and should not be construed as specific legal advice on any individual case.
What is Social Security Disability (SSD)?
SSD is disability coverage for injured workers. SSD is not need-based; rather coverage is based on quarters worked. Typically, you are covered if you have worked in twenty of the last forty quarters.
What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI is disability benefits for disabled children or adults who have not worked enough to be eligible for SSD. SSI is a need-based program. To be eligible, you must be disabled and have no other forms of substantial income or property to meet your needs.
How do I file for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income ?
You can file your claim over the telephone, on line or in person at your local Social Security office. It does not cost anything to file a claim. You may begin the process on-line through our link to Social Security’s website. You may also file by calling 1-800-772-1213.
What happens after I file a claim?
The Social Security office obtains information from you and your doctors to determine if you will be found disabled. Social Security also may choose to send you for a medical examination. When the Social Security office has gathered all the relevant information, it makes an initial determination of disability. Most people are denied at this level. Initial determinations are made by the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) in Greensburg, PA. You may receive requests for information directly from the BDD.
Can I appeal if I am denied?
Yes. The next step is to file a Request for Hearing. We will file this on your behalf. This results in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). We prepare you for the hearing and represent you there. We also obtain reports from your doctors in an attempt to prove your disability. If you are denied at the initial level it is important to appeal. If you do not appeal and re-file later, you could lose your right to past due benefits.
How long does it take to get a hearing?
Social Security has a large backlog of cases. The local hearing office can take up to 18 months to schedule a hearing. Other offices take even longer. While we wait, we will use the time to develop the medical evidence needed to win your case. We may also ask the hearing office to review your case to see if a decision can be issued based on the medical evidence alone. If you cannot obtain shelter, food or medical care, we can ask for an expedited hearing based on dire need. This is not always granted.
Where will my hearing be held?
Social Security has regional hearing offices throughout the area. Your hearing will be held at the regional office nearest to your home.
What are the requirements for disability?
In order to be eligible for benefits, you must be off work or expect to be off work for 12 consecutive months or have a condition that is expected to result in death. You must prove that you are not able to work at any job. However, in making this determination, Social Security considers your age, education and past work in addition to your impairments. Social Security has many complicated rules about how disability is decided.
Why do I need a lawyer at my hearing?
Social Security has complicated laws and regulations that govern the determination of disability. It is important to understand these regulations and apply them appropriately to your case. In addition, it is essential to apply your age and work history in your favor. Claimants who are represented win their cases a higher percentage of the time than unrepresented claimants. It is important to know how to present your case and how to question expert witnesses that may be called by the Social Security Judge.
After my hearing, how long will it take to receive a decision?
It may take several weeks or months to receive a decision. After the hearing, the ALJ reviews the testimony and medical evidence in order to make a decision about your disability. The written decision will be sent to you and our office.
If I lose before the ALJ, can I appeal again?
We do not appeal every case. However, if we think that an appeal is warranted, we can pursue your case to the Appeals Council of Social Security and then to the Federal District Court.
If I win my case, when do I start to receive benefits?
It usually takes 30 to 60 days for your checks to begin. Your first check will represent benefits due from the onset date of your disability to the month in which the first payment is made. Then, you will receive a monthly benefit check. Remember, the first five months of disability are unpaid by law.
Can I get Medicare, too?
Usually, you are eligible for Medicare coverage two years from the date your benefit payments began (two years after the end of the five month waiting period). SSI recipients may be eligible to receive Medicaid.
How are my benefits determined?
Benefits are generally based on the amount of money you made while working. SSD also may provide benefits for your spouse or dependent children.
How does my lawyer get paid?
We receive a fee only if you get benefits. This means the fee is contingent on winning your case and it is all explained to you in a written fee agreement you sign when you retain our firm. The fee is usually 25% of your past-due benefits. If you have any questions about fees, you can call our office at any time.