Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I hire a Representative/Advocate?

Navigating the Social Security Disability process on your own can be a daunting task. It’s a difficult process on its own, but for someone with disabling medical conditions, it can be unmanageable. Organizing and submitting proper and accurate information can save both time and frustration. At Mountain West Disability, we strive to do all we can to accelerate the process, and alleviate the stress of applying on your own.

Can you help me if I already have a claim filed?

Yes! We can help even if you have already filed a claim for disability. Call our office today and we can assess your situation to determine what we can do.

I am not in Utah, can you still help me?

Our office serves clients predominately in the western United States, but we are capable of assisting with claims anywhere in the nation, including Guam and Puerto Rico.

How much do you charge?

We require no money out-of-pocket. Our fee is set by the Social Security Administration at 25% of any back pay you are awarded, up to $6,000.00. There are no hidden fees or charges.

How does your office get paid?

If your claim is approved, Social Security determines our fee, and deducts it from your back pay before they release it to you. In most cases, you won’t need to worry about sending us money after you receive your back pay.

Do you handle child’s claims?

The rules surrounding Social Security Disability claims for children are different. We understand each case is unique; therefore, there is no definitive yes or no answer. Please contact our office so we can obtain more information about your child’s claim to determine if we can help.

Why do I work with so many different people in your office?

Each phase of the Social Security process is different. We have trained experts in each phase of the process, so as your claim progresses, you work with a case manager who is familiar with that particular stage. Our office works as a collaborative team designed to provide you with the best possible representation.

How can I find out the status of my claim?

You can set up a profile on the Social Security Administration’s website (, and view the status of your claim there. Our office also corresponds with you regularly to ensure you are receiving any new information provided by Social Security. If you have hired us as your representative, you can contact our office if you have additional questions.

How can I speed up the process?

The most effective way to keep your claim moving quickly is to provide Social Security with the information they ask for, in a timely manner. Anytime they send you mail requesting information, reply immediately. Call our office if you have any questions regarding the information you receive from Social Security.

How long does it take to receive a decision?

Each stage of the process is different, and it can take a different amount of time to receive a decision depending on the stage your claim is in. Below are the average amounts of time that it takes to receive a decision:Initial Decision (1st) – 4-6 months after the application is filedReconsideration (2nd) – 3-4 months after the appeal is filedHearing Scheduled – About 20 months after second appeal is filedDecision from Hearing Judge – 2-4 months after the hearing takes placeAppeals Council – 18-24 months after the appeal is filed

If I go back to work, will it affect my claim? Can I work while applying for benefits?

Social Security allows you to make up to approximately $1100 gross per month, as long as you are working less than 20 hours per week. However, it is important to understand that any work activity has the potential to negatively impact your disability claim. According to Social Security, if you can work over 20 hours a week, and make over $1100 a month, you are not considered disabled under their standard. Social Security gets all earnings and W2 information from the IRS to review your case. If you have worked, they will know about it. Therefore, it is very important to keep our office informed of all your work activity.

Can I start working again after my claim is approved?

Any changes to your income and work activity must be reported to Social Security. If you begin working after your claim has been approved, this may result in a change to the amount of benefits you receive each month, or may result in a denial of ongoing benefits.

Will my spouse’s income affect my claim?

There are two different types of Social Security benefits you can potentially qualify for: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). SSI benefits are effected by household income and assets, and to technically qualify for these benefits, you must meet certain household income and assets criteria. If your household income is over the limits set by Social Security, it’s possible that you won’t qualify for that type of benefit, regardless of your medical conditions. DIB claims are not effected by household income or assets, however.

How can my friends or family members help with my claim?

Having a great support system throughout this process is always helpful. Friends and family can help in several different ways. They can provide rides to and from doctor appointments or scheduled hearings. They can assist you with any daily activities you are unable to accomplish (cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc…). Friends and family that are very familiar with your daily struggles are encouraged to write us a letter, describing what they have witnessed you go through. We can provide these statements to Social Security.

Why does Social Security send me so many duplicate documents I have already completed?

It’s critical that throughout this process Social Security has the most up-to-date information. They may send out the same document several times just to update any changes that may have occurred over several months. Please complete everything Social Security sends you as soon as possible so that they can continue processing your claim.

What if I can’t find a ride to my hearing or to my Social Security exam?

If you do not attend a doctor’s appointment(s) or hearing scheduled by Social Security, your claim may be delayed or denied. It is critical that you find a way to attend all of your scheduled appointments. Social Security notifies you several weeks in advance about any appointments they schedule, allowing you plenty of time to arrange travel, baby-sitters, etc. Please contact friends, family, church leaders, or public transportation services to ensure that you will be able to attend all appointments.

Will Social Security reimburse me for travel?

If you have a hearing scheduled and are expected to travel more than 75 miles in one direction to the hearing, Social Security may reimburse you for travel. At the hearing, you will need to request a travel reimbursement form. They will only reimburse you after you have attended the hearing. Please note: our office does not assist with these forms, and you will need to follow up with Social Security directly on any reimbursement requests.

Can I apply for food stamps or other assistance while applying?

Although our office doesn’t assist with applying for these type of benefits, you can apply for food stamps or other state assistance while applying for Social Security Disability benefits. Please be aware that while food stamps will not be considered income, some other types of benefits may affect your claim. Contact our office for more information about the type of benefits you are applying for, or looking to apply for.

Can I apply for/receive unemployment while applying for Social Security disability benefits?

Ultimately, the decision to apply for unemployment is up to you. However, it’s important to understand that when you apply for unemployment, you are stating you are capable of working, and are actively looking for job. When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you are stating you are unable to work due to medical conditions. These are contradictory statements and can negatively impact each other. If you received unemployment during the period of time you are found disabled, some states require you to pay back the unemployment you received. You also will not be eligible for back pay during the time you receive unemployment and have a claim pending for Social Security Disability.

Do I need to get a copy of my medical records?

Social Security will request copies of your medical records, so you do not need to obtain copies of your medical records. Submitting duplicates to Social Security irritates them, so it is best to let them take care of getting your medical records. They take care of covering the invoice costs, so it also allows you to avoid having to pay for your records. If you start to see new doctors, or have new medical records from current doctors, contact our office so we can notify Social Security, and they will request those records as well.

Does your company pay for me to see doctors?

Unfortunately, we cannot pay for your medical treatment. However, we can provide a list of free/low cost clinics in your area that may help you. The strength of your claim is largely determined by medical records. Receiving regular medical treatment will provide Social Security with the most up-to-date information.

Can you help me apply for Medicaid?

Our office does not assist with applying for Medicaid. You will want to contact Department of Workforce Services to apply for these benefits. If requested, we can provide a letter that indicates you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits. This may help DWS make a decision regarding your eligibility.

What if I can’t afford medical treatment?

The strength of your claim is largely determined by medical records. Receiving regular medical treatment will provide Social Security with the most up-to-date information regarding your medical conditions. We understand that it’s difficult to receive treatment on a limited income. Try applying for assistance with the Department of Workforce Services, seek assistance from friends or family members, or try finding free or low cost clinics through the United Way.

Do you think I have a good case?

Our office can evaluate the technical aspects of your claim at anytime throughout the process. However, the medical determination is made by Social Security. If your claim is elevated to the hearing level, we’ll be able to review the medical evidence Social Security has gathered and evaluate the strength of your claim at the time. If we have concerns about the strength of your claim we’ll discuss your options going forward.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability?

You can apply online or in person at the Social Security office. However, if you call our office, we can see if you are eligible for our company to represent you. We would then obtain all the necessary information, and file the application for you.

What is the Social Security Process?

1. Initial Application: Applying for disability benefits will start with filing an application. This can be done online or in person at your local Social Security office. Once the application is filed, it can take anywhere from 4-6 months for the Disability Determination office to make a decision. They will send you forms that you will need to fill out, and you may be sent to their doctors for a short exam. Social Security will be responsible for requesting your medical records. If you are denied at the initial stage, we will file an appeal for you.

2. Reconsideration Appeal: Within 60 days of receiving a notice that the initial application was denied, an appeal must be submitted. At this phase, you are asking Social Security to review the initial decision. This will be done, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), by someone other than the person who first reviewed it. After the appeal is filed, you are in the Reconsideration stage. This process can take anywhere from 3-4 months for the Disability Determination office to make a decision. They will send you forms that you need to fill out (again), and you may be sent to their doctors for a short exam. Social Security will be responsible for requesting your medical records. If you are denied at the reconsideration stage, we will file a second appeal for you.

3. Hearing in Front of a Judge: If you are denied at the Initial and Reconsideration levels, then a Request for Hearing is filed. This is the longest stage of the process, but it is the best chance you have to win your disability claim. Currently, it can take anywhere from 18-24 months for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review to schedule your hearing. They may send you forms that you will need to fill out at this stage as well. Our office will begin collecting all of your relevant medical records and preparing your file for a hearing. You will have to attend a hearing, and our attorney will be there to represent you. At the hearing, our attorney will present your case in person to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). We will have prepared for success by making sure all relevant medical records have been submitted, appropriate doctor opinion letters have been submitted, and all other pertinent information has been processed. After the hearing, it can take anywhere from 2-4 months to receive a written decision from the judge.

4. Appeals Council: If your case is denied at the hearing level, you have an option of filing an appeal with the Appeal Council. This is a review board that will review the judge’s decision for correctness. The council may either send the case back to the same judge for another hearing, or allow the judge’s decision to stand.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

This is a legal term used when determining your eligibility. If you are earning SGA it means that you have worked, or are working, over 20 hours per week and/or grossing over $1130 per month at the same job for at least 5 months. If you are earning SGA, Social Security will determine you are capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity and will deny your claim for benefits.

How much will I receive if I am approved?

The amount of benefits you will receive is calculated by the Social Security Administration. They make this determination by considering several factors such as: the date you are found disabled, your current monthly household income, previous income (if any), and the date you filed for benefits. Contact your local Social Security office for further information regarding amounts.

How much back pay will I receive if I am approved?

The amount of back pay you will receive, if approved, is calculated by the Social Security Administration. They make this determination by considering several factors such as: the date you are found disabled, your monthly income for each month you spend waiting to be approved, and the date you filed for benefits. No matter how far back you are found disabled, the farthest back they can start calculating benefits is the filing date for SSI claims, and a year before the filing date for DIB claims.

What if I was disabled before, but now I am able to work? Can I still receive benefits?

If you were unable to work for a period of 12 months or more, but experienced medical improvement, it’s possible to be eligible for a closed-period claim. This means you may receive benefits for the period of time you were unable to work, but you won’t be eligible for ongoing benefits. Please contact our office for more information about this type of claim, and whether or not it’s an option for you.

Should I contact Social Security directly to find out why it is taking so long?

You are welcome to contact Social Security directly to get a status update on your claim. However, it is not the easiest way to check the status. If you set up a login on the Social Security Administration website (, you can check the status of your claim that way. Often times, once you have a representative on file, Social Security will ask that you contact them for information about your case. Your representative should be able to give you a good idea of where your claim is at. Social Security receives a high volume of calls, so you can usually get the information you need faster by calling your representative directly.

If I get approved, will I be eligible for any medical benefits?

The short answer is yes. If you are approved for SSI benefits, you will qualify to receive Medicaid benefits through your state. If you are approved for DIB benefits, after a waiting period, you will be eligible for Medicare. Please note that if you are approved for DIB benefits, we can help you understand Medicare and look at plan options. Mountain West Disability has a licensed insurance agent who can help you with your Medicare benefits once you have been approved.

What is a ‘Dire Need’ request?

A dire need request is something we can submit to Social Security in an attempt to expedite your claim. The criteria for these requests are very specific, and it isn’t something every case will qualify for. Your case may be considered for a dire need request if you are homeless, have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, are a veteran, or are unable to afford life-sustaining care. We understand every case is unique, and you may have more questions about this request. Please contact our office so we can evaluate your situation further.

If I live with a significant other, will it affect my benefits?

Social Security determines your eligibility for some benefits based on your household income and assets. If you are not legally married, but living with a significant other, Social Security will still consider you one household.