If you have are disabled and cannot work, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits from the Social Security Administration. During this time, you likely have lots of questions and concerns. 

At The Law Offices of Stacey J. Dembo, LLC, we know that information helps calm fears and relieves stress. Here, Attorney Stacey Dembo responds to some of the most common questions we get when we first meet our clients. To get answers specific to your disability case, contact us today at 312-702-1492 to schedule a free consultation. 

What are the main sources of disability benefits from Social Security?

There are two main sources of benefits for people with disabilities from the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI is based on work credits and disability. A person who has worked and paid a certain amount into Social Security can qualify for SSDI. A person who has not worked and paid into Social Security, or has not paid enough into Social Security, will not qualify for SSDI but may qualify for SSI. 

SSI is based on disability, age, income, and other resources. 

It is possible, in some scenarios, for a person to qualify for both. 

How do I qualify for disability benefits?

Your ability to qualify for SSD benefits will depend on whether or not you are seeking SSDI or SSI. However, to qualify for either or both, you must be disabled. The Social Security Administration (SSA) holds that a person is disabled if they are unable to work because they suffer from a severe medical condition that has either (1) lasted, or will most likely last, for at least twelve months; or (2) will result in death. This is a very strict definition and eliminates a lot of people who need the benefits. 

For qualification for SSDI benefits, you must not be able to do the same work that you did before or be able to adjust to another type of work. You must also have earned enough credits and be younger than the retirement age.

SSI recipients have other qualifications they must meet as well, like proving they have limited resources and income. 

Who can receive disability benefits?

If you qualify for SSDI, it does not matter what state you live in because it is a federal program. 

It is also possible that family members will qualify for benefits. Family members who could be eligible include: 

  • Children
  • Spouse
  • Adult children who became disabled before the age of 22

In some situations, other family members may qualify. Because the facts matter, it is always important to speak to a disability attorney to ensure everyone who qualifies is able to apply.

What are common types of qualifying disabilities?

The types of disabilities approved for benefits vary widely, although some are more common than others. All disabilities fall into one of two categories: physical or mental. 

Examples of Physical Qualifying Disabilities

  • Heart Disease. 
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Cancer.
  • Respiratory Illnesses.
  • Cardiac Illnesses.

Examples of Mental Qualifying Disabilities

  • Intellectual Disabilities. 
  • Anxiety.
  • Major Depressive Disorder.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What is the process to get disability benefits?

All claimants need to apply for benefits.  After you apply your case will be adjudicated by a state agency who will decide to approve or deny your case.  If the Social Security Administration denies your disability claim, you can appeal by requesting reconsideration. Reconsideration means you resubmit the initial disability claim application. If the claim is denied again, you have the right to file an appeal for a disability hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If your case is denied by an ALJ, there are additional appeals that you can pursue.  

What should I expect at a disability hearing?

During the hearing, you will first be sworn in, and then a few other things will occur, like:

  • The judge will ask you questions about your disability, treatment, past employment, educational background, and your quality of life as impacted by the health condition.
  • If you hired a disability lawyer, they can speak on your behalf to argue your case and persuade the administrative law judge (ALJ). Your attorney may also ask you questions to provide the judge with a deeper understanding of your case.
  • If there are expert witnesses, they will provide the judge with additional information on your disability, medical condition, ability to work particular jobs, and what jobs you may be able to perform, if any.
  • In the end, the ALJ may ask you if you want to make any additional comments. Your attorney can advise you of the same and guide you through it. 

After the hearing, the waiting begins for the ALJ's decision.

Where do I go for the disability hearing?

SSA is currently offering hearings in three different formats: in-person, over the phone or via online video.  You can elect which format you want for your hearing.    

Does age make a difference in a disability claim?

Yes, age can make a difference. It is often one factor considered when awarding disability benefits. The SSA uses rules in accordance with a medical-vocational grid to help determine if an applicant should be awarded disability benefits. This grid uses a person's age, skill level, education, and Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to determine if the applicant is disabled or if their disability qualifies. To note, RFC refers to your maximum performance or capabilities despite your physical and/or psychological disability and is assessed on a case-by-case basis after a review of all medical records.

Skill and education are important, but the older a person is, the more lenient the rules are. For example, if you are an applicant whose RFC suggests you can only do sedentary work, plus you have a high school diploma and a history of unskilled work, you may qualify if you are over the age of 50, but you may not qualify if you are younger than 50 years old.

Can I get both workers' comp and disability benefits?

The good news is that it is possible to qualify for workers' comp and disability benefits at the same time. The bad news is that your SSDI benefits may be reduced due to your workers' comp benefits. 

What happens if your claim is denied?

You can appeal your disability claim

Disabilities and the inability to work can be very frustrating and life-changing for so many individuals and families. At The Law Offices of Stacey J. Dembo, LLC we know because we have seen it first-hand. Contact our office today either online or by calling us at 312-702-1492 to schedule a Free Consultation.