Author Archives: mountain_admin

How long does it take to get Disability Benefits?

For the majority of people, the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits is not quick or easy. In fact, it can take anywhere from 4 months to 3 years for a claim to be approved. It is important to understand the different stages of the process and what is required in each stage to ensure Social Security is able to handle your claim as quickly as possible.

The Initial Stage:

The initial stage involves filing your application for benefits, and development and review of evidence by the Disability Determination Services (DDS). DDS has adjudicators that review, request records, and make decisions on your claim. During this process, it is common to receive forms requesting information about your daily activities, work history, or doctors and medications. These forms may feel repetitive, but are important to the development of your claim. If DDS feels you do not have enough evidence for them to make a decision, they might schedule you for a Consultative Exam (CE) with a doctor that works with Social Security. Once that exam is completed and the report is released, they will finish reviewing your claim and a decision will be made. At the initial stage, it takes roughly 4-6 months to receive a decision.

The Reconsideration Stage:

If your claim was denied at the initial stage you have 60 days from the date of the denial to file an appeal. Once the appeal has been filed, Social Security will send your claim over to DDS again for review. DDS will request any updated medical records and you could be scheduled for another Consultative Exam. It takes an average of 3-4 months to get a decision at the reconsideration stage.  

The Hearing Stage:

If your claim was denied at the reconsideration stage, you again have 60 days from the date of the denial to file a request for a hearing. Typically, going to a hearing is your best chance of being approved for benefits. The hearing takes place in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you will receive a notice of hearing about 75 days before the hearing date. All medical records and supportive evidence must be obtained and submitted to the hearing office at least 3 weeks prior to the hearing. This allows the ALJ time to review the evidence before the hearing. In most situations, legal representation is required in order to go in front of the ALJ. If you do not have legal representation the judge may order a postponement allowing you time to find a representative. Having legal representation is your best chance for approval. While the hearing stage is the stage where you have the best chance of being approved, it is also the longest stage. The average national wait time to get a hearing scheduled is currently 18-20 months. After the hearing takes place, the ALJ often takes 2-6 months to release his or her decision.

The Appeals Council:

If your claim is denied at a hearing, your next option for an appeal would be requesting an appeal with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews the ALJ’s decision to determine whether or not an error may have been made based on the evidence on file. They can either agree with the ALJ’s decision, and deny the request to appeal, or they can Remand the case and send it back to the hearing office for another hearing. It can take up to 18 months to get a decision back from the Appeals Council.

With all of the different steps and appeal processes, it is ideal to contact an attorney from the very beginning of the application process. Having the proper representation can not only help you avoid unnecessary denials, but gives you an expert to help you understand the process and answer your questions along the way. Contact our office today for a free evaluation. We would love to see if we can help you with your claim!

Can I work while applying for Disability Benefits?

Applying for Social Security Disability can be a very stressful process, especially if you’re unsure how you’ll be able to pay your bills or buy groceries. Many clients ask if they are able to work while applying for Social Security Disability. The answer is yes, but there are strict rules regarding working that Social Security has put into place. These rules must be followed or you will be ineligible for disability benefits.

To be eligible for disability benefits you must work below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) guidelines. Substantial gainful activity is work that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month. As of 2019 the SGA guidelines state that you can earn up to $1,220 (gross) per month as long as you are not working more than 20 hours per week. If you are making over those limits, Social Security assumes that you are not disabled and your claim will most likely be denied.

Can I work full time for just a few months?

This is another question we are often asked by our clients. Technically the answer is yes. If you attempt to go back to work full time, but after a few weeks or months are unable to continue, Social Security can consider the time you worked as a failed work attempt. In most cases, a failed work attempt will not negatively impact your claim. However, if you continue to work in a full time position for 6 months or longer, Social Security will consider you capable of working, and will likely deny your claim.

Call us!

Do you have questions about working or your eligibility for disability benefits? Give our office a call for a free evaluation of your situation and we’ll see how we can help!

What’s the difference between SSI and SSDI?

What is the difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Many people who apply for disability benefits are not aware that there are two different types of benefits they could potentially qualify for. The biggest difference between the two is the fact that in order to get SSDI you have to have accumulated enough work credits in order to be eligible.  SSI is an income based disability program that is available for low income individuals who have never worked or do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Social Security Disability Claim document

 Am I eligible for SSI?

SSI is strictly a need-based program and is based on your household income and assets, your work history is not considered with SSI.  In order to meet the income requirements for SSI you must have less than $2000 in assets ($3000 for a couple) and a very limited income.

If you are approved for SSI, you will be eligible for Medicaid in the state you live it. You may also qualify for food stamps, which is also an income based program. The amount you received will depend on where you live, your household income, and the size of your household.

 Am I eligible for SSDI?

SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. In order to qualify for SSDI you have to have worked a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund, these contributions are made by paying FICA taxes. You must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of work credits, if you are 31 or older, you must have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 years. If you are between 24 and 31, you must have worked at last half the time since turning 21. If you are under 24, you must have worked at least one and a half years in the three year period before your disability.

If you are approved for SSDI, you will be eligible for Medicare. You have to receive 24 payments from SSDI before the Medicare will go into effect. Our office provides a licensed insurance agent that can help you get enrolled with Medicare, when the time comes.

There is also a five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits. You will not be eligible for payments for the first five months after Social Security finds that you became disabled.

Contact our office today for a free evaluation to see what you may qualify for!