Social Security Disability or SSDI Questions and Answers

Answers to Some of The Most Common Social Security Disability Questions

This page contains some questions and answers for things I get asked all the time.  If you do not find what you are looking for here be sure to explore the rest of this site.  I have several pages on frequently asked questions with answers.  I am adding more all the time as I get more questions from my many e-mails I receive.  To get the most out of this website I strongly encourage you to read my entire website at-least as it pertains to your particular case.  The best starting place for research on Social Security Disability is my home page which will help guide you through the maze that is SSD and SSI benefits.  If you can not find what you are looking for feel free to call me at 1-877-527-5529.

Call me 1-877-527-5529

I  Are Social Security Disability benefits only for those who have a permanent disability?    

No, your disability must last a year or be expected to last a year or result in death within one year.

II  I have cancer and I am presently disabled but my doctor feels I should be able to work again after my treatment.  Should I apply for Social Security Disability benefits? 

If you are expected to be out of work for a year or more you should apply. 

 III   How far back will Social Security pay me if I am approved? 

Social Security will only pay you past-due benefits one year prior to the day you filed your application.  This is even if they find you disabled much earlier than that.  However, there are other things that come into play here like previous applications, prior denials, etc. so one should speak with an attorney who handles these cases to give you an answer to your specific case.  Also In SSI cases you will only get paid from the date of your application.


IV  How long does a Social Security claim take? 

It can take anywhere from a few months to years.  It depends on many factors: from where you live to which Administrative Law Judge hears your case.  To give you a rough idea from my experience, it takes 3 to 4 months from the time you apply until the first decision then if denied, in states that still have Reconsideration, it could take another 3 or 4 months to get the next decision.  It can be another 12 to 18 before you get a Hearing before an ALJ.  You then get an ALJ’s decision anywhere from 1 or 2 months to many months, depending on the ALJ. These are very rough estimates because Social Security time lines are constantly changing and procedures are constantly changing as well as the case load that Social Security has to deal with can be very high.


V   If I lose at Hearing before a Judge, what can I do next?


Most states have an Appeals Council stage and an appeal should be filed immediately following the denial.  For those states that don’t have an Appeals Council anymore you will have to file a civil suit in U. S. District Court.  In most cases, one should also reapply and start a new Social Security case at this point as well..


VHow much will I get if I win? 

This depends on many things, most importantly, how much you put into Social Security through paying your taxes over the years.  Social Security sends out a green printed paper periodically telling you all your work information in regard to paying into Social Security.  Also on that paper it tells you how much you would get if you are found disabled and how much at retirement per month.  You can also request this information from the Social Security Administration.

 VI  What is Disabled Widow’s Benefits? 

This is a disability program where the claimant can apply for benefits based on the deceased spouse’s earnings record.  You must be 50 years or older and the onset of your disability must be within 7 years of your spouse’s death.

 VII  What is Divorced Spouse’s Benefits? 

A claimant can apply for benefits based on his or her divorced spouse’s earnings record.  If you were married to your ex-spouse for 10 years, are, at least, 62 years old and are currently unmarried you would qualify.


VIII   What is the five step sequentially evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled? 

At Step 1 they will determine whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity.  Generally, if an individual shows earnings from employment or self-employment above specific levels set out in the regulations, it is presumed that he or she has demonstrated the ability to engage in SGA.  If an individual engages in SGA they are not disabled regardless of how severe their physical or mental impairments are.


At Step 2 Social Security will determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that are severe.  An impairment is severe if it significantly limits an individual’s ability to perform basic work activities. 


At Step 3 Social Security will determine whether the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the Listings.  Social Security has a list of medical conditions which is called the Listings.  If an individual has a condition that is the same as or equal to the severity of that condition listed then they are found disabled.  If one does not meet the Listing go on to Step 4.  To see the Listings and how they work click here.  Social Security Medical Listing of Impairments


At Step 4 Social Security will determine the claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity and when given that Residual Functional Capacity whether the claimant can perform past work.  If it is determined that the claimant cannot do past work then move to the last step of the sequential evaluation process.


Step5 at this step Social Security will consider the claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity, age, education and work experience and whether there is any other work the claimant can do.  See this sites page on Grid Rules.  GRID Rules and Disability 


VIIII  If I get a lawyer how much will it cost? 

Generally, attorneys who handle SSDI and SSI cases will charge 25% of past-due benefits, not to exceed $5,300.  They will only get paid if you win your case.


X   What can I do to help win my Social Security case ? 

  1. Submit all medical records you have to Social Security when you first apply.
  2. Continue to get medical treatment and try not to miss appointments.
  3. If you are denied…appeal right away.
  4. If you start to see a new doctor, have a hospital stay or go for a new test…tell Social Security or your representative immediately.
  5. Whether you are handling the case by yourself or you have a lawyer, always stay involved in your case.
  6. The Social Security process is long and frustrating.  Never take it out on Social Security employees, it can only hurt your case.
  7. Every few months check the status of your case with your lawyer or the local District Office where you filed.
  8. If you don’t already have a lawyer, consult with a lawyer who has handled many Social Security disability cases.
  9. Speak to your doctor and see if he or she will complete a Residual Functional Capacity form (RFC)  These forms can be obtained from Social Security or from your representative.
  10. Keep a journal of your day to day life and how your condition affects you.  In this journal note things like any side affects from your medications, how your daily living is affected by your disability, sleeping patterns, etc.
 XI Should I apply for SSI, SSDI or both 

It depends on your individual case.  Those with limited resources should apply for SSI.  Anyone who has worked for a significant amount of time should see about applying for Social Security disability.  Keep in mind many people may qualify under both programs.  Contact a lawyer who handles Social Security disability cases or contact Social Security directly to see what you would qualify for. 

 XII  Will Social Security grant benefits to those who have my particular illness or injury? 

When Social Security decides if someone is disabled or not it is not based on the illness or injury as much as it is how that illness or injury limits you.  One example is herniated discs of the spine.  Some people experience very little discomfort or limitations from herniated discs.  However, others are in great pain and severely limited not just in their back but sometimes arms and legs as well.  As can be seen from this example, it is not the diagnosis you have but how does it affect you as a whole and limit you from working.  Another example is depression.  One can be diagnosed with depression and when on proper medication and other treatment function fairly well.  There are also those who suffer from depression and even under treatment or medication still have difficulty remembering things, concentrating, dealing with people and in extreme cases even being able to function on a minimal basis.  As you can see, what your illness or injury is called will not predict whether you will win or lose your Social Security Disability claim.  This is why you should speak with an attorney who has handled many Social Security Disability cases.  The lawyer will help you present the limitations you have from your illness or injury and relate that to how it affects your ability to work.

XIII  I have more than one illness or injury, will Social Security consider them separately  or in combination with a finding of disability? 

Social Security will evaluate your claim on all of your conditions combined and how they together affect your ability to work.  In fact, Social Security must evaluate your conditions even the ones that are not as severe.  An attorney who handles many Social Security Disability cases can make sure all of your conditions are considered. 



What is Social Security Disability?  Darren Suelto, Esq., one of the experienced Social Security Disability lawyers at my firm of Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak, LLP., explains briefly in this video what Social Security Disability is and what makes one eligible for SSDI.

 We have attempted to provide up to date and accurate information, however the information in this site is not guaranteed.  No attorney client realtionship exist.  The information in this site is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified attorney.
© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak, LLP. All rights reserved.
Here you will find some of the most commonly asked questions about SSD and SSI if you have a question not answered on my Social Security Disability website call me at 1-877-527-5529.