Social Security Disability

What Am I Going to Do Now that I’m Disabled?

Social Security DisabilityYou have worked hard to provide for yourself and your loved ones. WHAM! The unexpected happens.  Your health is destroyed.  You cannot work. You lose your job. Your savings is wiped out.  You have no money.  You are going to lose your home and car.  You’re disabled.  You need help.  Will Social Security Disability help?

What Is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability refers to two programs administered by the United States Government.  The first disability program is called Social Security Disability Insurance, or “SSDI” for short. The second program is called Supplemental Security Income, or “SSI” for short.  Both SSDI and SSI pay you money every month when you are disabled.  SSDI beneficiaries are also eligible for medical insurance through Medicare.  SSI beneficiaries are eligible for medical insurance through Medicaid.

How Much Does Social Security Disability Pay a Month?

SSDI Program Payment Per Month

SSDI is the Social Security Disability Insurance program administered by the United Sates Government.  It pays you money if you are disabled and have worked, and paid Social Security taxes, for enough years to be insured. The number of years of work needed depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. For example, if you are 44 years old when you became disabled, you must have worked at least 5.5 years.  If you were 50 years old, you must have worked at least seven years.  If you were 55 you must have worked about 8.5 years.  The money that it pays is based on the money you earned before becoming disabled.  It is not based on household income or how severe the individual’s disability is.  The average SSDI benefit paid to disabled workers in June 2019 was $1,234.00 a month or about $14,064.00 a year.  The maximum SSDI benefit that a disabled worker can receive each month is $2,861.00. Typically, the SSDI program provides more money to a disabled person than the SSI program.  However, if you do not meet the requirements for SSDI, you may qualify for SSI.

SSI Program Payment Per Month

SSI is the Supplemental Security Income program administered by the United States Government.  It helps disabled people who have had little to no income in the years before becoming disabled.  It is essentially a welfare program based on disability.  It provides enough money to cover food, clothing and a place to live.  It is also available to children with disabilities if they meet one of the agency’s listed conditions.  In 2019, the monthly maximum provided by the federal SSI program is $771 for an eligible individual or $1,157 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.  Some states supplement these amounts.  Typically, SSI provides less money to the claimant than the SSDI program.

What is Social Security Disability Back Pay?

Besides monthly benefits under the SSDI or SSI programs, past due benefits, or “disability back pay,” will also be awarded.  Under the SSDI program, these past due benefits will date back to the date you became disabled.  Under the SSI program, back pay will date back to when the disability application was filed.  Often, the Social Security Disability back pay can be many thousands of dollars.

What Health Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Almost all physical or mental impairments expected to last at least 12 months can qualify you for Social Security Disability.  However, your medical condition, or conditions, must be “severe” and impair your ability to perform “Substantial Gainful Activity.”  A medical condition is “severe” if it limits your ability to do basic work activities.  “Substantial Gainful Activity” means that because of the impairment, you are earning less than $1,260.00 per month in 2020. 

According to the Social Security Administration, the largest category of health conditions that receive benefits are diseases related to the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues, like arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia and RSD.  Nearly 20% of disability benefits are awarded for mental disorders, like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD, autism and Asperger's syndrome.  Approximately 10% of Social Security disability awards are due to cardiac and circulatory conditions.  These include: angina, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia and congenital heart defects.  Cancer and other neoplasms (tumors) are the basis for about 9.2% of Security Disability benefit awards.  Finally, about 10% of disability awards are made to claimants with disorders related to the nervous system and sensory organs, like Parkinson's Disease, neuralgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, blindness, sciatica and hearing loss.

What Qualifies You for Social Security Disability?

Qualifying for Social Security Disability can be a confusing process.  Described in non-lawyer terms, the basic steps you must satisfy are:

  1. You must not be engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (less than $1,260.00 per month in 2020); and
  2. You must have a severe impairment; and
  3. Your impairment meets or equals one of the impairments described in the Social Security’s Listing of Impairments; or
  4. You must be unable to do your past relevant work; and
  5. You can do no other type of work considering your impairment, age, education and work experience.

What Other Qualifications Are Required?

There are other requirements depending on your situation.  For example, you must be a United States Citizen or a resident alien lawfully in the United States.  If you are blind, you do not have to have worked as long.  For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) there are also work credit requirements and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), there are also resource limits.  Special rules apply if you are applying on behalf of a child.

How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability?

The easiest way to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits is to call us at (855) GO-DISABILITY. 855-463-4722.   However, you can also apply by yourself online, or by visiting your local Social Security Office, or calling Social Security’s toll-free number. Documents you may need during the initial application, include: birth certificate; proof of United States Citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States; U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968; W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year; An Adult Disability Report that collects more details about your illnesses, injuries or conditions, and your work history; Medical evidence already in your possession. This includes reports from doctors, medical records, reports from objective testing like MRIs and other recent test results; pay stubs, proof of veteran’s benefits, and proof of temporary or permanent workers’ compensation benefits.

Is it Hard to Get on Disability?

During the Social Security Disability Process, both your physical condition and your vocational condition are looked at.  Your physical condition is things like injuries and illnesses.  Your vocational condition is things like your age, level of education, the jobs you had in the past and the skills those jobs gave you.  Some medical conditions are more likely to result in an award of benefits than others.  However, a claimant with identical medical conditions may be more likely to receive benefits if their vocational condition is different.  The older you are the more likely you are to win social security disability.  The fewer years of education you have the more likely you are to win social security disability.  The less job skills you have, the more likely you are to win your social security disability.  Generally, an older person, with less education and fewer job skills, the less likely they are to find and maintain employment.   The less likely you can find and maintain employment, the more likely you are to win SSDI and SSI benefits.

Why Are Social Security Disability Claims Denied?

Most Social Security disability claims are denied because there is not enough medical documentation. You have to have thorough medical documentation of your physical conditions to succeed.  If all, or part, of your disability is due to a psychological condition, like depression, anxiety, panic disorder, manic depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, you must be getting regular treatment.  It is not enough to simply have medication refills every several months.  Regular visits to a counselor or therapist that thoroughly documents the problems you are living with is an absolute must. It is also critical that you follow your doctors’ instructions regarding treatment, medications and changes to your lifestyle.  It is extremely difficult to obtain Social Security Disability if you are using drugs or abusing alcohol.  Also, do not try to fool the social security doctors or judges by giving fake, misleading or ridiculous answers to the questions they ask. This is dishonest and can destroy your disability claim.

How Long Does a Social Security Case Take?

The time that it takes for approval of a Social Security Disability Claim depends on which stage in the process your claim is approved.  At the initial Application Stage, the average time from filing the initial application through the date of payment was 120 days in 2019. At the Reconsideration Stage, the average time from filing the reconsideration until payment was 103 days in 2018. At the hearing level, the average time from filing the request for hearing until final disposition was 500 days nationwide. In Texas, the average was 406 days.  So, if your claim is approved after initial application, reconsideration and a hearing, the average time can be approximately 723 days.

Can You Have Any Income While on Social Security Disability?

Both the SSDI and SSI Social Security disability programs limit the amount of income you can earn from working.  The income that you are paid from working cannot be more than substantial gainful activity.  In 2020, substantial gainful activity amount is defined as earning more than $1260.00 per month from working.   The SSDI Social Security Disability program does not limit the amount of income you receive from sources unrelated to employment, like alimony, child support, savings account interest, bond interest and stock dividends.  Under the SSI Social Security Disability program, unearned income will reduce the amount of your payment.

Do You Pay Taxes on Disability Checks?

Most Social Security disability check recipients do not have to pay taxes on their benefits.  Under the Supplemental Security (SSI), the disability payments that you receive are not taxed.  However, under the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) program, it is possible that your benefits could be taxed under rare circumstances.  Usually, those rare circumstances are due to the income of a spouse or other household income.

What is the Highest Paying State for Disability?

Of the two programs that make up Social Security Disability, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI),  SSDI is not affected by the State in which you live.  This is because SSDI is administered by the United State Federal Government. 

However, SSI is administered by government of the State in which you live.  Under SSI, the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) for 2020, is $783.00. The FBR is the maximum amount that you can receive from the federal government for SSI.  Some States, however, pay additional money above and beyond the FBR.  Alaska, California and Idaho are some of the States that pay the most generous money above and beyond the FBR. 

Unfortunately, however, if you are applying for Social Security in McKinney, TX under the SSI program, your benefit will only be up to the $783.00 FBR since Texas does not pay any money in addition to the FBR.  Similarly, if you are applying under SSI for Social Security in Dallas, TX, your monthly benefit will not exceed the FBR because it is still in the State of Texas.  Similarly, if you are applying for Social Security Disability WV under the SSI program, you will be limited to the FBR because the State of West Virginia, like Texas, does not supplement the FBR for its residents. 

How Long Does Social Security Disability Last For?

So long as you remain disabled, your Social Security Disability payments will continue until retirement age which is currently age 65.  When you reach age 65, your Social Security disability benefits will convert to Social Security retirement benefits.  During the time that you are receiving social security disability benefits, you need to continue to be attentive to the health conditions upon which your award was based.

Do I Need a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

Social Security Disability Attorneys are experts in the confusing disability process.  They will make sure the numerous forms required during the disability process are filled out in the way that is most favorable to you.  Their staff will expeditiously obtain your medical records.  They will know if your application has been stalled due to a procedural problem.  They can provide your doctors with Residual Functional Capacity forms to fill out that will document your conditions and restriction.  These forms are tailored to each of your conditions.  Getting the right form filled out by the right doctor at the right time can be critical to your success.  One statistical analysis of your chance of winning shows those claimants represented by social security lawyers were nearly twice as likely to win as those that were unrepresented.  You have a much greater chance of getting the disability benefits you need if you are represented by a disability lawyer.

Can I get a Free Social Security Disability Attorney?

Under normal circumstances, a claimant for Social Security Disability cannot get free representation.  However, most social security disability lawyers and non-lawyer social security disability representatives work on a contingency fee basis.  That means you do not pay them unless you win.  By federal regulation, the contingency fee is limited to 25% of the amount of back pay you receive.  Under no circumstances, can the fee award be greater than $6,000.00.  So, if you are awarded $10,000.00 in back pay, the disability attorney fee you pay would be $2,500.00 (25%).  If you receive $24,000.00 in back pay, the attorney fee you pay would be $6,000.00 (25%).  If you receive more than $24,000.00 in back pay the attorney fee you pay would be capped at $6,000.00.

How Do I Contact You to Be My Social Security Disability Lawyer?

If you need Social Security Disability Benefits to help you deal with your disability, call us for a free consultation.

Our McKinney, Texas Social Security Disability lawyers serve Dallas and Fort Worth, including Plano, Frisco, Allen, and McKinney. Our McKinney, TX office is a short drive from the Social Security McKinney Office on Craig Drive.

Our Huntington, West Virginia disability attorney office serves West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.  Our Huntington, WV office is just around the corner from the Social Security Office Huntington.

For both offices, call our toll-free number 844.UNDERWOOD (844.863.3796) for a free consultation. You may also send us an email.  Se habla español.

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