What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that is funded by social security taxes and pays monthly benefits to you if you have a severe physical or mental disability, or a combination of the two, that prevents you from working, and you become disabled before you reach retirement age.

Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security pays monthly benefits to you if you are disabled and if you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. 1. Functional Disability: you need medical statement of functional disability to be eligible for SSDI. 2. You must also have built up sufficient “work credits” with Social Security. Exactly how many credits you will need depends on your age and the year you became disabled. Generally, you must have worked 5 out of the last 10 years before you became disabled.

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How Much Is Your Monthly SSDI Payment?

If your application is approved, you will receive monthly Social Security disability income payments in an amount based on your personal earnings record. Paper Social Security benefits statements that used to be mailed out every year fell victim to budget cuts in 2011, and Social Security stopped mailing them out saving the Agency $70 million annually. In September 2014, the Agency resumed mailings at 5-year intervals to workers who hadn’t signed up for statements online. (You can view your benefits statements online at www.1.usa.gov/1d3xvuZ). You also will receive Medicare benefits after 24 months from the month you were first eligible to receive your monthly disability benefit.

Receive your monthly disability benefit

How Does Social Security Define Disability?

You must show that you have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of the two, which prevents you from performing what is referred to substantial gainful activity (“SGA”), that is, work for pay, and that must be expected to last at least 12 months or to result in death. The determination of whether you are disabled leaves a lot of room for argument. The fact that your doctor may have advised you not to work, or that you feel too ill to work, does not necessarily mean that the Agency will agree that you are disabled. Social Security initially evaluates disability based on a catalogue or list of physical and mental conditions contained in its regulations. These are available on the Agency’s website at www.ssa.gov (search for “Listing of Impairments”). Even if you can’t show that your condition is exactly as described in the “listing,” there are still ways to prove that you are disabled. The good news is that if you are denied benefits because Social Security says you are not disabled, you have a good chance of winning on appeal. An attorney can be very helpful at a hearing.

How Long Does A Social Security Disability Claim Take?

Any Social Security disability claim can take quite a long time from start to finish, and processing time can vary tremendously from one case to the next. For individuals who are pursuing disability at the initial claim level, the time spent waiting for an initial answer can easily exceed three to four months. Waits of over a year for an initial decision on a disability claim are a bit unusual, but cases have been known to take that long. In most cases, however, an initial claim will probably be decided in 90 to 120 days. Unfortunately, most claims are denied after the initial application, and the disability claimant must appeal. The entire appeal process can stretch out to more than two years and perhaps as long as three years for a hearing.

How Much Is The Social Security Disability Attorney's Fee?

For Social Security disability lawyers, the fee is limited to 25% of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000. Note that the attorney will be paid only out of your past-due benefits, or “back pay.” If no back benefits are awarded, the attorney will not receive a fee. This is called a contingency fee agreement. The agreement is signed by you and your attorney and is filed with Social Security to ensure that it satisfies the Agency’s guidelines. Some attorneys will ask you to pay a nominal amount for costs at the beginning of your case. We generally do not ask for costs up front; only when we must actually pay for your medical records or your doctor’s opinions.

When Do You Have To Pay The Attorney's Fee?

Usually, you don’t. Social Security takes the attorney’s fee (up to $6,000) from your first disability check (your award of back pay), before the Agency sends the award of back pay to you.

Receive your monthly disability benefit

How Many Levels of the Administrative Review Can You Expect in A Social Security Disability Claim?

Level 1: Following the initial application, the agency will make an initial determination of whether you are disabled under its guidelines. If that decision is unfavorable to you

Level 2: You have the right to request reconsideration and a different group of individuals will review your case to see if that initial decision was the right one. If the reconsideration decision is still against you;

Level 3: You then have the right to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If after the hearing the Judge denies your claim;

Level 4: You then have the right to request review with the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia. If Appeals Council denies your claim, that ends the administrative process. But;

Level 5: You could take your case to Federal Court.
Each appeal must be filed within 65 days (60 days plus 5 days mailing) of the date of the notice of decision. If the Appeals Council still goes against you, then that would complete the administrative process. The only way you could overturn the decision of the Administrative Law Judge would be to take your case to Federal Court.

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