Social Security Disability Benefits FAQ’s

You have questions and we have answers.

Social Security Disability Benefits FAQ’s

You have questions and we have answers.

What Is Social Security Disability?

Social Security is designed to protect US citizens from a lack of income for various reasons including old age, disability, unemployment, and other reasons.
Social Security disability is a form of financial support for Americans who cannot work due to a physical or emotional condition.

If you are unable to work due to a disability, you may be eligible to obtain financial support through Social Security disability benefits. Visit our Social Security disability page for more information or call us today.

What Information Do I Need To Apply For Disability Benefits?

When applying for Social Security you will need lots of information. Some of the basic requirements include:

  • Date of Birth & Place of Birth
  • Birth Certificate
  • Social Security Number
  • Financial Info (Bank Account Number, Routing Number, etc..)
  • Contact Info For Relevant Healthcare Professionals
  • Relevant Medical Records (Test Results, Prescriptions, Treatments..)
  • Work Summary (company, location, role, salary, etc..)
  • Information About Work History
  • Your W-2 Form or Copy of Federal Tax Return

In addition to this list above, you will need to provide more information that is specific to your circumstances. Missing information is one of the most common reasons that claims are denied.

How Long Does The SSD Application Process Usually Take?

Each application is situation is different. However, it usually takes between 3-5 months for the Social Security Administration to process your application and give you a decision. Additionally, the appeals process for a denied claim can take several months. That is why it is so important to get the application process started as soon as you become disabled.



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What Are The Most Common Reasons For Denied Disability Claims?

More than half of the people who apply for Social Security disability benefits in the United States have their claims denied initially. Denied claims can be the result of several different factors, however there are some reasons that are more common than others. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Making Mistakes During The Application Process
  • Missing Necessary Information
  • Missing Important Deadlines
  • Communication Problems With Social Security Administration
  • Not Meeting Minimum Criteria For Disability Benefits

What Should I Do If My Claim Was Denied?

Just because your claim was initially denied does not mean that you cannot still obtain benefits. Many claims are denied each year, however it is still possible to obtain the benefits that you deserve through an appeals process.
However, the appeals process can be complicated and can be very frustrating.

If your claim was denied you should seek expert assistance from an experienced disability lawyer at Markhoff & Mittman, P.C. as soon as possible. We have been helping individuals whose claims were denied for decades and have the experience necessary to appeal.

Do I Need A Social Security Disability Lawyer?

While it is not required by law to consult a lawyer when applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is highly advisable.

If you are unable to work due to a physical or emotional disability you may be entitled to obtain compensation.

However, more than half of all people who apply for Social Security disability benefits in the United States are unable to obtain their benefits initially.

The application process is complex and the paperwork involved can be very frustrating. In fact, failing to properly apply or making mistakes during the application process is one of the most common reasons for denied claims.

Statistics show that you have a better chance of winning your claim if are improved by having an experienced lawyer.

Does Receiving Social Security Affect My Unemployment Benefits?

No.  There isn’t a reduction of your unemployment benefits because you collect social security.  You must be available for and looking for work with no restrictions when you receive Social Security, just as all other claimants.

What Is A Permanent Partial Disability?

A permanent partial disability is when you have permanent damage from an injury, yet it only partially impairs your ability to work.  In other words, while there are things you can no longer do there are also things you can still do.

What Is A Temporary Partial Disability?

A temporary partial disability is one that prevents you from doing some of the responsibilities of your job for a certain time period.  In other words, you can do some of your job now and, at some point, you should be able to do your job in its entirety as you did before your injury.

What Is A Permanent Total Disability?

A permanent total disability is one that prevents you from ever returning to your current job.  It does not mean that you are totally helpless and will never work again, it just means that you are unable to go bak to work at your current job or one just like it.

What Is A Temporary Total Disability?

A temporary total disability is one that prevents you from working at all, BUT only for a certain amount of time.  While you can’t work now, it is expected that you will be able to go back to work in the future.

If I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits Will My Union Pension Be Affected In Any Way?

It depends on whether it’s a private pension or a public one.  Private pensions will not affect your social security disability benefits, but public ones may.  The Social Security Administration has made it very clear that disability payments from private sources, such as a private pension or insurance benefits, will not affect your social security disability benefits.

I Believe I Am Eligible For New York State Disability. Can I Apply For And Collect Social Security Disability Benefits As Well?

YES.  You CAN apply for and collect Social Security Disability Benefits if you are receiving NYS Disability.  There might be an offset, if you are collecting both.

What If I Get Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits But Afterwards Find I Am Well Enough And Wish To Return To Work?

If you are getting disability benefits, there are special rules which make it possible for you to continue to receive Social Security disability benefits while getting back to work.  You would inquire about social securities work incentives and/or their Ticket to Work program which make it possible for you to work and continue to receive monthly payments. 

The trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months.  During this period you receive your full SS benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you report your work activity and continue to be disabled.  At the end of this trial work period, you have 36 months in which you can continue to work and still receive benefits as long as your earnings are not “substantial.”  Earnings of $1,000. or more are currently considered substantial.

I’ve Heard That Hiring A Lawyer Will Speed Up The Disability Benefits Application Process – Is This True?

No, your case will not necessarily move through the review process any quicker with a lawyer than it would without one.

However, the likelihood that your claim will be awarded benefits can increase if you are represented by a social security disability attorney.  Why?  While some cases are approved after the initial review process most claimants will be denied benefits after this initial process and will then move onto the next step in the process – the appeal and then again to a hearing before an administrative judge.   The expertise and experience a social security disability attorney brings to the table is a tremendous asset at the hearing.

How Do I Know If I Am Eligible For Social Security Disability Benefits?

The only way to know, for sure, if you are eligible for social security disability benefits is to file an application for benefits.  Upon receiving your application, the first thing the Social Security Administration will do is look to see if you have acquired enough credits. Credits are based on how much money you have earned while working in a job and paying Social Security Taxes.  The credits you earn remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or do not have earnings for a while.

If I Hire An Attorney To Handle My Social Security Disability Case How Does My Attorney Get Paid?

If you hire an attorney to settle your social security disability case, you do NOT pay upfront and you should NOT have any out-of-pocket expenses.

Your attorney is entitled to get 25% of any past due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000.  When you hire an attorney, you enter into a fee agreement which must be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The fees are set by the SSA and the federal government. Upon winning your case, the SSA will generally pay your attorney directly.  As with anything, occasionally mistakes are made – if that was the case you’d be required to submit payment.

Do I Really Have To Go To My Hearing To Win My Disability Case?

No.  It is not necessary to attend your social security disability hearing.  A brief can be submitted to the adminstration law judge so that you do not have to go to court and testify.  The brief should include a summary of your medical condition(s) and reasons for not being able to work.  Naturally, the more detailed the medical evidence in the brief the better as this is what will be used to determine your benefits.  If the brief is not approved a hearing will be scheduled.

How Long Does The Social Security Disability Process Take?

The social security disability process is lengthy one.  While each case is different, you can expect the initial application stage to take 3-5 months before you get a decision.  If your application is denied, you can request a hearing to be heard in front of an administration law judge.  This is referred to as the hearing level.  It can take an additional 9-20 months to get the hearing, depending on where you live.

While the disability process can be a lengthy one and you may not get social security disability benefits the first time you go through the process, it is important for you to be as patient and persistent as possible.  Don’t give up!

What Is The Best Way For Me To Prepare For My Social Security Disability Hearing?

The most important thing you can do to get ready for your hearing is to be sure to come PREPARED.

For starters, you’ll want to make sure all of your medical records and evidence have been properly submitted to the Social Security Administration.  Then, you’ll want to be sure you know what disabilities you are claiming and bring with you any documents or statements that describe how your disability impacts you on a daily basis.

At the hearing, judges will be determining your physical and/or mental limitations.  They will want to review the type of work you’ve performed and assess your ability to continue with these job functions.  They’ll want to know the effect of your limitations on a daily basis and might inquire about how often you see the doctor(s) and effects of any medications you might be taking regularly.  Being prepared to answer these questions is a good way to prepare yourself.

What Should I Wear To My Disability Hearing?

It is not necessary to dress up and wear your “Sunday best” to your disability hearing.  It is most important that you BE YOURSELF.  Wear comfortable clothing.  Be sure not to wear anything that might be considered revealing or offensive.

What Is The Sequential Evaluation Process Used By The Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Evaluation Process (SSE) is a 5-step process the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits.  The five steps are outlined below.

Step l:   Determines whether or not you’ve been “working” and asks specifically if you’ve been out of work or are expected to be out of work for at least 12 months.

Step 2:  Evaluates the severity of your medical condition.  Will it limit your ability to perform basic work activities for at least one year?

Step 3:  Asks whether of not your medical condition is one that social security disability will automatically recognize as disabling.  The Social Security Administration has criteria for over 150 categories of medical conditions which they deem sever enough to preclude a person from working.

Step 4:  Examines your ability to perform the type of work you’ve been doing and, if not, what your ability to work today is.

Step 5:  Looks at your age, education, work experience and other criteria to determine if you can be retrained to perform other dues and transition to another line of work even if you can’t continue with what you were doing.

Will Disability Benefits Affect My Retirement Benefits?

NO, you will still be entitled to receive your old age Social Security Benefits. In fact, applying for disability benefits may help insure that you receive the highest retirement benefit possible. Failure to establish that you are disabled if you are out of work, could penalize your later retirement benefits.

How Do I Apply For Social Security Benefits?

You must submit an application to Social Security.  As the process can be long and confusing, we can help by completing the application and all the required forms for you. We have successfully helped numerous clients receive Social Security Disability benefits, many on the initial application.

It is important that you complete the entire initial application accurately.  The information you provide Social Security in your initial application may be used by Social Security to deny your claim. Sometimes, applicants do not give Social Security enough information or accurate information due to confusion caused by the forms. Therefore, you might consider contacting an attorney to guide you through the process.

What Does Social Security Mean By “Disability”?

Social Security has a special definition for the term “disability”. It is very specific and is related to your ability to work. To qualify for Social Security Disablily, you must have a physical or mental impairment that is expected to keep you from doing any “substantial” work for at least a year, or you must have a condition that is expected to result in your death.

This is a fairly strict definition of disability in order to receive benefits. There is no such thing as a “partial” disability payment from Social Security. However, individuals who have been found only “partially disabled” under workers’ compensation standards may also be eligible for Social Security Disability. You should talk to a lawyer about your individual disability to see if you qualify.

Social Security’s rules are different from other plans or government agencies. So the fact that you qualify for disability from somebody else does not mean that you will be eligible for Social Security. Further, the fact that you have a statement from your doctor indicating that you are “totally disabled” does not mean that you will be automatically eligible for Social Security disability payments.

How Long Do I Have To Apply For Social Security Benefits?

There is no set time limit in which to apply for benefits. However, the longer you wait, the more benefits you may lose. We recommend that you contact us once you have been out of work for three (3) months, or as soon as you know you will definitely be out of work for a consecutive twelve (12) months

When Should I Apply For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security Disability Benefits (Officially known as SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance under the law) are available to a disabled individual who has been or will be out of work for at least 12 months due to a medical condition or conditions that are severe enough to prevent the person from working for at least a year.

But you DO NOT have to wait a year! You SHOULD apply as soon as you can no longer work or your income drops below $980 per rmonth due to your medical condition (this is known as Substantial Gainful Activity – if you cannot perform SGA then you can be eligible – the SSA sets this amount each year. In 2009 it is $980 – so if you earn less than that a month due to your conditions you can apply for SDDI!)

Why not wait until you are actually out a year? Simple. It could take up to two years or more for your claim to finally be granted after the hearing and appeals process. Also, you will be paid retroactively to the time of your filing of a claim so waiting too long could jeopardize benefits.

If you apply and then return to work before the year requirement is met, no problem you can just drop your claim. But then again, if you cannot continue to work you may be eligible anyway!

How Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits?

The first requirement is that you must have paid into Social Security for a long enough period of time and in large enough dollar amounts to be considered eligible. Next, you must not be “gainfully” employed and, you must be under a disability which has lasted or is expected to last 12 months. You must have a disability that is severe enough to keep you from doing your past job.

How Does Social Security Disability Work?

The idea behind Social Security is simple. You pay taxes into Social Security during your working years, and then if you become disabled, you and possibly members of your family receive monthly cash benefits. You will also qualify for Medicare health insurance benefits once you have received 24 months of disability payments.

Who Is Eligible To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

Many people think that Social Security is strictly a retirement program. Although most of the beneficiaries receive retirement benefits, many younger individuals get Social Security because they are disabled. If you are a working person who can no longer do your job because of an illness or injury, you may be eligible for disability benefits from Social Security.

What Types Of Disabilities Can Qualify Me For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Almost anything severe enough to keep you out of work. Some of the most common disabilities that qualify for SSI include:

  • Spinal disorders, including herniated cervical or lumbar discs, spinal stenosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, compression fractures
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fybromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, AIDS
  • Amputations, multiple fractures requiring surgery, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, chronic regional pain disorder
  • Cancer
  • Decreased vision or hearing, vertigo, tinnitus, stuttering
  • Asthma, emphysema, asbestosis, sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Heart attacks, angina, bypass surgery, congestive heart failure, enlarged heart, aneurysm, valve disease, heart transplant
  • Chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, hepititus, ascites, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulosis, pancreatitis
  • Kidney disease, anemia, leukemia, polycythemia, lymphoma, myeloma, sickle cell anemia
  • Sklerodema, burns, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, melanoma, hydradenitis, skin cancer
  • Diabetes, obesity, neuropathy, retinopathy, thyroid diseases, peripheral vascular disease, high blood pressure
  • Seizure disorder (epilepsy), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, myasthenia gravis, brain tumor, ALS, alzheimers
  • Depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ADHD, ADD, schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse, alcoholism, prescription pain addiction, personality disorders, mood disorders

Will Children Receive The One Time Economic Recovery Payment If They Receive Social Security Or SSI Benefits?

No, children under the age of 18 (19 if they are still in high school) are not eligible for Social Security benefits.  However, adult children who receive disability benefits on a parent’s record will receive this payment.  Children who receive SSI benefits are eligible for the one time economic recovery payment.

Will I Receive Two One Time Economic Recovery Payments If I Receive Both Social Security And SSI? If I Have A Representative Payee Who Will Receive My Payment?

No, you will receive only ONE economic recovery payment regardless of how many types of benefits you receive.  If you have a representative payee, your representative will receive your payment.  He/she will be required by law to use the payment for your personal benefit.

Can My Family Receive Benefits If I Am Eligible For Social Security Disability Benefits?


If you become eligible for disability or regular retirement benefits, your current or divorced spouse, minor children or adult disabled children (under 22) may also receive benefits. Each cold qualify for up to 50 percent of your benefit amount. The total amount depends on how many family members qualify.

Does The Social Security Disability Application Really Take That Long?

YES. Every aspect of applying for Social Security Disability takes time! In fact, it’s one way that can reduce the chance of someone applying since it seems so onerous and tedious!

First, there is the initial application process. Whether you do this in person, on the phone or online you can expect to spend at least a few hours preparing and filling out forms.

Second, the initial review. In NY, the Office of Disability Determinations makes the first assessment of your case (it is a State agency hired by the SSA!) and this generally takes from three to six months for an answer and they deny close to 90% of initial applications!

Third, the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) is the hearing process that will provide  you, the disabled individual with a hearing before a Federal Administrative Law Judge to determine if you are eligible. This is where the REAL backlog occurs. It can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to get a hearing before an ALJ! Why, statistics show a backlog of over 700,000 disability cases nationwide, severely reduced appropriations (funds!) to the SSA by Congress and millions of claims being made.

Not suprisingly, these factors lead to delays. While an attorney cannot get a case “on quicker” (and don’t believe an attorney who tells you that!), an attorney CAN help guide you through the process and during the “wait” help develop your case and determine if it can be resolved without a hearing (using an “On the Record” determination) or at least not wasting your long awaited for hearing by having a well prepared case to present to the ALJ.

Can I Collect Social Security Disability Benefits and Workers’ Compensation At The Same Time?

YES, you can collect both Workers Compensation in New York and Social Security Disability Benefits.

Workers Compensation is almost never “offset” by other programs.
Collecting Social Security does not affect your right to collect Workers Compensation. However, under Social Security Disability, if you collect over 80% of your pre-disability earnings (determined by Social Security based on your earnings records) then Social Security benefits could be reduced by the amount of Workers Compensation Benefits you receive over the 80% mark. (There are some negative tax consequences because of this). However, if your earnings are high enough this situation will not occur.

Bottom line: If eligible, you should apply for both benefits!

If I Am A U.S. Citizen But Live Or Move Abroad Can I Still Collect Social Security Disability Benefits?

It may be possible to continue to collect Social Security Benefits if you live or move abroad. There are several factors that determine if you will be able to collect, including:

  • the length of time you will be abroad
  • the country you are going to be in
  • your military involvement

Can I Receive SSDI and SSI At The Same Time?

You might be eligible to receive both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income at the same time, if you meet certain requirements.

What Are The Non-Medical Requirements For Social Security Disability?

Many are surprised to learn that there are non-medical requirements, as well as medical requirements, which affect someone’s eligibility for Social Security Disability.

To learn more about the non-medical requirements, read this page.

How Do Social Security Disability Benefits Work For Same Sex Marriages?

Recently, part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was repealed. This means that the Social Security Administration (SSA) now recognizes same-sex marriage when determining Social Security Disability Benefits.

How Can I Stay Afloat While Waiting For My Social Security Disability Approval?

The wait for Social Security Disability Approval can be a very long one. We understand how frustrating and scary this time can be, and that you are likely wondering how you will survive the wait.

To learn more about how you can remain stable during this period, follow this link.

Can I Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

Some people qualify for social security disability benefits while they are working.

To learn more about how you can work and still qualify for social security disability benefits,read this page.

When Do Social Security Benefits End?

There are a wide variety of reasons that Social Security Disability Benefits could end. If you or a loved one have discovered that your benefits have ended, and you feel that this is wrong, learn more about why and what you can do here.

How Do I Replace My Social Security Card?

There are three steps necessary to get a replacement card

1. Gather doctors proving your identity, United States citizenship and immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen

2. Complete an application for a social security card.

3. Take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security Office of your local Social Security Card Center.

It’s important to note that all documents MUST BE originals or certified copies! Photocopies or notarized copies will not be accepted.

Can My Social Security Pension And 403B Be Garnished?

Probably not. Social Security Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407) protects Social Security benefits from assignment, levy, or garnishment. However, the law provides five exceptions:

1.  To enforce child support and/or alimony obligations

2.  Allows benefits to be levied to collect unpaid Federal taxes

3.  Allows beneficiaries to elect to have a percentage of their benefits withheld and paid to the Internal Revenue Service to satisfy their Federal income tax liability for the current year;

4.  Allows benefits to be withheld and paid to another Federal agency to pay a non-tax debt the beneficiary owes to that agency

5.  Authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to collect overdue federal tax debts of beneficiaries by levying up to 15 percent of each monthly payment until the debt is paid.

However, if you are co-mingling (mixing up) your Social Security money in an account with other money then it may get garnished unless you can show that it is specifically Social Security money. I suggest that if you have someone seeking to collect a debt (creditor) you advise them you have your Social Security money and unless they meet one of the five exceptions above then they are out of luck.

Can My Adult Child Who Has Autisim Obtain Disability Benefits?

As more cases of autisim are being diagnosed in children, the number of future adults who may need disability benefits in the future could rise. With a certain diagnosis, those with autism may now be able to get the help they need when they cannot work. If you have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, contact our law firm today for more information. You can schedule a free consultation for you or your loved one.










They kept my best interests at heart. Updates on a regular basis of the status of the case and returning of calls was much more prompt after I started dealing with the same lawyers and support team.

Danielle Dexter,
Workers Comp Client from Westchester County


I’m very satisfied with my law firm. I will always recommend Markhoff & Mittman firm to family and friends. It’s very important to have professional and supportive Law firm during your case.

Sevdija Lalicic
Workers Compensation Client