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Initiating a Social Security Disability Claim

Deciding whether or not to pursue Social Security disability benefits is not an easy decision. Beginning the process can be overwhelming, and often our clients have many questions at the outset. Clients often have questions regarding what it means to be disabled, what types of benefits exist, eligibility, and the initial application or claim process.

Q. Am I disabled? How does Social Security define “disability”?

A. Under the Social Security Act, “disability” means “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Q. What are Social Security disability benefits?

A. The two most frequently utilized types of Social Security disability benefits are Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income. Disability Insurance Benefits will go to individuals who have worked in recent years and who are now disabled. These benefits are based upon an individual’s earnings record. In an individual does not have an earning’s record, or last worked several years ago, that individual may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These are benefits paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not, as the benefits are based upon need.

Q. How long must I wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits?

A. You can file your claim immediately. In fact, you are able to file for Social Security disability benefits on the very same day that you become disabled. Many of our clients assume that they must wait months or even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. If you are suffering with a serious illness or injury and you expect to be out of work for one year or more, do not delay in filing your claim for Social Security disability benefits.

Q. I am 75% disabled. Do I get 75% of my Social Security disability benefits?

A. No. For purposes of Social Security disability benefits, you either are disabled or you are not. There are no percentages of disability, nor any percentages of disability benefits.

Q. I have several health problems, but no one single one disables me. It is the combination of my health problems which make me disabled. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?

A. Social Security should consider a combination of impairments that an individual suffers from in determining disability. Many, if not most claimants for Social Security disability benefits have more than one health problem and the combined effects of all of the health problems must be considered.

Q. I was hurt at work, and I am now receiving worker’s compensation. Should I file my claim for Social Security disability benefits now or wait until the worker’s compensation ends?

A. There is no need to wait until the worker’s compensation ends and you should not wait that long. An individual can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits while receiving worker’s compensation benefits. We advise our clients to file the Social Security disability claim as soon as possible to avoid any gap between the time the worker’s compensation ends and the Social Security disability benefits begin.

Q. Can I get both worker’s compensation and Social Security disability benefits?

A. Yes. There is an offset, which can reduce Social Security disability benefits because of worker’s compensation benefits paid, but in most cases, there will still be some Social Security disability benefits to be paid.