Disability FAQs

1.What types of Social Security disability benefits are available to me?

Social Security Disability Insurance (DIB) is the most important type of Social Security disability benefit, but there are actually a total of 5 different social security disability benefit programs. It may help to understand all 5 programs can be categorized as either an "entitlement" based program, or a "welfare" type of program. An entitlement program is not concerned with whether you are rich or poor, whereas a welfare program requires that you are poor (according to the government's definition). Supplemental Security income (SSI) is a welfare program. DIB is paid to those who have worked in recent years (five out of the last ten years in most cases) who are now disabled without regard to wealth or personal assets. Supplemental Security Income benefits, however, are paid to those who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. Disabled Widows and Widowers Benefits are paid to individuals who are at least 50 and become disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of their husband or wife. The deceased spouse must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured. Disabled Adult Child Benefits go to the children of persons who have died or who were receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22. For Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow's or Widower's Benefits and Disabled Adult Child benefits, it does not matter whether the disabled individual is rich or poor. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, however, are paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. SSI child's disability benefits are a variety of SSI benefits paid to children under the age of 18 who are disabled. Disability is defined differently for children.

2.How does Social Security determine whether or not I qualify for disability benefits?

Social Security will obtain and review your medical records. The SSA will then evaluate your claim using its 5-step sequential evaluation process.

3.How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

The best way to start the process of filing a Social Security disability claim is to call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment to file the claim. In most cases, the appointment will be done over the telephone. Another way is to go to the nearest Social Security office and wait (often for hours) to see someone to file the claim in person. You can also file online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/.

4.I've heard that you have be disabled for at least a year to get social security disability benefits. So shouldn't I wait tell I have been off the job for a year?

Yes, social security disability benefits have a duration requirement- but NO you should not wait to file for social security disability. While it is true that you must have a medical impairment that lasts, or is expected to last, a year, it is a big mistake to wait on filing a claim for social security disability until you have met the duration requirement. Social security can often take along time to win, so it is best to file for disability when you and your doctor think there is a strong chance that you will not be able to go back to work within a year.

5.Can I get partial social security disability benefits?

No. Social security disability regulations require inability to do any work. While the Veteran's Administration disability benefits provide for a percentage of disability, and workman's compensation systems usually assign an "Impairment Rating" as a percentage, social security disability is an "all or nothing" system.

6.I know someone who is on Social Security disability and she does not look a bit disabled. Yet the government turned me down!

The social security disability assessment system is, like most large bureaucracies, quite imperfect. There are doubtlessly many persons working the system. But when it comes to disability, looks can be deceiving. There are many people who look healthy but who are quite disabled by anyone's standard. There are also a few people who look quite sick, but actually are fairly healthy. Many individuals who suffer from severe psychiatric illness are physically healthy and able to do things like mow their yards. It's awfully hard to get on Social Security disability benefits. The vast majority of people drawing Social Security disability benefits really are quite sick.

7.I have several medical problems, but no one of them alone disables me. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?

Many people seeking Social Security disability benefits have more than one health problem that affects their ability to work. Social Security must consider the combination of impairments when determining disability. The combined effects of all of your medical impairments, including mental health impairments, must be considered by the SSA.

8.What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?

Most Social Security disability claims in Texas are denied at the time of the initial application. If your initial application is denied by Social Security, you should appeal that determination within 60 days.

9.I got hurt on the job. I am drawing worker's compensation. 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. 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. If you don't file the claim as soon as possible, there may be a gap between the time the worker's compensation ends and the Social Security disability benefits begin.

10.Can hiring Denman Law Office speed up the approval of my disability case?

Folks now commonly believe that "you have to hire a lawyer" to get your social security benefits. People often assume that this also means that hiring a lawyer will speed the approval process up. In general, hiring any attorney will not "put you at the head of the line". But attorney Denman does carefully monitor the development and status of his disability cases so that at your case is ready for a favorable outcome at the earliest possible time.

11.How can I improve my chances of winning my Social Security disability claim?

Give complete information to Social Security about the medical conditions that prevent you from working. Since your disability claim will be evaluated primarily based upon your medical records, you should obtain regular, ongoing medical treatment. Lastly, you can hire an experienced disability attorney to represent you. Statistically, claimants with an attorney are much more likely to obtain benefits than those who go unrepresented.

12.I am disabled. I need help with medical bills even more than I need a cash income. How do I get help with medical bills now?

Getting help with medical bills is usually tied up with getting cash benefits, that is, you don't start getting help with medical bills until after you start getting the cash benefits. This means that you have to keep going with the Social Security disability claim. You can apply for Medicaid separately from Social Security in some states. You apply for Medicaid at the county Welfare Department or Department of Social Services. Social Services sounds like Social Security, but it is a different agency.

13.What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

The short answer is that Medicaid is a poverty program and Medicare isn't. Most disabled people who get Medicaid get it because they are on SSI. To get SSI and thereby get Medicaid, you have to be poor and disabled. Medicaid pays doctors at low rates. People who have only Medicaid sometimes have a hard time finding a doctor they like. Medicaid does pay for prescription medications. Medicaid can go back up to three months prior to the date of a Medicaid claim. For Medicare, it does not matter whether you are rich or poor. If you have been on Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widows or Widowers Benefits or Disabled Adult Child Benefits for 24 months, you qualify for Medicare. The good thing about Medicare is that it pays doctors at a higher rate than Medicaid. Almost all doctors are happy to take Medicare patients. The bad things about Medicare are that it does not begin until after a person has been on cash disability benefits for two years and there is only a limited prescription drug benefit.

14.If I win, how long will it be before I get paid?

In most cases, you will receive some money within one to two months after a favorable decision. It can take longer to get everything paid if you are approved for two types of disability benefits at the same time or if you have been receiving workers compensation or a state disability benefit.

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