Applying for SSDI

When you’re applying for SSDI, you need a lawyer who understands the process and can help you every step of the way. Many lawyers won’t represent individuals applying for SSDI. They may say to call them back if you’re denied. That doesn’t make sense to us. Why would you wait until you’re denied? At ARM Lawyers, we’ve found that when we help individuals apply for SSDI we get better results than those who aren’t represented by an attorney. With us, there’s no need to wait to be denied. We’d rather help you try to win from the very beginning.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with a disability, you know how challenging life can be. More than that, you know that providing for your family and paying for your medical bills can prove extremely challenging when disabled. If you’re a person who’s worked under Social Security and have paid Social Security taxes prior to becoming disabled, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

If you’re disabled and hoping to receive disability benefits, here’s what you need to know about applying for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance).

Who can apply for SSDI?

Those applying for SSDI must meet certain criteria.

  • They must be at least 18 years of age or older.
  • They must have an appropriate number of work credits based on age.
  • Applicants must be incapable of working due to a disability that is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
  • and, they cannot have been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.

If you meet the criteria listed above, you may qualify for disability benefits.

If you are eligible to apply for SSDI, you should speak with a SSD attorney immediately. We can review your case with you before you start. This helps us to put forth the strongest possible case from the very beginning. We will even prepare and submit the application for you. This ensures that it is completed correctly and that the answers are as thorough as possible. This also ensures that any special circumstances are addressed before your case is opened.

What is the Social Security Disability application process?

When applying for SSDI, the process can take anywhere from four to six months. If you are applying for SSDI with our office, we would schedule an appointment to speak with you to gather all necessary information. We would complete the SSDI application with you and submit it to the Social Security Administration.

What information do I need when applying for SSDI?

The application for disability benefits is lengthy, and you’ll need information about yourself, your disability, your family members and your work history in order to fill out the form completely. You may be asked questions about your work history over the past 15 years, detailed information about your disability, any disability benefits you’ve received in the past, prior military service, information about your current and former spouse(s), and more.

In addition to answering multiple questions about yourself, you’ll also be required to provide documentation in the form of your birth certificate, W-2 forms, medical evidence (medical records, doctors’ reports, etc.), any workers’ compensation benefits or similar benefits, and your bank account information.

What happens after my SSDI application is filed?

After your application is filed, the Social Security Administration will review it. Because any incomplete applications will be denied, it is essential that you fill out your application in full and attach any necessary documents.

The first thing that happens after applying for SSDI is the Social Security Administration reviews your file for eligibility. Mainly, your file is reviewed to determine whether you have enough work credits. If you have enough work credits, your file is transferred to “Disability Determination Services” or “DDS”. This is the office that makes the decision on your claim.

DDS will gather your medical records and may request a you see one of Social Security’s doctors (called a “consultative examiner”). You may be required to fill out some additional documentation such as a “Function Report” or “Work History Report”. These reports give DDS information about how your medical impairments affect you. It’s one thing to read your medical records, but it’s another to hear your story about how your impairments affect your life.

After DDS gathers all of the evidence on your case, a “medical consultant” may review your file. This is a doctor who is trained in the requirements for disability. That doctor gives his opinion on what your limitations may be.

At that point, DDS would make a final decision on your case. SSA will mail its decision to you and if we’re representing you, they would also mail the decision to us. Your claim would either be approved or denied.

Image: The process when applying for SSDI.

What happens if my SSDI application is granted?

If you’re approved, great! In most cases, you will begin receiving benefits. You should expect a “Notice of Award” that explains how much you will be receiving. This includes back benefit payments as well as your monthly benefit payments. We like to review these to ensure they are accurate.

What happens if my SSDI application is denied?

If you’re denied, don’t worry. Many cases are denied at this level. In fact, only about 35% of initial applications for benefits are approved. When a claim for disability benefits is denied, the first step of fighting the decision is to file a request for reconsideration. The reconsideration process for disability claims involves a thorough review of your case and application. You have 60 days from the date you receive the denial of your application for benefits. Like the application process itself, the appeals process is also lengthy, has multiple stage, and requires gathering important documentation and information.

When would I receive my medical coverage if I’m on SSDI?

If you are receiving SSDI, you would be eligible for medicare after 24 months of eligibility. That does not mean that you have to wait 24 months from when you start receiving benefits, but it does mean that you must be “eligible” for benefits for 24 months. Your “Notice of Award” would explain your “eligibility date”. From that point, you can add two years to the eligibility date. You will be eligible for medicare as of that date.

If you are receiving SSI rather than SSDI, you would not be eligible for medicare, but would instead be eligible for medicaid. You would be immediately eligible for medicaid.

Can I work while applying for SSDI?

Technically, yes, you can work while applying for SSDI, but this is not necessarily advisable. To start, when you are applying for SSDI, you are stating that you are unable to work full time. Working, even part time, can tend to show that you are capable of working. This can hurt your chances of winning your application. That being said, you can work while applying for SSDI if you don’t exceed certain amounts.

How much money can I make while applying for SSDI?

There is a hard limit of amount of money you can make before you are disqualified from receiving SSDI. In 2020, that amount is $1,260 per month, gross (before taxes). This is called the “substantial gainful activity” limit.

But, you shouldn’t view this as a license to earn up to the limit. The closer you are to the limit, the more suspect your claim. If you’re making $1,250 per month for example, a judge may think that you are intentionally working under the limit. This could hurt your chances of success.

Additionally, you need to be concerned with the “trial work period”. If you are earning benefits and earn more than $880 per month (in 2020), you start the clock on the “trial work period”. If you make more than $880 per month for 9 out of 60 months, your benefits will be terminated.

You have the best chance of success if you are not working at all. If, however, you decide to work, you should consider the limit to be $880 per month, gross (before taxes). This amounts to roughly $200 per week. You should treat this as the limit to be safe.

Are Social Security benefits retroactive?

One of the most common questions we get when applying for SSDI is whether the benefit payments will be retroactive. It many cases, yes, they are. In others, they aren’t. It depends on a few things.

The first thing that we look at is your “onset date”. This is the day you became disabled. This is usually the day you stopped working, but can be some other date such as a the date of a major surgery. Your SSDI lawyer, can discuss the most appropriate onset date for your case.

The next thing we look at is your “eligibility date”. This is five months after your “onset date” in most cases. This five month period is called the “waiting period”. It is a period of time in which you aren’t eligible for benefits. Why? Because that’s what the law says. That’s pretty much the only reason. This frustrates people, but unfortunately, the waiting period is part of the law.

You may be eligible for retroactive benefits for up to one year prior to your application date. To determine the extent of your retroactive benefits, we have to look at your onset date, your eligibility date, and your application date.

Do I need an attorney to apply for SSDI?

While you can certainly apply without an attorney, this isn’t recommended. Too many people are denied over technical issues in the application that could have been prevented if the application was completed with a top SSD attorney.

The Social Security Administration denies many initial claims every year. Many claims are denied because they’re incomplete or completed incorrectly. Unfortunately, many individuals who truly qualify for and need the SSDI benefits are denied. In order to ensure that your claim has the highest chance possible of being approved, you should have a disability attorney who knows the system help you file the application.

Patrick J. Best of ARM Lawyers has helped thousands of individuals get their SSDI benefits. To get started on filing your claim today, call our offices now. The best part is that we can start the whole process over the phone or by video conference so you don’t even need to come into the office!