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Top Questions

Q. What can I do to improve my chances of winning my Social Security disability claim?

Be honest and complete in giving information to Social Security about what is disabling you. Many claimants, for instance, fail to mention their psychiatric problems to Social Security because they are embarrassed about them. In almost all cases, individuals who were slow learners in school fail to mention this fact to Social Security, even though it can have a good deal to do with whether or not the Social Security disability claim is approved. Beyond being honest and complete with Social Security, the most important thing that you can do is just keep appealing and hire an experienced person to represent you. It is important to appeal because most claims are denied at the initial level, but are approved at higher levels of review. It is important to hire an experienced person to represent you because you do not understand the way Social Security works. Statistically, claimants who employ an attorney to represent them are much more likely to win than those who go without representation.

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Q. How long will it take to hear something back from SSA?

Initial Application: 4-6 months after application is filed
Reconsideration: 4-6 months after reconsideration is filed
Hearing: 1-2 years after request for hearing is filed

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Q. How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?

Social Security is supposed to gather your medical records and carefully consider all of your health problems, as well as your age, education, and work experience. In general, Social Security is supposed to decide whether you are able to do your past work. If Social Security decides that you are unable to do your past work, they are supposed to consider whether there is any other work which you can do considering your health problems and your age, education, and work experience.

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Q. Who decides if I am disabled?

After an individual files a Social Security disability claim, the case is sent to a disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency in your state. This individual, working with a doctor, makes the initial decision on the claim. If the claim is denied and the individual requests reconsideration, the case is then sent to another disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency, where it goes through much the same process. If a claim is denied at reconsideration, the claimant may then request a hearing. At this point, the case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for Social Security. The Administrative Law Judge makes an independent decision upon the claim. This is the only level at which the claimant and the decision maker get to see each other.

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Q. What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?

First, do not be surprised. Only about 40% of Social Security disability claims are approved at the initial level. If you are denied at the initial level, unless you have already returned to work or expect to return to work in the near future, you should appeal, that is, file a request for reconsideration.

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Q. Why does Social Security turn down so many claims for disability benefits?

There is no simple answer to this question. One reason is that there is no simple way to determine whether an individual is disabled. Most people who are disabled suffer from pain. There is no way of determining whether or not another individual is in pain, much less how much pain they are in. A second reason is that Social Security over the years has been more concerned with making sure that everyone who is receiving Social Security disability benefits is "truly" disabled than with making sure that everyone who is disabled receives Social Security disability benefits. An underlying reason is that Congress has always believed that, given a chance, many people will "fake" disability in order to get benefits.

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Q. What is "reconsideration"?

When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the claimant may then request "reconsideration" of that decision. The case is then sent to a different disability examiner for a new decision. Unfortunately, about 80% of the time the reconsideration decision is the same as the initial decision - a denial.

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Q. Who makes the reconsideration determination?

A disability examiner at the Disability Determination Section makes the reconsideration determination. Most of the time, the claimant does not see the disability examiner or even know his or her name.

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Q. What are my chances of winning at reconsideration?

Statistically, about 20% of the time a claimant wins at reconsideration.

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Q. Do I have to go through reconsideration?

If you want to appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits, you have to go through reconsideration. There is no way to avoid it.

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Q. What is the Social Security hearing like?

The hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are the judge, a secretary operating a tape recorder, the claimant, the claimant's attorney, and anyone else the claimant has brought with him or her. In some cases, the Administrative Law Judge has a medical doctor or vocational expert present to testify at the hearing. There is no jury nor are there any spectators at the hearing. There is no attorney at the hearing representing Social Security trying to get the judge to deny the disability claim.

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Q. Who will be the attorney attending my hearing?

We will not assign an attorney until a hearing is scheduled. We have our attorney management staff & paralegals working to get our cases awarded without the necessity of a hearing. In the event we have to attend a hearing, we will then appoint the attorney we feel will provide the best representation in your case.

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Q. How long after my hearing before I get a decision?

There is an average 2-3 month waiting time after the hearing to get a decision. It will come in the form of a "notice of decision". Your decision is not official until it is received in writing.

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Q. How long after my hearing decision before I get a check?

After you receive your notice of decision, you should receive payment approximately 60 days after that (or about 4 months after your hearing is conducted)

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Q. If the Administrative Law Judge denies my claim, can I appeal any more?

Yes. You can appeal to the Appeals Council, which is still within Social Security.

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Q. What is the Appeals Council?

The Appeals Council exists to review Administrative Law Judge decisions. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia, and neither the claimant nor the attorney sees the people at the Appeals Council who are working on the case.

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Q. How long does it take for Social Security to act upon a request for Appeals Council review?

About a year, maybe longer.

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Q. Why do I have to go to a CE appointment?

Social Security schedules the consultative exam when they do not feel like there is enough medical evidence in the file. For example, if depression or anxiety is listed as a diagnosis, SSA will generally schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist, even if your primary impairments are physical.

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Q. Why do I have to give information about medical tests, etc. when they are all in my records?

SSA wants to be sure that they have the most accurate information and needs to know where to request it. Sometimes tests need to be requested from a different source.

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Q. Why is maintaining regular medical treatment so important in my claim?

Medical evidence from current treating sources is the strongest form of evidence we can obtain. It is very important that you maintain regular treatment and that you are taking your medications. You should contact us immediately if you every stop treatment or discontinue taking all medications completely.

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Q. My doctor says I am disabled so why is Social Security denying my Social Security disability claim?

Social Security's position is that it is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled. It is up to them and they will make their own decision regardless of what your doctor thinks. That is why it is so important to have representation to argue your claim.

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Q. VA says I am disabled, so why is Social Security denying my Social Security disability claim?

It is Social Security's position that VA decisions are not binding upon them. Social Security and VA have very different standards for approving disability claims. However, you should obtain your disability rating evaluation and send to us. We may be able to use it as part of your supporting evidence.

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Q. What can I do for money while I wait?

Apply for general relief or state disability. Also, calling 211 or visiting http://www.211.org can be very helpful, since they have access to a huge array of resources in your community. Also have them contact their local salvation army for resources or assistance. If you are unable to obtain assistance after you have attempted you should call me and I will prepare a dire need package for you to send to a congressman.

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Q. When will I get my money if I am awarded?

At I/A or Recon, about 30 days after the notice of award
At Hearing, approximately 90-120 after the date of the hearing

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Q. If I am approved for Social Security disability benefits, how much will I get?

At this time, SSA is only working to determine if you are disabled. In the event a claim is awarded, the claim will go to a separate office to determine payment information.

For disability insurance benefits, it all depends upon how much you have worked and earned in the past. For disabled widow's or widower's benefits, it depends upon how much the late husband or wife worked and earned. For disabled adult child benefits, it all depends upon how much the parent worked and earned. For all types of SSI benefits, there is a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. Other income that an individual has reduces the amount of SSI, which an individual can receive.

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Q. How far back will they pay benefits if I am found disabled?

For Disability Insurance Benefits and for Disabled Widow's and Widower's Benefits, the benefits cannot begin until five months have passed after the person becomes disabled. In addition, benefits cannot be paid more than one year prior to the date of the claim. For a Disabled Adult Child, there is no five-month waiting period before benefits begin, but benefits cannot be paid more than six months prior to the date of the claim. SSI benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month following the date of the claim.

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Q. Is there an age requirement?

No. Any individual of any age can be found disabled by Social Security. The rules change for individuals over 50 years of age and over 55 years of age making it easier to obtain benefits.

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Q. How long will I receive benefits?

Until you reach full retirement age or until your condition improves to the point where you are able to work on a full time sustained basis for a period in excess of nine months. Social Security has instituted a number of provisions to encourage individuals to attempt a return to work without jeopardizing their disability payments. Remember, just because you may have worked for a short period of time after the onset of your disability you may still be entitled to a full period of disability.

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Q. What if I have other income?

For recipients of SSD there is no limit to the amount of other income you can receive, as long it is not from work activity. For example, if you own an apartment building and receive income from the rents or if you have investments that generate dividends. For recipients of SSI there are additional non-medical requirements related to assets and resources. Please contact our office for more detailed information on the non-medical requirements for SSI.

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Q. What can I do to improve my chances of winning SSI or SSD benefits?

Maintain regular and consistent treatment with physicians that support your claim for disability. If you cannot afford to maintain treatment with private physicians please contact our office and we will refer you to free clinics and county facilities where treatment can be obtained free of charge.

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Q. What if more than 60 days passed since I was denied benefits under initial application?

If there is a good reason for not appealing within the 60 days the appeal may still be processed. Otherwise a new application is filed with a request to reopen the prior application. This is done to preserve the prior date of application to ensure that the maximum amount of past due benefits will be awarded.

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Q. If I was denied benefits based upon my initial application, should I appeal?

Yes! Many claims that are denied initially are awarded at a later stage.

Q. If I am awarded SSD or SSI benefits, how much will I receive?

It varies based on your earnings history. You will receive anywhere from $500 to $2,000 a month or more.

Q. How long will the process take?

From 6 to 18 months to get through the Administrative Law Judge hearing decision stage.

Q. What will it cost me?

There is no cost to you for our representation unless we are successful in obtaining your benefits.

Q. Can my kids get benefits if I am disabled?

Minor children of a disabled worker can receive auxiliary benefits. The amount is approximately 40% of the disabled workers monthly payment.

Q. How do I get started?

Complete the free case evaluation form or call us at (800) 997-1338 today.

Q. What should I do if I am given notice that Social Security wants to review my case after I already am receiving benefits?

Complete the free case evaluation form or call us at (800) 997-1338 today.

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