Social Security Disability & SSI
Seeking Social Security Benefits for People With Disabilities
Applying for Social Security disability (SSD) and SSI benefits can be an intimidating prospect, given the complexity of the programs that are available. At the same time, you may need these benefits in order to replace the wages you can no longer earn on a regular basis.
Addressing Your Concerns About the Social Security System
Our goal is to make sure you understand what is happening to you and what to expect throughout every aspect of the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits. Our attorneys can address your concerns about any of the following:
Types of disability benefits: The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers several benefits programs, including Social Security disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Which program you should apply for depends on your work history and that of your immediate family members.
The Social Security process and timeline: All of the disability programs administered by the SSA have a similar process and timeline. Our attorneys guide clients through each step of pursuing Social Security claims, including the initial application, administrative appeals of initially denied claims, and federal district court appeals.
Types of medical conditions: Any medical condition — physical, mental or emotional — that prevents you from working full-time can be used as a basis for disability benefits. However, the proof necessary to prove you are disabled differs depending on the nature of your medical conditions. The lawyers at our firm have helped clients with many different types of illnesses, and know what is necessary to prove your case.
Frequent questions and misconceptions: The Social Security process and criteria are extremely complex, and our clients have many questions about what it takes to get benefits. There are also often rumors circulating that are false or misleading. For example, contrary to what you may have heard, you do not have to wait until you are disabled for a year before you apply. Our attorneys can clear everything up for you so you can make informed decisions.
Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability?
The Social Security Disability program is for people who cannot earn an income due to a disability. Two types of disability programs exist.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI provides a monthly payment for individuals who have worked in the past but are now disabled and cannot work for a year or more. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked for a sufficient time in a job that is covered by Social Security, and you must have a qualifying medical condition.
To receive SSDI, you must have recently paid into the Social Security system prior to your disability. Paying into the system earns you credits toward SSDI. Earning credits requires a specific contribution amount, which varies each year.
In 2022, every $1,510 of income would earn you one credit. So after earning $6,040, you would have four credits, which is the maximum number of credits you can earn each year.
Once you earn 40 credits, you are eligible for SSDI monthly payments. However, 20 of those credits must have been earned in the past 10 years before your disability.
If you are younger and don’t have many years of work under your belt, you may qualify for one of the exceptions to the credit requirements. The federal government recognizes that workers get disabled when they are young and has made provisions. Our Social Security disability lawyers can help you determine your eligibility.
Qualifying Medical Condition
The Social Security Administration has a strict formula for determining whether a disability is a qualifying condition or not. In order to receive SSDI benefits, your disability must make it so that:
- You cannot engage in substantial gainful activity
- You are unable to work in your previous role or adjust to another
- You will be unable to work for more than one year
SSDI does not cover partial or short-term disabilities due to the federal government’s belief that individuals and families can find the resources to handle short, temporary disabilities.
Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)
SSI covers disabled (and those over 65) individuals who have scarce resources and minimal work history. As stated above, SSDI caters to individuals who have long and recent enough work history to qualify for monthly payments. For those who do not, there’s SSI.
Qualifying for SSI with a Disability
To receive SSI payments based on a disability, your disability must:
- prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity,
- have a prognosis of death, or
- have lasted (or will last) longer than 12 months
This benefit is also available for minors if the disability causes severe functional limitations, has a prognosis of death, or will last longer than 12 months. Contact our Social Security disability lawyers for more information.
Working While Receiving SSDI or SSI
You are permitted to work while on SSDI and SSI. The federal government encourages you to try to get back to work. In fact, they have a few programs that help you return to the workforce.
Working on SSDI
The federal government offers a few incentives for you to return to work. They include:
- Continued cash payments while you work
- Universal health care benefits
- Resources to help with education and rehabilitation
If you do end up working on SSDI, you will start out with a trial period that lasts for at least nine months. During this period, your ability to work consistently and safely will be evaluated, and you will receive full benefits as well as what you earn from work.
When the trial period is complete, you are allowed to continue working for 36 months and receive benefits as long as you don’t bring in substantial earnings. If your payments cease because of substantial earnings, you’ve got five years to ask for a return to payments in case your disability prevents you from working once again.
Sometimes, people who return to work must incur disability-related expenses to help them return to the workforce. These may include a wheelchair, a vehicle, house and office modifications, and medications. You may be able to deduct these expenses from your earnings for the purpose of determining if your income was substantial.
Our Social Security disability lawyers commonly deal with individuals across Western New York receiving SSDI who would like to return to work. They are adept at answering any questions you might have on getting back to work and the implications and consequences.
Working on SSI
As with SSDI, you can work if you’re receiving SSI. However, once the total of all of your income sources reaches a certain level, your SSI payments will stop. Each state determines its specific income cut-off level.
If the SSA ceases your SSI payments due to excessive income, you can have them reinstated if your disability once again prevents you from performing your job. And as with SSDI, your return-to-work and work expenses related to your disability can often be deducted from your income.
Social Security disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller help their clients keep track of important expenses and keep them abreast of SSA regulations. With a competent attorney on your side, you have the peace of mind that your application is compliant and your benefits secure.
Frequently Asked Questions About SSDI and SSI
Our team of Social Security disability lawyers frequently get questions covering a broad range of issues. Listed below are a few of the common inquiries they receive.
Can Social Security Disability Lawyers Help Me Increase My Award?
Your Social Security benefit is a fixed amount that does not increase based on the severity of your injury. In other words, if your disability worsens, your benefit will remain the same.
With that being said, there are two instances when your award will change: cost of living adjustments and recalculations of benefits. Cost of living adjustments occur each year and are controlled by the SSA. The purpose of these readjustments is to make sure the benefit payment reflects the changes in the cost of living that have occurred in a year.
For individuals on SSDI, Social Security disability lawyers at our firm can help with a recalculation of benefits, which is another way to increase an award amount. The recalculation will only occur if an error was made or there were past wages not previously used in the first benefit calculation.
What If My Application Is Denied?
Denial of benefits is not uncommon. Our Social Security disability lawyers routinely help clients fight to get desperately needed benefits, and we frequently win. If your application for benefits is denied, then you may have recourse.
Your first option is to file an appeal, and an individual not related to the first review of your case will look at your complete packet and make a decision. If they reject the application as well, there are still three more levels of appeals available: administrative law judge, appeals council review, and federal court review.
How Long Can I Collect Social Security Disability Benefits?
Generally, you will continue collecting Social Security benefits as long as your qualifying condition continues. Keep in mind that all persons receiving disability payments must update the SSA with any improvement in their condition in a timely manner. Failure to do so could result in loss of benefits, restitution, and criminal charges.
If you are having issues with failure to report a change in your condition or are unsure about reporting requirements, feel free to reach out to our Social Security disability lawyers for a free consultation to discuss your case.
How Are Benefits Paid?
If you applied for benefits after May 2011, then you’ll be getting your payments deposited electronically. The payment date is determined by the birthdate of the person receiving the primary benefit.
At The Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC, our attorneys offer skilled guidance through the process. We have successfully represented thousands of clients. We are a full-service law firm and can handle all of your needs, from personal injury claims to getting you Social Security benefits in a timely manner.
For a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney, contact us today. We are generally able to schedule appointments within one business day. We will charge no fees unless we succeed at helping you get benefits.
We give individualized attention to every client, so if you have any questions about the Social Security disability process — and/or private long-term disability benefits — don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your case with an experienced social security disability lawyer.