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Social Security Law

Frequently Asked Questions about
Social Security Disability


What are the steps to obtain Social Security Disability?

The first step is to file an initial application in person at the Social Security Administration, online at, or by telephone: (866) 495-0111. If you are denied, you should appeal, that is, file a Request for Reconsideration. You should also consider employing an attorney to represent you.

What is Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Administration administers two programs that provide benefits based on disability: Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Disability is defined as the inability to engage in any substantial     gainful activity by reason of any medically determined physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

What is the difference between DIB and SSI?

Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) go to individuals who are disabled and have worked at least for 5 out of the last 10 years.   Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are paid to individuals  who are poor and disabled, regardless of past work history.


How does Social Security Disability affect Worker’s Compensation?

An individual can file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits while receiving worker’s compensation benefits.  However, there is an offset, which reduces Social Security    disability benefits because of worker’s compensation benefits paid.  Prior to settlement of your worker’s compensation claim, you need to be certain that your attorney protects your social security disability benefits.


I cannot do my old job, is that enough?

No. Disability is defined as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity.


Does my disability have to be permanent to qualify for benefits?

No. You have to be disabled for at least a year or be expected to be disabled for at least a year or have a condition that can be expected to result in death within a year.


How long does it take to get Social Security Disability?

In most cases Social Security makes the first decision within 4 months, makes the reconsideration determination within 4-6 months, and schedules a hearing within 12 months after the Request for Hearing is filed.


What about Medicare and Medicaid?

If you are approved for any kind of Social Security disability benefits other than SSI you will get Medicare after two years. If  you are approved for SSI you will get Medicaid.


What about my medical bills?

You don’t start getting help with medical bills until after you start getting cash benefits, so you have to pursue the Social Security disability claim in order to get help with medical bills.


How do I get back benefits?

For DIB, the benefits cannot begin until five calendar months have passed after the person becomes disabled, and benefits cannot be paid more than one year prior to the date of claim.  SSI benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month following the date of the claim.


If I have disability benefits from work, can I also get Social Security disability?

Yes, but the amount of your private disability may be affected.


My doctor says I am disabled. Then why am I turned down?

The SSA will consider your doctor’s opinion, but that is not all they use to decide your case. It is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled, but his opinion should be given great weight. Richard Paul was the claimant’s attorney in the leading federal district court case in South Carolina, confirming that the doctor’s opinion must be given great weight in Social Security disability cases. Boineau v. Barnhart, 378 F.Supp. 2d 690 (D.S.C. 2005).

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