Frequently Asked Questions About SSI and Social Security Disability

The Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek, Esq. can address specific questions and concerns about your circumstances. The following FAQ provides general answers to some of the most common questions we hear.

What is the difference between SSD and SSI?

Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. You can file for Social Security Disability (SSD) if you are "insured" through contributions deducted from your paychecks. The amount of your benefits is based on how much you have paid into the system. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people who do not qualify for SSD because of minimal work credits. The definition of disability is the same for both, but SSI eligibility has strict limits on income and assets.

How disabled do I have to be?

You do not have to be completely incapacitated or permanently disabled. You must have a physical or mental impairment recognized by the Social Security Administration that has or will prevent you from working for at least 12 months.

Who decides if I am disabled? How do they decide?

At the initial level, claims are assessed by SSA examiners. They consider many factors, including: the nature and severity of the impairment, medical records, work history, age, education level and whether you could perform other types of work.

What happens if my claim is denied?

If your claim is denied, you can pursue an appeal, including a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.

Can my family members get benefits?

Family members may be eligible for SSD benefits, including minor children, spouses caring for dependent children, disabled children under 18 (SSI only) and widows or adult disabled children of a Social Security recipient who is deceased.

Can I work while getting disability benefits?

The premise of SSD and SSI is that you are unable to earn a living. However, Social Security encourages claimants to rejoin the workforce. Thus, if you are awarded benefits, you are entitled to a trial work period as well as a certain amount of part-time earnings, but you must be careful not to exceed the limits.

Do I need a lawyer?

You do not have to hire a lawyer to apply for Social Security Disability. A fraction of applicants are approved without any legal help. But if your claim is denied (the large majority of claims are), it is very difficult to successfully appeal without legal representation.

How much does a lawyer cost?

Attorney fees are closely regulated by SSA and are capped at 25% of your recovery, up to a maximum of $6,000. Securing benefits that otherwise would be denied or delayed, including retroactive benefits, more than makes up for attorney fees in most cases.

When should I apply? When should I hire a lawyer?

The process takes a long time. You should apply as soon as you become disabled from work. You should also involve an attorney early in your case. The best time to speak with us is before you stop working. Our attorney can review your SSD/SSI application and recommend changes to maximize your chances of success.

How long does it take to get benefits?

That depends on where you live and how many levels of appeals are required. In eastern Pennsylvania, initial determination takes three to six months. If the claim is denied, the wait time for a hearing is 17 to 20 months, plus two or three months to receive the judge's decision. In New Jersey, an extra step called Reconsideration adds several months. The whole process commonly takes up to two years, but it could be shorter or longer in your specific case. Our goal is to shorten the waiting time as much as possible.

Why was my claim denied? My neighbor got approved on the first try.

Benefits are granted on the basis of medical documentation and medical opinion, not whether an individual "looks" or "feels" disabled. Claims are denied for many reasons, including missed deadlines, incomplete medical records or lack of medical treatment. We help clients craft their application to present the strongest case possible.

What if I don't have medical insurance?

Medical treatment is not only critical to your health, but critical to your SSD/SSI claim. Without proper medical evidence your claim WILL be denied, no matter how severe your disability. We often direct uninsured clients to apply for welfare and state medical assistance or to seek treatment at free clinics to establish those crucial medical records of diagnosis, treatment and progression of the condition.

Still Have Questions? Get Answers in a Free Consultation.

Our firm welcomes people from the greater Philadelphia area, southeastern Pennsylvania and nearby areas of Central and South Jersey. To arrange a free consultation with our knowledgeable attorney, call: (215) 886-0398 or contact us online.