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Answers to Top Questions About Social Security Disability Claims

Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of filing a Social Security disability claim in Utah? You certainly aren’t alone – many people find the process of applying for benefits to be complicated and confusing.

An experienced disability lawyer or advocate is your best source for information, and most offer free consultations. In the meantime, however, you may find answers to some of your questions in this guide from the professional team at Mountain West Disability.

Social Security disability claims Utah

Who is Eligible to Receive Disability Benefits?

To qualify for benefits, you must be disabled, with an injury, illness or impairment that prevents you from working or, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) says, renders you incapable of substantial gainful activity. In addition, the condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months.

When Should You File a Disability Claim?

If your condition affects your ability to earn an income, you can file a Social Security disability claim immediately. Processing your application could take quite some time, and to minimize the waiting, it’s best to file a claim as soon as possible.

Should You Apply for SSI or SSDI?

You may be approved for benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – or both. Separate applications aren’t necessary, as SSA will consider your eligibility for both programs when evaluating your claim.

What’s the Best Way to Apply for Benefits?

Disabled individuals can file disability claims at the SSA website, over the phone with an SSA representative or at one of the five field offices in Utah. However, working with an experienced disability lawyer or advocate can be both easier and less stressful – plus, having expert help increases the odds of approval.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Decision?

There’s no easy answer to this question, as some disability claims are processed and approved within a few months, while others can take years to make their way through the system. But, if you have a severe condition with a clear diagnosis, a disability lawyer or advocate may be able to help you get an expedited decision.

What if Your Disability Application is Denied?

If you receive notice that your disability claim has been denied, you’re free to appeal the decision. And if your initial request for reconsideration is rejected, you can ask for an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge. If that isn’t successful, you can request a review from the Appeals Council and, if necessary take your case to federal court.

Do you have other questions about Social Security disability claims? In Utah, the professionals at Mountain West Disability are ready to provide answers – and our team of experienced disability lawyers can guide you through the claims process.

With Mountain West on your side, you stand a strong chance of being awarded benefits. And, we’ll only charge a fee if your Social Security disability claim is approved. For a free consultation, contact our office in Murray, Utah, today.

Do You Need a Social Security Disability Lawyer for an Appeal?

You’re not required to have a Social Security disability lawyer at any stage of the claims process. However, hiring an experienced attorney – one who is well-familiar with the Utah state laws and local court proceedings – is a smart move if your initial disability application and your request for reconsideration have been denied.

At this point, you’ll need to present a solid case to an administrative law judge (ALJ). And if you have a skilled Social Security disability lawyer assist with your appeal hearing, you stand a much stronger chance of getting approved for benefits. Here’s why. 

Social Security disability lawyer Utah

Gathering Your Medical Records

While you can request your own medical records, disability lawyers can typically get them faster. Plus, an experienced attorney will be able to review your records to determine if additional medical evidence is necessary to support your claim. 

Contacting Your Treating Physicians

A Social Security disability lawyer can also reach out to your doctors, asking for a written opinion regarding your ability to work. You can ask your treating physicians for that as well, but an attorney’s request is more likely to get results.

Helping You Prepare for Questioning

The judge will ask about your disability, your work limitations and the impact of your medical condition on your life. Your disability lawyer will explain what questions to expect and how to answer them, ensuring that your prepared for the appeal hearing.

Questioning the Vocational Expert

A vocational expert (VE) will likely testify at your hearing, and the judge’s decision may hinge upon what they say about your ability to work. Disability lawyers know how to counter negative testimony, asking questions that lead to supportive opinions.

Playing Up the Strengths of Your Claim

Experienced disability lawyers are often acquainted with the local ALJs and have represented clients at appeal hearings before the judge in your case. As such, your lawyer will know how to present your disability claim in the best possible light.

Contact Mountain West Disability for a Free Consultation

You have the right to appeal a disability denial on your own, without an attorney’s help. However, unless you have a clear-cut case and strong evidence to support your claim, going it alone may not result in an approval for disability benefits. Your chances of winning will be much greater if you have legal representation – and the highly skilled professional team at Mountain West Disability in Murray, Utah, is ready to meet your needs.

We’ve been helping disabled individuals with appeal hearings since 2013, and our advocates, attorneys and disability specialists are dedicated to assisting with every part of the claims process. We take good care of our clients, doing everything we can to get claims approved – and we don’t collect a fee unless we win a case.

If you’re preparing for a Social Security disability appeal hearing and want expert help from an accomplished Social Security disability lawyer in Utah, contact Mountain West Disability today.

Applying for Disability Benefits in Utah

According to the Utah Department of Health, about one out of every five adults in the state is disabled. If you’re part of that group, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Utah residents can apply for benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), both of which are federal programs that provide assistance to disabled individuals. Here’s what you need to know about applying for disability benefits in Utah.

disability benefits Utah

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

The disability benefits application process for Utah residents is the same as that in other states. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) – which runs the SSDI and SSI programs – is an agency of the federal government.

You can apply for benefits at the SSA website, over the phone with a representative from the SSA or in person at one of Utah’s five field offices. You can also fill out a paper form and mail it to your local Social Security office. Or, you may choose to have a qualified disability advocate or disability attorney complete the application on your behalf.

Should You Apply for SSDI or SSI?

The medical requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are the same – meaning that you must have a long-term medical condition that prevents you from working to qualify for disability benefits through either program.

The main difference between the two is that SSDI requires applicants to have a recent work history, with Social Security taxes paid on the income earned. For SSI, prior employment isn’t necessary, as the program is designed to provide assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources.

If you meet the requirements of SSDI and SSI, you can collect benefits through both programs. However, the SSDI benefits will offset your SSI benefits, as the SSA limits the amount of financial assistance you can receive.

Take Advantage of Your Right to Professional Representation

While you can apply for disability benefits on your own, you also have the right to representation. Whether or not you decide to seek out the help of a professional advocate or disability attorney is your choice, but research shows that having an expert on your side can boost your odds of getting approved for benefits.

Disability advocates and attorneys are very familiar with the applications for SSDI and SSI, and their specialized knowledge gives them the ability to avoid mistakes and omissions that result in claims being denied. And when necessary, advocates and attorneys have the expertise to walk clients through every step of the disability appeals process. As such, disabled individuals who have professional representation are more likely to get the benefits they need.

Are you thinking about applying for disability benefits? The highly experienced team at Mountain West Disability, serving clients in Utah and across the country, includes dedicated advocates, attorneys and other specialists. We’ve helped hundreds of people successfully navigate the disability process – and we’d love to help you secure an approval.

For a free case evaluation, or to learn more about how to apply for disability benefits in Utah, contact us today.

How Social Security Disability Attorneys & Advocates Differ

Assistance from a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate can be invaluable if you’re applying for disability benefits in Utah. Either professional could guide you in navigating the SSD claims process, increasing your chance of getting an approval – so who should you hire?

To make a decision, you’ll need to understand the differences between disability attorneys and disability advocates. Read the following, and you’ll have a good idea of where to turn for help with your SSD claim.

Social Security Disability attorney Utah

Comparing Disability Attorneys to Disability Advocates

Disability attorneys and advocates both have extensive knowledge of the Social Security Administration criteria for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). You have the right to choose either to assist with your claim, and you’ll pay the same rate — regardless of who you hire — as the SSA limits the fees for representatives.

Attorneys and advocates have different qualifications, however, with lawyers completing more rigorous training and education in SSA regulations and other areas of the law that can affect SSD claims. In addition, attorneys typically have more experience and skill handling witnesses – plus, they’re the only professionals who can legally appeal a case in the federal district court.

Benefits of Working with a Disability Advocate Team

Clearly, working with a Social Security Disability attorney can be to your benefit. But some advocates – like the team at Mountain West Disability – are a group of specialists, and the group includes licensed lawyers.

In most law firms, the attorneys work on different types of cases, not just with clients seeking disability benefits. With an SSD advocate team, the opposite is true. Helping people with SSI and DIB is all they do, which gives them an edge over firms that don’t specialize in SSD claims.

Choosing to work with an advocate team, particularly one that has attorneys on staff, means having access to a group of professionals who specialize in different aspects of the SSD claims process. The team works together to provide support at every stage, and the result is an exceptional level of service.

Get the Assistance You Need with Your Disability Claim

Ultimately, the decision on whether to work with a Social Security Disability attorney or an advocate is yours to make. But we believe that a professional group that includes attorneys and other SSD specialists – like Mountain West Disability – is the best option.

When you work with a highly skilled and experienced team like ours, you stand a stronger chance of obtaining the benefits you need. We’ve helped hundreds of people achieve that same goal, and we’ll make it our mission to provide you with the best possible representation.

To learn more about the services our advocate team offers, or to schedule a free consultation for advice from a dedicated Social Security Disability attorney in Utah, contact us today.

Basics on Backpay for Social Security Disability Benefits

Most Social Security Disability claims take a long time to process. Applicants who are approved at the initial stage typically wait several months for a decision, and those who end up filing an appeal wait at least a year – in some cases, a few years – before receiving any benefits.

Because of this, just about everyone who is awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receives backpay. Also referred to as retroactive or past-due benefits, backpay refers to the benefits the applicant would have received if their disability claim had been immediately approved.

If your disability application is approved, how much in backpay can you expect to receive? Here’s a look at what the Social Security Administration considers when determining the amount of past-due benefits to distribute.

Disability benefits Utah

Backpay for SSDI Claims

If you’re approved for SSDI benefits, the SSA will look at the date your disability began – referred to as the established onset date (EOD) — to calculate the amount of your backpay.

You may be awarded a maximum of 12 months of past-due benefits, but the number of months for which you’ll be entitled to backpay will depend upon the date you filed your disability application. The SSA applies a five-month waiting period in SSDI claims, so to receive 12 months of retroactive benefits, your EOD must be at least 17 months prior to your application date.

Regardless of the amount, backpay for SSDI claims is always paid in a single lump sum.

Backpay for SSI Claims

If you’re approved for SSI benefits, you will be entitled to backpay for the period beginning the first full month after you filed your disability application. Unlike SSDI claims, no waiting period applies – but, you won’t be eligible for any past-due benefits for the time before you applied.

When the amount of backpay owed is large, the money is typically paid out in three separate installments. The payments are sent every six months, and the first two are capped at three times the maximum monthly SSI benefit. Any remaining backpay, no matter the amount, comes in the third payment.

Exceptions to the rule exist, however, and SSI recipients can ask the SSA for an exemption from the installment limits.

Consult with an Experienced Disability Advocate

Did you know that most Social Security Disability claims are initially denied? Getting the benefits you need may not be easy, but you don’t have to go it alone.

To improve your chances of an approval for SSDI or SSI, turn your case over to an experienced advocate — like the team at Mountain West Disability. We can provide you with help during every stage of the Social Security Disability claims process, and you won’t have to pay us a dime unless we win your case.

For details on the services we offer, or to schedule a free consultation to discuss your Social Security Disability benefits application, contact us online or reach out to our office in Murray, Utah, today.

Getting Social Security Disability if You Haven’t Worked Recently

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial assistance to disabled individuals who are not able to earn a living. But, not everyone is eligible for disability benefits under this federal program.

To qualify for SSDI, you must the work history requirements – and if you haven’t been employed for quite some time, there’s a good chance you may not have enough Social Security work credits. However, you may still be able to receive disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  For more details, read on.

Should I apply for SSDI or SSI?

Qualifying for SSDI

As the name suggests, Social Security Disability Insurance works like an insurance policy. And as with any other type of insurance, coverage lapses if you stop paying the premium. With SSDI, that premium is the FICA taxes withheld from your paychecks – so if you haven’t been working, you haven’t been paying into the system.

How soon does SSDI coverage lapse? As a general rule, if you haven’t worked in the past ten years, you are no longer covered. However, if you can prove that you became disabled prior to the date your coverage ended, known as the date last insured (DLI), you may still qualify for SSDI benefits.

Getting Benefits through SSI

If you’re disabled and haven’t worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI, you may be able to receive disability benefits through the SSI program. Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income isn’t determined on the basis of past employment – it’s a needs-based program.

To qualify for SSI, you must be disabled, blind or over the age of 65. In addition, you must have both a limited income and limited resources. If you meet these requirements, your Supplemental Security Income claim is likely to be approved.

Navigating the Social Security Disability Process

Determining eligibility for SSDI and SSI is far from simple, as the rules frequently change – and exceptions to the rules can also be found. As such, you may benefit from getting an expert to help with your disability benefit claim.

The professional team at Mountain West Disability can save you time and get the ball rolling on your claim. We’ve been helping people obtain disability benefits through SSDI and SSI since 2013, and we’re ready to provide the assistance you need.

While the purpose of disability benefit programs is to provide assistance to people just like you, getting through the claims process and coming out with an approval is often quite challenging. Many people have their initial SSDI or SSI application denied, but your odds will be much better with Mountain West Disability on your side. For more information on how we can help, or to schedule a free Social Security Disability case evaluation, contact us today.

What Is a Social Security Disability Advocate?

Social Security Disability advocates offer professional services to disabled individuals, helping people navigate their way through the SSD application, hearing and appeals process.

That’s what disability advocates do – but before you make the choice to work with one, you’ll want to know what makes an advocate qualified to assist with your SSD claim. Read the following, and you’ll find the answer.

Social security lawyer vs. advocate


Some Social Security Disability advocates are licensed attorneys, and they typically have extensive legal expertise. However, many non-attorney advocates are highly skilled, experts at representing disabled individuals in SSD claims.

Disability advocates are required to have either a college degree or the equivalent in training and work experience. They must also pass a certification exam and a background check, and to remain current on any changes to disability rules, they must meet the continuing education requirements.

As you can see, advocates have what it takes to handle SSD claims. With an experienced professional on your side, you stand a strong chance of getting the disability benefits you need.


While many disabled individuals only seek the help of an advocate after their initial SSD application is denied, you have the right to representation at every stage of the disability claims process.

Your advocate can help you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) – and if your application is denied, they can assist with your request for reconsideration and provide you with representation should you need to file an appeal.

If the Social Security Appeals Council denies your SSD claim, a non-attorney disability advocate won’t be able to represent you. But if you work with a team of SSD advocates that includes licensed attorneys – like the professionals at Mountain West Disability – this won’t be an issue.

Should You Hire a Social Security Disability Advocate?

While you can pursue an SSD claim on your own, your chance of securing disability benefits is higher if you choose to work with an experienced professional. Attorney and non-attorney advocates understand the ins and outs of the claims process, and you may find it advantageous to have competent representation.

Worried about paying for legal services? Don’t be – Social Security Disability advocates work on a contingency basis, with the fees coming out of the past-due benefits awarded. If you don’t score a win on your SSD claim, your advocate won’t get paid. And if you do receive a backpay award? The amount that will go toward legal fees is capped at 25 percent of the total, up to a maximum of $6,000.

If you’re thinking about filing an SSD claim – or if your disability application has been denied – the professional team at Mountain West Disability is ready to fight for your rights. We’ve helped hundreds of disabled individuals get the benefits they need and deserve, and we’d love to do the same for you. To consult with a friendly and knowledgeable Social Security Disability advocate, contact us today.

How Assets Are Calculated in Supplemental Security Income Claims

Should you file a Supplemental Security Income claim? To get approved for SSI benefits, you’ll need to meet certain requirements. And one of the factors that will determine whether or not you qualify is the value of your resources.

For the Social Security Administration, resources is a term used to indicate the things you own – your assets, in other words. But when it comes to SSI claims, not all resources are taken into account. Below, the experienced professional advocates at Mountain West Disability explains how the SSA looks at assets in determining eligibility for SSI benefits.

How Assets Are Calculated in Supplemental Security Income Claims

What the SSA Considers to be Resources

For your Supplemental Security Income claim to be approved, you must have limited resources. To be more specific, the SSA will calculate the value of the following assets:

  • Cash in your possession
  • Funds in bank accounts
  • Stocks and savings bonds
  • Land or real estate property you own
  • Life insurance policies valued at $1,500 or more
  • Personal property of significant value
  • Vehicles other than the one you drive

Any other possessions that you could sell to have money for food and shelter will also be considered. And if you’re married, the SSA may deem a portion of your spouse’s income as being available to you, counting it as a resource.

What the SSA Doesn’t Count as Resources

When you file an SSI claim, certain assets won’t be considered to part of your pool of resources. The SSA will disregard the following in their calculations:

  • Your home and the land it sits on
  • One vehicle used for transportation
  • Furniture, appliances and other household goods
  • Personal jewelry, clothing and other personal effects
  • Burial spaces and burial funds

In addition, the SSA won’t count scholarships and gifted funds set aside for educational expenses as resources unless they were received more than nine months prior to the date of your application for SSI benefits.

Limit for Countable Resources in SSI Claims

Now that you have a better understanding of how assets are calculated in Supplemental Security Income claims, one question likely springs to mind – how much can you have in resources and still be eligible for SSI benefits?

To qualify, your countable resources must total:

  • $2,000 or less if applying for SSI as an individual
  • $3,000 or less if applying for SSI as a family

If the value of your assets is higher than the limit, you won’t qualify for SSI benefits. However, if you have a substantial work history, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. And this program, also known as Disability Insurance Benefits, has no resource limit.

Do you qualify for SSI benefits? For answers to all of your questions about filing Supplemental Security Income claims, turn to the experienced professional advocates at Mountain West Disability. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call our office in Murray, Utah, today

When Should You File a Social Security Disability Claim?

If you become disabled and are unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits. And if that’s the case, you should file your Social Security Disability claim soon. A delay in filing isn’t in your best interests, as it could give the Social Security Administration (SSA) the wrong idea. Here’s what you need to know about timing your application.

How long do I have to file a SSDI claim?

Consider Your Monthly Earnings

To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must be incapable of substantial gainful activity (SGA). In other words, you’ll only qualify for benefits if your condition prevents you from making enough of an income from work.

In 2021, the earnings cutoff for SSD claims is $1,310 per month for non-blind disabled applicants. For statutorily blind individuals, the amount increases to $2,190. The catch here is that you can only apply for disability benefits if you have been unable to meet the SGA level for at least 12 months. If that describes your situation, you should go ahead and file a SSD claim right away.

Don’t Put Off Filing a SSD Claim

Did you know that the SSA denies up to 70 percent of SSD claims? Or that getting an initial decision on your application can take several months? For both of these reasons, filing your Social Security Disability claim as soon as possible is in your best interests.

If your disability keeps you from working and your monthly income falls below the current threshold for substantial gainful activity, there’s no reason to hold off on applying for disability benefits. The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get a decision – and if your application is denied, you can immediately request a reconsideration. If that fails, you can move forward with the appeals process. The point is, you could be waiting to receive benefits for quite some time, so it makes sense to file your SSD claim now.

Schedule a Free SSD Consultation

Do you believe you qualify to receive SSI or SSDI benefits? Or are you ready to apply? At Mountain West Disability, based in northern Utah, offers expert assistance at no upfront cost.

We have a team of highly experienced disability advocates who can answer your questions, provide advice and handle every aspect of your SSD claim. Our skilled legal professionals and case managers offer a full scope of services, and we only charge a fee – which is set by the Social Security Administration – if your application for SSI or SSDI is approved.

You can rely on the Mountain West Disability team to make every effort to help you achieve a favorable decision from the SSA. For more information about how we can help with your Social Security Disability claim application, contact us online or give our Murray, Utah, office a call to schedule a free case evaluation today.

How to Appeal a Termination of SSDI Benefits

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) believes that your medical condition is no longer disabling ” and, therefore, you don’t meet the criteria to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits ” you will be notified that your monthly payments will stop.

Fortunately, you can appeal a cessation of disability benefits, asking the SSA to reconsider their decision. And if you act quickly enough, you can continue receiving SSDI payments during the appeals process.

Social Security disability appeal help

The Disability Cessation Appeal Process

To appeal a termination of SSDI benefits, the first step is to request reconsideration. At this point, the decision may be reversed. If that doesn’t happen, you can ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

If the judge upholds the cessation of disability benefits, the appeals process follows a similar path as that for an initial SSDI claim denial. The next course of action is to request a review from the Social Security Appeals Council. In the event the council doesn’t reverse the decision to stop your SSDI benefits, you can take the case to the Federal District Court.

Forms and Information You’ll Need for an Appeal

If you want to appeal a termination of SSDI benefits, you’ll need to fill out and submit form SSA-789. This form, the “Request for Reconsideration ” Disability Cessation Right to Appear,– requires you to explain why your SSDI payments shouldn’t stop. You can and should submit any new medical evidence that supports your claim with the form.

To continue receiving SSDI benefits during the appeals process, you must submit the form within 10 days of the date on the notice from the SSA. If for some reason you don’t want your payments to continue, you have 60 days to file the form.

If your claim progresses to the hearing stage, you’ll need to submit form SSA-3441-BK, which is called the “Disability Report ” Appeal.– The document is used to update your medical information, and it must be filled out by you or your representative, not your health care provider.

Get Expert Help Fighting a Termination of Benefits

At Mountain West Disability, we understand how to navigate the disability cessation appeals process ” and our highly experienced team can guide you every step of the way.

We’re ready to help you fight for your SSDI benefits, and you can count on us make every effort to show that you continue to meet the criteria for disability. From filling out and submitting the required paperwork to representing you at SSA hearings and providing the expert assistance you need, we’ll be there for every stage.

If you’ve received a notice of cessation from the SSA and you don’t want your SSDI benefits to stop, contact Mountain West Disability in Murray, Utah, today.