The Steps to Disability Benefits Approval

Man on a wheelchair handing papers over

If you’ve been approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), congratulations on winning the benefits that you need and deserve. From your original application to appeals, hearings, and approval, you’ve navigated a complex government system designed to help people who are disabled receive benefits. At every stage of the process, you’ve worked to gain the monthly benefits necessary now that you can no longer work due to your disability. 

If you haven’t yet been approved for benefits, you may feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The process can be frustrating. It can take a long time--sometimes years. And without the guidance of a local, experienced Social Security disability lawyer, you may make mistakes or omissions that you wouldn’t make with the help of a qualified attorney.

We understand that you may have reservations about seeking representation to help you with your claim, especially financial reservations. But once you better understand the process and what a disability attorney can do to help you win your claim or appeal, you can make an informed decision about how to best proceed with your claim for disability benefits. 

The SSA goes through a series of steps to determine your ability to work. After all, every case is unique. By seeking legal representation, you can align yourself with specialists who can help you navigate the steps to gaining full disability benefits. 

The whole process is designed so that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can determine who rightfully should--and should not--receive government benefits based on their disability. 

If you’ve won your case, you may wonder, how long does it take to get social security disability once approved?

When Will I Receive Benefits?

According to the SSA, if your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is approved, you’ll wait five months before you can receive your first SSDI benefits payment. This means you would receive your first payment in the sixth full month after the date we find that your disability began.

Example: Your disability began on June 15, 2020, and you applied on July 1, 2020. Your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2020, the sixth full month of disability.

Watch your mail for notifications from the Social Security Administration following your approval for benefits. Also stay in communication with your attorney, as they can advise you regarding the timeline of “what’s next.” 

How Much Will I Receive? 

By using the SSA’s Benefits Calculator, you can see what you’ll receive for SSDI based on the amount you’ve contributed to Social Security in the course of your work history. It’s not based on the severity of your injury or how much income you currently have. The average SSDI payment in 2021 is $1277 per month, but you may receive more or less than this amount. 

What is Back Pay? 

Back pay is what you would have been paid for your disability had your claim been approved as soon as you filed for benefits. Since many disability cases can go on for years, for some, back pay is significant. You’ll receive your back pay after the five-month waiting period, then you will begin receiving your monthly SSDI payment. SSI is a little different, and your back pay is paid out incrementally instead of in a lump payment like SSDI. Contact your attorney for more information specific to your case, or for a free case evaluation

How Much Will I Pay My Attorney?

All disability attorneys are paid a percentage of your back pay for their representation. Federal law states that attorneys can only collect 25% of your back pay, or $6000, whichever is lower.

Do I Need an Attorney for my Disability Case?

The right disability lawyer can provide several advantages for you in your disability claim. First, a local disability attorney knows the administrative law judges, the clerks and staff, and the system in the local administrative courts. This local knowledge can give you a greater advantage than you may think. The local attorney understands what each judge is looking for. Our local attorney will know these small differences, and these differences may result in a successful claim for disability benefits for you. 

Dos of Seeking a Disability Lawyer: 

  • Reach out to an attorney sooner rather than later. However, if you’re facing a hearing and are not yet represented, contact an attorney immediately. It’s not too late! 
  • Prepare all your documents and medical records.
  • Communicate all details of your case with your attorney in your pre-hearing conference, even if you think they’re not important.
  • Create a summary of your case and the details of your denial so that you can clearly explain the details to your disability lawyer.
  • Continue to focus on your health and well-being.
  • Trust that your attorney has your best interests in mind.

Don’ts of Seeking a Disability Lawyer:

  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed -- we can help.
  • Don’t assume you can’t afford an attorney. Most do not get paid unless you win
  • Don’t accept the denial of your claim -- the majority of claims are denied.
  • Don’t assume you can do this on your own. It takes teamwork.

Here at Affleck & Gordon, we work hard to educate our current and future clients on the process of applying for and receiving SSDI or SSI benefits. For more information on the disability benefits process: 

  • Determining Disability
  • How to Prepare for a Hearing 
  • The Nine-Step Appeal Process Guide
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