When Should You Apply For Disability Benefits?

The answer to the question of when it is best to apply for disability benefits, which includes applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) or both, is not simple. For each case, the answer is different.

There are many factors that can affect the application process. One of the most important is knowing when your “date last insured” would be. The term “date last insured” is a term of art used by the Social Security Administration in awarding benefits in Social Security Disability claims, but it does not apply in Supplemental Security Income claims.

To be eligible for a Social Security Disability claim, you must allege and prove that you were totally disabled from performing any type of substantial gainful activity based upon your age, education, and work experience prior to the expiration of your date last insured. If you prove you are disabled after that date, you receive no benefits for Social Security Disability.

Therefore, one of the first things that needs to be addressed in any Social Security claim is to determine whether or not the date last insured is going to be an issue. This is one factor to consider when determining when to apply for benefits.

Additionally, there are tactical decisions to consider that are best addressed by an attorney related to when is the best time to apply for SSD or SSI.

For instance, because one of the requirements of disability is a durational requirement that one must have been or will be disabled for 12 months, it is often best to delay filing until one is close to the 12-month durational requirement. This prevents Social Security from denying a claim simply by saying that they think you may get better before the 12-month period expires.

Additionally, in a Social Security Disability claim, if you are found to be disabled, you do not receive any benefits for the first five months you are disabled due to a waiting period established by Social Security. This means there are no benefits under the disability program payable until the expiration of the sixth month after you became disabled. Because of that, one does not lose anything by delaying an application and may, in fact, enhance the chances of approval.

There are a lot of other factors that enter into these decisions, including a person’s age, their work history and earnings, the medical treatment they have undergone, and a host of other questions.

Out of these, the most important factor is the status of their medical records and how well the medical picture of their disabilities has been developed. The majority of the claimants we represent have a woefully inadequate medical history at the time we are contacted which hurts their chances of winning.

This is partly because not all medical records and treatment are considered equal by Social Security. For instance, things that are not usually considered to be particularly significant are notes from a person’s personal physician, chiropractor notes, nurse practitioner notes, psychiatric counselor notes, and any medical records not completed by a physician or clinical testing directed by a physician.

The first thing our firm usually does when talking to a client is suggest what additional testing might be appropriate, both for their physical or mental health and to better document their problems. This invariably necessitates seeing specialists in certain fields or having certain tests such as MRIs performed. Once again there is no easy answer, only a task to be done.

At Drummond Law, we have over 40 years of experience handling and winning these disability claims including representing clients at all levels of the disability process including in the federal court system if necessary. There is no fee charged unless we win.

If you or someone you know is considering applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, feel free to call for a Free Consultation at (800) 842-0426.

What Medical Evidence Does Social Security Need To Decide My Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income Claim?

In order to win a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim, Social Security must receive medical evidence that shows either a physical or mental incapacity or both that cause you to be unable to perform any substantial gainful activity based upon your age, education, and work experience.

That’s a pretty long sentence. And, as you might imagine, it is also quite complicated in reality to determine what type of medical evidence is needed to win a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim.

Generally speaking, medical records from specialists such as psychiatrists, orthopedists, neurologists, cancer specialist, heart specialists, or any specialized tests or hospitalizations carry a lot more weight than emergency room records, chiropractor notes, or notes from the family physician or nurse practitioner.

Additionally, the more medical records, the better. But there’s more to it than that.

Usually medical records are only good to show what diagnosis has been made or what treatment has been undergone, and most records are deficient in relating how the client is actually functioning.

The main question Social Security wants to determine in these claims is whether or not your physical and/or mental impairment prevents you from working in any substantial gainful capacity. There is usually no dispute as to your diagnosis and the only debate is whether your condition limits you enough to prevent employment.

The best way to ensure that your medical records reflect that is to talk with your doctors and give clear information about how your medical problems affect your activities of daily living. If you need help doing things or find yourself taking frequent breaks when doing regular activities of daily living, tell your physicians. If you can’t use your arms or legs to perform daily tasks, tell your doctor. If you can’t drive your car, tell your doctor. If you have psychiatric issues and don’t leave your house, tell your medical professional.

In other words, you can make your medical records accurately reflect the physical or mental problems you have on a daily basis by simply telling the medical professionals you see, which lead to it getting written down and becoming part of your records.

At Drummond Law, we spend a considerable amount of time talking to our clients about how they function on a daily basis. This will often give us ideas on how to best approach a claim to achieve a favorable decision. All cases are different and there are no hard and fast rules so we let our client guide us in the right direction.

If you have further questions and would like to talk to us about this topic, or any other topic concerning Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, please give us a call at (800) 842-0426 for a FREE consultation.

What Does a Social Security Disability Representative Do For a Claim?

In an attempt to answer this question, here is what we do at Drummond Law. For starters, the fact that we are actual lawyers, as opposed to non-attorney representatives, gives us a substantial leg up on non-attorney disability representatives.

Currently, the Social Security Administration allows anybody to be a representative simply by taking a test or by being an attorney. We feel that the seven years of college including three years of law school we put in to become practicing attorneys puts us in a more qualified position to serve our clients than someone who simply took a test. On top of that, in the event that a claim is denied and it is necessary to appeal that matter to federal court, we can and regularly do appeal cases to federal court. A non-attorney representative cannot do that because they are only allowed to work with Social Security and cannot take any cases in front of a judge.

In helping our Social Security clients, the first thing we do in a client’s claim is to obtain detailed information about his or her medical and personal history. This helps us to figure out the best approach in developing the claim.

We take an active role in helping the client get the medical treatments and evaluations he or she needs. We have developed hundreds of helpful forms for doctors to fill out which mimic the Social Security disability regulations. We also keep in regular contact with our clients and get updated records to document their claim.

Unlike many other non-attorneys, and even attorney representatives, once we have access to the exhibits in the file, we do a preliminary analysis and memorandum in order to spot problems or find areas in the medical records that could be further developed. Additionally, if we have to hold a hearing for a disability claim in front of a judge, we always prepare a pretrial brief for the judge.

We then represent the client at the hearing. In the event of a denial by the judge, we represent the client through the appeals process up to and including appealing cases to federal court if warranted.

At Drummond Law, we are always accessible responsive to our clients’ needs and we don’t just disappear after you have hired us to represent you.

If you or a loved one are considering applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income or need help with a current disability claim, please feel free to call us at (800) 842-0426.

What are Disability Determination Services and What Do They Do For Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income Claims?

When people apply for Social Security disability, they enter into a three-step process designed by the federal government to process their claims. The first step is an initial application, the second step is a reconsideration if an award of benefits was not made at the initial application, and the third step is requesting a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, which can be done in person, by video, or over the phone.

Disability Determination Services refers to those components of the Social Security Administration that determine whether a claimant qualifies for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits at one of the first two stages – i.e., either at the initial application or the reconsideration level.

At these first two levels, it is the job of the individuals deciding the claims to compile the medical records, schedule examinations with Social Security doctors, and obtain opinions from other specialists to determine an individual’s eligibility for benefits. Social Security often employs a component of the state in which you reside to help review your claim.

These first two levels (the initial stage and reconsideration) are particularly important to disability claims and their development. It is imperative that any new medical evidence or other evidence that would enhance the claim be provided to Disability Determination Services to assist in their decision-making and improve your chance of winning at these levels.

How Experienced Social Security Attorneys Can Help Your Case

During these steps, we often obtain written reports from our clients’ doctors or have forms filled out that we have developed which mirror the Social Security regulations so that these individuals get a full picture prior to making the decisions.

We have found taking these steps has led to a higher percentage of cases winning in those first two levels.

If you or someone you know has questions about or needs help pursuing Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, don’t hesitate to contact Drummond Law for a FREE consultation by calling (800) 842-0426.

What Is The Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSD) Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

There are two programs run by the Social Security Administration for disabled people, and they are differentiated by the work history of the claimant.

Regardless of whether one seeks benefits for Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, or both, the disability standard is the same, meaning that one must be disabled from any gainful employment to be entitled to benefits under either program.

Supplemental Security Income, commonly known as SSI, can be drawn by people (even minors) who do not have a recent work history, are disabled, and meet the income and asset requirements. Similar to food stamps, if an individual seeking SSI themselves has too much income or assets or lives in a household with too much income or assets, they will not be eligible for SSI benefits.

The asset and income limits on Supplemental Security Income are quite low. As a simple example, most people who qualify for Supplemental Security Income will likely qualify for and already have a state-supported medical card and food stamps. However, there are detailed income requirements that can be discussed on a case-by-case basis and it is a pretty good idea for claimants to discuss these requirements with us to see if they qualify. Another way one can find out if they are financially eligible is to be evaluated by the Social Security Administration as to whether countable assets and income exceed the maximum levels.

Social Security Disability is a benefits program based on the income paid by a claimant into the Social Security system through taxes taken from your income. If you are awarded Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you will receive an amount per month identical to what your Social Security retirement benefits would be.

In order to get Social Security Disability, one must prove that they are disabled prior to their “date last insured,” which is the last day you are considered covered for Social Security Disability benefits and is calculated by the Social Security Administration based on your earnings. Under no circumstances can your date last insured be later than five years after the quarter in which you last had substantial gainful income. In some circumstances, it can be much earlier than that though. This makes the “date last insured” a major consideration in developing the evidence in the disability claim since it would be necessary to show disability prior to that date.

There are many other complex elements in explaining the differences between these programs and how they interact in developing an effective disability claim that we would be happy to discuss with you.

If you have further questions and would like to talk to us about this topic or any other topic concerning Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, please give us a call at (800) 842-0426 for a FREE consultation.

How Much Will My Social Security Disability Benefits Be?

How much you receive in disability benefits depends on what type of disability benefit you are seeking from the Social Security Administration. There are two main types of benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you are filing for Social Security Disability Insurance, the amount of your monthly benefit is dependent on your income and how much you have paid in over the years from your past employment, whereas Supplemental Security Income normally is not based on your earnings but rather on your income and assets.

The amount of Social Security Disability benefits one receives will depend on the amount of income an individual earned in prior years. The best way to determine the amount of benefits you may receive from Social Security Disability benefits is to contact your local Social Security office and they will be able to calculate your maximum benefit for you.

For a Supplemental Security Income claim, the Social Security Administration will first determine whether you are financially eligible for benefits based on your income and assets because it is a need-based benefit. Social Security counts assets such as the income of a marital spouse in determining eligibility for Supplemental Security Income.

From a practical standpoint, you will not know if you would qualify for SSI until you actually attempt to process the claim due to how Social Security considers income and assets. A good rule of thumb is that most people who qualify for Supplemental Security Income are usually at the federal poverty/public aid level, and usually have a public aid medical card and food stamps. This is a program for the poor that do not have a substantial work history and also covers minors that might be disabled. Supplemental Security Income benefits are usually far less than those received for Social Security Disability based on earnings and in 2021 the max rate is $794 per month.

For any questions you may have about pursuing Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, do not hesitate to reach us at 1-800-842-0426 for a FREE consultation.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Decision For Social Security Disability?

We are often asked how long it will take for Social Security to make a decision on one of our client’s claims. We tell them that, quite frankly, we often don’t know, but generally it takes about three months to get an initial decision, and if it’s denied we request for reconsideration.

If the reconsideration is denied, which might take another three months, we appeal the claim and ask for an in-person hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The timeline of any particular can vary greatly due to a host of factors. We have had initial determinations take over a year. At times we’ve had to wait over three years to get a hearing in front of a judge. Recently, the process, for whatever reason, has seemed to speed up a lot in general. In some cases, we had a hearing in front of a judge in less than a year.

The upshot of all this is that there’s no easy answer on how much time any specific case will take. The critical factor when we represent clients is to do our best to make sure we win the case. If it takes longer so be it. Oftentimes if there is a significant delay in processing claims, it can work to an applicant’s benefit, because it gives time to develop the critical medical records necessary for a favorable determination.

Obviously, people who are applying for disability benefits or for Supplemental Security benefits are usually financially distressed and want a quick resolution of their problems. We understand that and there are some procedures we use to expedite claims as long as it’s in the client’s interest to do so. Any time the medical records appear to be deficient, it’s usually not in their interest to expedite the claim.

If you would like to discuss this issue or any other aspect of your disability claim, feel free to contact us by dialing 1-800-842-0426 or online.

All consultations are free. With more than 40 years of experience trying disability claims, Drummond Law handles all aspects of the claim. Our firm can do the initial application for you simply by you giving us a phone call and we will be glad to represent you throughout the process including all the appeals.

How Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income?

To qualify for disability, whether the benefits are Social Security Disability (SSD), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, is not simple. There are many factors involved to proving someone is disabled and a huge amount of regulations, rules, and statutes govern the disability process.

To start, in order to qualify for disability, it is the burden of the applicant to show that he or she is incapable of performing substantial gainful employment. There is also a durational requirement that the condition must have lasted or will last at least 12 months.

“Substantial gainful employment” is a technical term used by Social Security to determine whether a person is entitled to benefits. Every year they recalculate what they consider substantial gainful activity because of changes in the cost of living and other factors. In 2020, for example, substantial gainful activity was defined as earning a gross amount of $1,260.00 per month or more from active employment. If you earn $1,260.00 or more from working, that would indicate you are considered not disabled for that month. In addition, if it is felt that you would be capable of earning more than that amount, they will consider you not to be disabled on an ongoing basis.

These determinations are based on information provided by the claimant and other individuals, medical records, and examinations by a Social Security doctor or psychiatrist.

The specific rules that might apply in any individual case are very complex and no one case is ever like another. Many times our clients stated they should get disability because they know of a relative or other person who receive benefits. While we understand how they could feel that way, it is impossible to compare your claim to anyone else, since each must rise and fall on their own facts and merits and your case is unique to you.

Social Security has developed a five-tiered system to evaluate claims. It involves:

  1. Considering if you are currently working;
  2. Determining whether or not you suffer from any severe medical impairments;
  3. Determining whether you meet any specific rules for disability called the Listing of Impairments;
  4. An assessment of your residual functional capacity and your ability to do your past work, and;
  5. An assessment of your residual functional capacity and your ability to adjust to any other work that exists in the United States.

There are literally thousands of pages of rules and regulations concerning various aspects of the Social Security disability process. What this means is that for most people there are no quick answers or easy answers in analyzing any individual claim.

Additionally, a lot of people think that if they have a problem with their current job they can just apply for disability and get on it. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.

How To Apply For SSD/SSI

A Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim is started by filing an initial application. We have found that many of our clients prefer to have us complete the Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income application for them because it’s a lot easier for them because they get to avoid waiting in line or waiting on the phone to contact the Social Security office. It’s also easier for us because we know the application is completed right when we submit it and we know it was done correctly.

We are very familiar with the SSD and SSI application process and knowledgeable about what to put on the applications and, more importantly, what not to put on the applications and how that can affect your chances of winning your claim. We can usually do these either in person or by telephone for our clients who cannot or do not want to leave their house.

In most jurisdictions, there is a three-tiered process on claims, with the first being administrative–filling in applications and other forms which gives the Social Security Administration the ability to order medical records. Other documents may be submitted to enhance the claim and this is the first step in building a winning claim.

The first two steps are both administrative and the people who make the decisions, who are called adjudicators, are not Social Security Administration employees, but rather employees of the state you live in. If the initial claim is denied, an applicant can appeal and ask for reconsideration. If the reconsideration is denied, an applicant can appeal and ask for a hearing in front of a federal administrative law judge who will decide the claim. If the claim is denied by the administrative law judge, appeals can be taken to the Appeals Council and, if warranted, through the federal court process. Most people would probably do best to have experienced representation negotiating this process, which is far from simple and has many time-sensitive factors involved along the way.

Knowing An Experienced Social Security Lawyer Is Crucial

Drummond Law has successfully handled disability claims for over 40 years and our firm has won over 10,000 cases for our clients. If you would like to discuss your claim with us, just give us a call. Consultations are FREE and fees are only charged if we win your case. Just dial 1-800-842-0426 or contact us online.

When Does A Disability Start For Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income Cases?

One of the questions we are asked by people is when would their disability start if they were granted Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. This start date of a disability claim in a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income case is known as the onset date. The quick answer is that the onset date of any disability is determined by Social Security Administration, and typically will be based on when you stopped working or medical evidence supported your disabilities.

If a claim is approved administratively, the component of Social Security that determines a person is disabled selects the date of onset of disability. If appeals are taken and a claim is awarded after a hearing in front of a federal administrative law judge, the judge picks the onset date.

At Drummond Law, one of the most critical things we look at when representing clients is the date of onset. Carefully selecting an onset date is very important. Not only does an earlier date of onset result in more money in back pay but it can affect the date of eligibility for Medicare benefits and affect the development of the evidence in the case itself because one of the requirements to get any disability benefits from Social Security is that a person must have been or will be disabled for at least 12 months.

What Goes Into Choosing An Onset Date

For Supplemental Security Income cases, as a practical matter, you can only receive benefits from the date you applied for benefits whereas for Social Security Disability you can only receive benefits for one year prior to the application date.

For Social Security Disability claims, there is a 5-month waiting period after your onset date during which time Social Security does not pay any benefits but you become eligible for benefits thereafter. Supplemental Security Income does not have this 5-month waiting period and typically money can be paid beginning with the first full month after you apply.

There are many other aspects to the date of onset of disability that cannot be effectively dealt with here, but we would be happy to discuss them with you.

Contact Experienced SSD/SSI Attorneys

If you have further questions and would like to talk to us about this topic or any other topic concerning Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, please give us a call at (800) 842-0426 for a FREE consultation.

Can I Work And Still Get Disability?

Based upon our experience of trying disability claims for more than 40 years, the short answer to this question is an emphatic no if you are working before being awarded benefits.

However, after you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits, some various programs and regulations may allow some work up to a level less than substantial gainful activity, which is determined by the government each year.

Confusing, is it not? That’s because the answer is not simple.

An Example Case

Let’s take the case of an applicant seeking Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. We have to show that the claimant cannot perform substantial gainful activity for a minimum of 12 months. Invariably if the claimant continues to work during the application process, it ends up being the nail in the coffin as far as his or her case is concerned. Although the regulations may indicate you can work, I am not concerned with what the regulations actually say. I have formed this opinion after litigating literally thousands of cases and seeing how the judges treated individuals who worked during their Social Security Disability claim.

It is extremely difficult to convince an adjudicator or administrative law judge that you can work 20 hours a week, but you can’t work full-time 40 hours per week. It is not a reasonable trial tactic to work even part-time while seeking Social Security Disability. While a failed work attempt, which occurs when you try to work but have to quit or get fired due to be medical issues, can enhance a Social Security Disability claim, steady work–even if below the substantial gainful activity amount–raises a big red flag.

This opinion is based on our trial experience and not on what some of the regulations say. For instance, the regulations allow for a failed work attempt of up to six months prior to getting disability. As I said, this can enhance the claim, but most of the time, we end up with the judge treating an applicant as if he or she is trying to have their cake and eat it too, leading to a denial of benefits.

Circumstances Where You Can Work And Still Receive Disability Benefits

After Social Security Disability benefits are granted, theoretically, you can work as long as it is below the substantial gainful activity level. You can also work above the substantial gainful activity level for up to nine months. Once you worked for nine months at or above the substantial gainful activity level, it will have been determined that your attempt to return to work has been successful and your Social Security Disability benefits you previously received before working would normally be terminated.

These nine months do not have to be sequential, meaning that if you work for more than nine months and earn more than the substantial gainful activity level, your benefits may be terminated even if those nine months of work were accumulated in multiple work attempts periodically over several years.

There also is what the federal government calls the “ticket to work” program that can allow you to work while receiving disability.

Contact Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers

Therefore, the quick answer is that work activity before being awarded benefits often hurts your case except in very specific circumstances. Work activity after you’ve been awarded benefits may well be possible as long as it doesn’t exceed the substantial gainful activity level. Substantial gainful activity can be determined by simply googling the Social Security Administration about the substantial gainful activity amount for any given year.

Although this answer is not the clearest, this is about as straight an answer as we can give on this subject, unfortunately.

However, if you still have questions about working and Social Security Disability after reading this, you or someone you know needs help getting Social Security Disability, call Drummond Law at (800) 842-0426 for a FREE consultation.