Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the definition of disability used by Social Security?
Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means "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 continous period of not less than 12 months.
- How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
You can file online by going to www.ssa.gov and click on the link for applying for disability benefits. In the alternative, you can contact Social Security by telephone and arrange for a telephone interview to file the claim or go to your nearest Social Security office.
- How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits?
Not even one day. You can file for Social Security disability benefits on the very same day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. There is no reason to file a Social Security disability claim if you only have a minor illness or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, if you suffer serious illness or injury and expect to be out of work for a year or more you should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits.
- I got hurt on the job. I am drawing worker's compensation benefits. Can I file a claim for Social Security disability benefits now or should I wait until the worker's compensation ends?
You do not have to wait until the worker's compensation ends and you should not wait that long. You can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits while receiving worker's compensation benefits. It is best to file the Social Security disability claim as soon as possible because otherwise there may be a gap between the time the worker's compensation ends and the Social Security disability benefits begin.
- How can I tell if I will be found disabled by Social Security?
Unless your disability is catastrophic (such as terminal cancer, a heart condition so bad that you are on a heart transplant waiting list, total paralysis of both legs, etc.), there is no easy way for you to tell whether you will be found disabled by Social Security. In the end, the decision of whether or not to apply for Social Security disability benefits should not be based upon whether or not you feel that Social Security will find you disabled. You should make the decision about whether or not to file for Social Security disability based upon your own belief about your condition. If you feel that you are disabled and not going to be able to return to work in the near future, you should file for Social Security disability benefits. If denied, you should consult with an attorney familiar with Social Security disability to get an opinion as to the chances of success on appeal.
- I have several health problems, but no one of them disables me. It is the combination that disables me. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?
Social Security is supposed to consider the combination of impairments that you suffer in determining disability. Many, perhaps most, claimants for Social Security disability benefits have more than one health problem and the combined effects of all of the health problems must be considered.
- How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?
Social Security is supposed to gather your medical records and carefully consider all of your health problems, as well as your age, education, and work experience. In general, Social Security is supposed to decide whether you are able to do your past work. If Social Security decides that you are unable to do your past work, they are supposed to consider whether there is any other work which you can do considering your health problems and your age, education, and work experience.
- If I am approved for Social Security disability benefits, how much will I get?
For disability insurance benefits, it all depends upon how much you have worked and earned in the past. For disabled widow's or widower's benefits, it depends upon how much the late husband or wife worked and earned. For disabled adult child benefits, it all depends upon how much the parent worked and earned. For all types of SSI benefits, there is a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. Other income that an individual has reduces the amount of SSI which an individual can receive.
- What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?
First, do not be surprised. If you are denied at the initial level, unless you have already returned to work or expect to return to work in the near future, you should appeal, that is, file a request for reconsideration. You should also consider employing an attorney to represent you.
- I am a widow. I have not worked in public work in many years. I am disabled. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?
If you are over 50 and became disabled within seven years after your husband or wife died you can get Disabled Widow's or Widower's Benefits. Perhaps more important, if you have limited finances and resources, you can draw Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits no matter what age you are or when you became disabled.
- If Social Security tries to cut off my disability benefits, what can I do?
You should appeal immediately. If you appeal within 10 days after being notified that your disability benefits are being ceased, you can ask that your disability benefits continue while you appeal the decision cutting off your benefits. You may also want to talk with an attorney about representation on your case, but you should file the appeal immediately.
- I am disabled by mental illness. Can mental illness serve as the basis for a Social Security disability claim?
Yes. Mental illness is a frequent basis for awarding Social Security disability benefits.
- If I get Social Security disability benefits will I get Medicare?
If you are approved for Social Security disability you will get Medicare after you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for two years.
- If I get Social Security disability benefits will I get Medicaid?
If you are approved for SSI you will get Medicaid. It is possible to get both Medicare and Medicaid if you are entitled to SSI and some other type of Social Security disability benefit.