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Social Security FAQs

Understanding your rights when you are disabled is very important, since there are many programs that can provide you with income that you need to survive and take care of yourself and your family. Disability benefits may be provided privately or may be provided by state or federal programs that help to ensure you are able to support yourself when a medical condition causes you to be unable to work. However, different programs have different qualification requirements and eligibility rules and you need to know what your rights and obligations are.

The best way to make sure you get the disability benefits you deserve is to contact a California disability attorney. At Howard Law, P.C., our California disability benefits attorneys have helped clients throughout Orange County and surrounding areas to maximize their disability benefits claims. We offer free consultations to learn about the legal services we provide to disabled individuals, so you can always contact us at any time to learn about how we can help you. We have also provided the answers to some frequently asked questions that our clients ask us in order to help you to better understand your disability rights in California.

What types of disability benefits are available if I can no longer work?

The benefits available will depend upon the cause of your disability as well as on your work history. For example, if you were injured at work, you may be entitled to disability benefits through workers’ compensation. If you are disabled by a medical condition or other type of injury, and have worked and earned work credits by paying into the social security system, you may be entitled to social security disability insurance SSDI.

If you have limited resources (under $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples), then you may be entitled to supplemental security income (SSI).

There are also short-term disability benefits programs available to some California employees, as well as private disability insurance programs in place. A California disability lawyer can assess your case and provide details on which benefits program or programs you may wish to take advantage of.

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Do I Qualify for Social Security?

The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines that one must meet in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must

  1. Have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security.
  2. Have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

The Social Security Administration will consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • The Social Security Administration decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

To learn more, and to see if you qualify for social security benefits, click here.

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What is Supplemental Security Income?

SSI is a needs-based program, which means that you become eligible to receive SSI benefits based on financial need. The first step to determining eligibility, therefore, is to assess whether your income and resources are above the limits. The California Department of Social Services provides information on the most up-to-date monthly income limits and resource limits, which are subject to change annually. According to the Department of Social Services, your monthly income cannot exceed the maximum SSI benefit amount, while the total resources you own cannot exceed $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for couples.

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What is the Difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

While Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are programs that provide income for disabled individuals, they are different programs with different eligibility requirements.

SSDI is available for disabled or blind individuals who have paid Social Security taxes on income earned during their lifetime. SSI is available for disabled or blind individuals who have limited income and resources. Additionally, SSDI benefit amount is based on your Social Security earnings record while your SSI benefit amount is based on need and varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate. SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare coverage automatically after receiving disability benefits for two years and in most states, SSI beneficiaries are automatically eligible for Medicaid.

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How are Benefit Amounts Determined?

Benefit amounts are determined differently depending on whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings. Supplemental Security Income benefits depend on your financial need as determined by your income, resources and living situation.

The Social Security Administration uses a complex formula to determine your disability benefits using the amount of income you’ve paid Social Security taxes. You can see your covered earnings history on the Social Security Administration website. You can also call your local Social Security office to have someone help you estimate what your benefits will be.

Most people receiving Social Security Disability benefits get between $300 and $2,200 per month. The maximum disability benefit in 2013 will be $2,533.

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Can I apply for more than one type of benefits?

If you are eligible for different benefits programs, such as social security disability and workers’ comp or SSI and SSDI, it may be possible to apply for more than one. However, your benefits from each program may be reduced if you are receiving benefits from multiple sources.

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What do I need to qualify for social security disability benefits?

You will need to prove you have a long-term medical condition that is covered by the SSA’s definition of disabled. You will also need to show that you meet either income requirements (SSI) or work history requirements (SSDI) and that you cannot work or perform normal activities of daily living due to your impairment.

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What types of medical evidence do I need?

If you are applying for social security disability benefits, you will need medical evidence that demonstrates the severity of your condition and that shows you are significantly impaired. The evidence must be provided by a licensed physician. Ideally, it should be provided by a physician who is a specialist in the field (a podiatrist for foot issues; an optometrist for eye issues, etc.) and should be provided by a physician who treats you regularly.

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What if My Social Security Application is denied?

If you supply for SSI or SSDI benefits and your claim is denied, you have the opportunity to appeal the denial. There are actually several stages of appeal including a request for reconsideration, a benefits hearing, a review by an internal appeals board, and appeal to the federal court system.

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Can I Expedite My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Expediting your Social Security Disability hearing is difficult and not likely although there are a couple of ways to possibly expedite your hearing. Sending a dire need letter to the Office of Adjudication and Review explaining your financial circumstances and how if you had to wait the usual time for your hearing your financial condition would worsen to a level that would result in homelessness, loss of insurance benefits, access to medication or treatment.

Additionally, if your disability or illness is so severe that it falls under the Compassionate Allowances Initiative, you will not have to wait the usual time to have your disability claim approved. To learn more about how to expedite your hearing, click here.

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Can I work While on Social Security Disability?

You can work but cannot begin doing “substantial gainful activity”, which means working and making more than $1,040.

For individuals collecting Social Security Disability, there is a trial work period in which you can make more than $1,040 without losing your benefits. You are entitled to test your ability to return to the workforce and continue to receive benefits for a nine month period. If in any month you work and earn more than $730, this is considered a month of services for your trial work period. If you do this for 9 months in a rolling 60 month period, your disability will end and you will no longer receive benefits.

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Can My Family Receive Social Security Benefits?

When you begin receiving Social Security disability benefits, certain members of your family may also qualify for benefits based on your earnings record. They include:

  • Your spouse,
  • divorced spouse,
  • children,
  • disabled child, and/or
  • adult child disabled before age 22

If any of your qualified family members apply for benefits, you will need to provide the Social Security Administration with their Social Security number and their birth certificate. Read more about family benefits here.

You can use the benefit eligibility screening tool on the Social Security Administration website to see if you are eligible for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs.

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How Do I Apply for Social Security?

There are two ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:

  1. Apply here; or
  2. Call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.
  3. To get the experienced help of an attorney, contact the social security disability benefit attorneys at Howard Law today.

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Will I Have to Pay Income Tax if I Receive Social Security Benefits?

You may not have to pay taxes on your Social Security disability benefits if this was your only source of income. However, according to the Social Security Administration website, you will have to pay federal taxes on your Social Security benefits if you file a federal tax return as an individual and your total income is more than $25,000. If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income of more than $32,000. To learn more about how your social security benefits will affect your taxes, click here.

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Do I Need a Social Security Lawyer

You need a lawyer to help you to understand what disability benefits programs you are entitled to apply to. You also need a lawyer to help you to prove eligibility for benefits and to help you to appeal a benefits denial. More than 60 percent of all SSDI claims throughout the U.S. are denied. Having an attorney for social security disability gives you the best chance of avoiding such a denial.

At Howard Law, P.C., our experienced social security disability rights attorneys have helped clients throughout the Southern California area to make a successful disability benefits claim. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 800-872-5925.

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