FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DuPage County's Experienced Disability Attorney
Social Security benefits can be a confusing topic; Downers Grove Social Security attorney Mary L. Collins has compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions about Social Security disability and SSI. If you have further questions or if you need help with your benefits, contact us today for a free consultation.
1. What is Social Security’s definition of disability?
The Social Security Act describes disability as, “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
2. What are the different types of benefits under the Social Security Programs?
There are at least five major types of Social Security disability benefits.
– Disability Insurance goes to individuals who have worked in recent years (five out of the last 10 years in most cases) and who are now disabled.
– Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits are paid to individuals who are at least 50 and become disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of their husband or wife. The late husband or wife must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured.
– Disabled Adult Child Benefits go to the children of persons who are deceased or who are drawing Social Security disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22. For Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow’s or Widower’s Benefits and Disabled Adult Child benefits, it does not matter whether the disabled individual is rich or poor. Benefits are paid based upon a Social Security earnings record.
– Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), however, are paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. The proof of disability is the same under SSI or the insurance program.
– SSI child’s disability benefits are a variety of SSI benefits paid to children under the age of 18 who are disabled. The way in which disability is determined is a bit different for children.
3. How do I apply for Social Security?
You can go to your nearest Social Security office and wait to see someone to file a claim. You can also contact Social Security by phone and set up a telephone interview or you can apply online. Whatever you do be sure to obtain a receipt or verification that you did apply. Prior to application you should have all of your doctor information i.e. dates of treatment, address, etc. available.
As a general matter, whenever you deal with Social Security for any reason, it is a good idea to keep a record of the date, who you talked to, and what they said. This may be very important if they give you misinformation or to verify that you did report certain information to them.
4. I feel that I am disabled and need benefits. I still have savings and investments available to me. Do have to wait until my money is gone before I apply for Social Security benefits?
No. Regardless of income, there is no reason to wait to file the claim.
5. I used to have a steady job but I decided to stay home with the kids instead. I am now disabled. Can I get Social Security benefits?
Eligibility under the disability insurance program requires that you have worked five out of the last ten years before actually becoming disabled. If you are 31 years old or younger the requirements are slightly different. This is being “insured under the Social Security Disability Program. If you apply and Social Security says you are no longer insured, I recommend you talk to an attorney. regarding your claim. Also, if you have a disability and are a stay at home parent, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney about how Social Security Disability works. Also, if you are a homemaker, and without assets or income you may be able to qualify for Social Security Income (SSI) regardless of past work and income.
6. How many years do I have to be disabled in order to file for Social Security benefits?
There is no required length of time to wait. Disabled individuals can file for disability the very day they become disabled. Many make the mistake of waiting to file after being disabled for an extended length of time. You do not have to wait to file but your disability must prevent you from working for a year or longer.
7. If I am on sick leave can I file for Social Security or should I wait?
You do not have to wait. If you think you will be ill for a year or more then you should file for Social Security benefits as soon as possible.
8. I was injured on the job. I am receiving worker’s compensation benefits. Is there a way to file for Social Security benefits while I am still receiving worker’s benefits or should I wait until my benefits end?
Do not wait until your benefits end to file for Social Security. You can file for Social Security while you are still receiving benefits. Applying for Social Security will help ensure that you will have continuous benefits when your worker’s benefits end. If you do not apply right away you may have a gap between receiving benefits. Be sure to advise your workers compensation attorney about your application for disability. It may influence the wording of your settlement agreement.
9. Can I receive both Social Security and Worker’s Compensation?
Yes. Your Social Security benefits may be offset while you are still receiving worker’s compensation, but it will probably still be more than you are receiving now.
10. Is there a way I can tell what my Social Security Disability Benefit will be?
Yes. You can call Social Security regarding your potential benefits or request a Personal Benefit Summary
11. Is a permanent disability necessary in order to receive Social Security disability benefits?
No, a disability that will prevent you from working for at least a year is required for benefits. Some impairment such as broken limbs or surgeries take more than one year to heal. You still can allege what is called a closed period of disability.
12. I have many physical problems. It is not one thing that disables me but the combination of all of them. Can I still apply for Social Security benefits?
Yes. Social Security will take into account the many disabilities that you are faced with. Many claimants have applied with a combination of ailments.
13. Will a short-term disability, which prevents me from working, qualify me for benefits even though I will be able to return back to work after I recover?
It depends. If your disability impairs you for one year or more, then you should apply for Social Security benefits.
14. How does Social Security establish that I am disabled?
Social Security will consider your medical records, age, medical history, and education and work experience. If Social Security concludes that you are unable to do your past work, they will consider whether or not there is any other work you can do before establishing you as disabled.
15. After I have initially applied for Social Security benefits and my claim is denied, what should I do?
You should consider discussing your claim with an attorney, but whatever you do you should appeal with a request for reconsideration. Many claims are denied at the first application, so it is important to get your appeal in within the sixty days allowed for appeal.
16. What is “reconsideration?
After you are denied at the initial level, you have the ability to request “reconsideration. The case is then sent to a new disability examiner and you will await a new decision.
17. Will I win at the reconsideration level?
About 20% of those who file a request for reconsideration win. If you are denied, you appeal by requesting a hearing.
18. How long will I have to wait before I get a hearing on a Social Security disability claim?
Currently there is about a twelve-month wait.
19. What is a hearing like?
The hearings will consist of you, the judge, and a secretary operating a tape recorder, your attorney and anyone else that you feel is necessary for your case. There is no attorney there to represent Social Security.
20. What are my chances of winning?
About half of the people who go through with the hearing process win.
21. What if after I get on Social Security benefits I feel well enough to return to work. Can I return?
Yes. If you are receiving Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits, or Disabled Adult Child Benefits, you will receive full benefits for a year after you return to work. Also, if you decide to leave work within three years of starting, you will be able to receive your benefits back without having to reapply.
22. How do lawyers get paid?
In most cases the attorney will be given one-quarter of the back benefits. This is only when the claimant wins. Otherwise, there is no fee if the claimant loses.
23. Can drug addicts or people with alcohol addictions get Social Security benefits?
No. But, if you are disabled apart from your alcoholism or drug abuse (i.e. heart attack, cancer, etc.) then you may become eligible for disability benefits.
24. I am disabled and have never worked; can I still receive Social Security disability benefits?
If you have an income that is low enough, then there is a chance that you could receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
25. I am a widow and I am disabled. I have not worked in several years. Is there a way to get Social Security benefits?
You have to be over the age of 50 and had to have become disabled within seven years after your spouse died or after you last received benefits from a parent’s Social Security. More importantly, if you have low income, you can draw from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) no matter what your age is or when you became disabled.
26. I have a child that has been disabled since birth and will never be able to work. Can my child receive benefits?
It is possible. If the child is under the age of 18 and as a parent you are not able to support your child, there may be a way to qualify for SSI’s child’s disability benefits. There are many important issues to consider as your child approaches 18. It is a good idea to talk to an attorney about the various programs for disabled adult children.
27. Will my disability benefits stop for any reason?
Social Security will not cut off benefits unless your medical condition has improved or if you have returned to work and you are making what they consider “substantial income. All earned income must be reported to Social Security while you are receiving any kind of disability benefits.
28. What should I do if Social Security tries to cut off my benefits?
Appeal immediately. If you appeal within ten days of the notification then you can ask to receive benefits throughout your appeal. This is also a good time to speak with an attorney.
29. If I am mentally ill can I receive Social Security benefits?
30. How long does it take for a decision to be made once I file a claim?
Once you file your claim, it will take about four months for a decision. If it is denied, you can request for reconsideration and probably wait another two to four months. If it is denied again, you can request a hearing. In the Chicago area, it is about a year wait to get a hearing date.
31. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
The short answer is that Medicaid is a poverty program and Medicare isn’t. For Medicare, it does not matter whether you are rich or poor. If you have been on Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widows or Widowers Benefits or Disabled Adult Child Benefits for 24 months, you qualify for Medicare. The good thing about Medicare is that it pays doctors at a higher rate than Medicaid. Almost all doctors are happy to take Medicare patients. On the other hand, it does not begin until after a person has been on disability benefits for two years and that it generally does not pay for prescription medications.
32. If I get Social Security disability benefits, will I get Medicare?
If you are approved for any kind of Social Security disability benefit other than SSI, you will get Medicare after you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for two years.
33. Can I get Medicaid and Social Security disability benefits?
If you happen to be approved for SSI then you will receive Medicaid. It is also possible to get both Medicare and Medicaid if you are approved for SSI and another type of Social Security disability benefit.
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