Social Security Disability Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a set of frequently asked questions we receive from clients seeking to apply for Social Security Disability benefits or to appeal a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim denial. While this FAQ is a starting point, we also invite you to contact Graham & Graham directly at 1-800-621-8585 for specific questions or a free assessment of your claim.

What is Social Security?
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
How Much Does Social Security Disability Pay?
How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits in Ohio?
Is There a Way to Speed Up My Disability Application?
What Happens if My SSD Application is Denied?
How Can a Lawyer Help with My Social Security Disability Claim?

What is Social Security?

When you work, you pay taxes. In addition to federal and state taxes, everyone who gets a pay check, even the self-employed, must pay FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Your employer withholds these taxes from your paychecks and delivers them to the Internal Revenue Service, which puts the monies into the Social Security Trust Fund. (Self-employed persons are responsible to file payments directly to the IRS.) FICA taxes are also referred to as “payroll taxes” because they are based on income paid to employees. Payroll taxes cover two programs:

  • Social Security (or “OASDI,” which stands for Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) and
  • Medicare

Overall, Social Security serves as the foundation of economic security for millions of Americans—retirees, disabled persons, and families of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. About 169 million Americans pay Social Security taxes and 61 million collect monthly benefits. About one family in four receives income from Social Security.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you become disabled and you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Applying for—and receiving—Social Security disability benefits can be complicated by lack of work “credits,” missing or non-existent medical records, the type of disability, current job requirements, and other factors. Navigating a Social Security disability claim is a long and difficult process, unlike simply filing for basic Social Security retirement benefits, which is more straightforward.

If you have become disabled, Graham & Graham’s Social Security disability lawyers can help. We are here to work through the complexities of submitting an initial application, filing appeals, corresponding with doctors and Social Security offices, and attending administrative hearings. Persistence is often the key to receiving the SSD benefits you deserve. Rest assured that if you engage Graham & Graham, we will be there with you every step of the way.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

To qualify for SSD benefits, you must be considered disabled. You must also meet earnings requirements.

Social Security has a very strict definition of what it means by “disability.” Your condition has to interfere with basic work-related activities for at least 12 months. Social Security maintains a list of medical conditions that automatically meet its criteria. A condition that is not on the list can still count as disabled if the Social Security Administration determines it is comparable to a condition on the list. There is no such thing as partial or short-term disability under SSD. You can learn more about the definition of disability here.

In addition to meeting Social Security’s definition of disability, you must have worked long enough, and recently enough, to qualify for benefits. The age at which you become disabled affects the number of work credits needed to qualify.

For example, if you are 30 years old, you need to have paid into Social Security for at least two years. If you are 60, you will need to have worked at least nine and a half years. Social Security explains disability requirements and the SSD work credit system here.

How Much Does Social Security Disability Pay?

The amount of your monthly benefit from SSD depends on how much you worked and earned in the past. In some cases, the amount of SSD benefits is reduced if you receive other government benefits, such as workers’ compensation.

According to the Social Security Administration, the estimated average monthly benefits paid to a disabled worker in 2020 is $1,258. For a disabled worker and his or her spouse with one or more child, the average monthly SSD payment is $2,176 in 2020. Annual cost of living adjustments are common.

How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits in Ohio?

SSD benefits applications can be submitted online at the Social Security website, or by telephone at 800-772-1213. During normal times, you can also apply for SSD in person at a local Social Security field office, but these offices are currently closed due to COVID-19. There are dozens of offices across Ohio, including one in Zanesville located at 3823 James Court. To find the office nearest you, search by zip code.

You should apply for benefits as soon as you become disabled. It usually takes at least three to five months to process an initial application. Having incorrect or missing information—in particular, a lack of strong medical evidence—makes it much more likely that your claim will be denied.

Before you apply for benefits, it is strongly recommended that you speak to an Ohio SSD lawyer.

Is There a Way to Speed Up My Disability Application?

Certain types of disability claims are processed more quickly than standard applications. There are six types of claims that Social Security deems “critical” and will fast-track, such as terminal illnesses, military veterans, and dire need situations. Learn more about how to get an expedited decision for your SSD claim.

What Happens if My SSD Claim is Denied?

Having an initial claim for SSD benefits denied is the rule—not the exception. According to the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), only one-third of applicants are awarded benefits the first time they apply.

If your initial claim is denied, you have 60 days to appeal. If your appeal is denied, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). While you may have to wait close to a year for a hearing, nearly half of cases that reach the ALJ stage are approved nationwide. Graham & Graham consistently has success rates for SSD hearings that are significantly higher than the national average, as well as state averages for Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

How Can a Lawyer Help With My Social Security Disability Claim?

While there is no legal requirement to hire a disability lawyer, having attorney representation is helpful at every stage of the claims process. A Martindale-Nolo 2017 study on disability found that those who applied for SSDI and hired an attorney at some point in the process were approved for benefits 70 percent of the time, compared to a 41 percent approval rate for those who did not hire an attorney.

When first applying for benefits, proper documentation is critical. You’ll need to provide medical records, doctors’ reports, recent test results, and your work history, among other information. The number of forms you need to submit can be overwhelming, and just one mistake can result in your claim being denied. An attorney can first make sure that you meet eligibility criteria. Then, they can put together an application with sufficient supporting evidence. Once your claim is in the hands of the SSA, an attorney will contact the agency on your behalf to provide updates.

If your original claim is denied, your attorney will represent you during the appeals process. A report from the Government Accountability Office found that claimants at the ALJ level who had representatives, such as an attorney, were awarded benefits at three times the rate of those without representatives.

As Joshua Graham explains, it is not unusual for him to help his clients with much more than just their SSD claim. “Without an income, people waiting for social security disability claims often need interim assistance in obtaining food, shelter, and medical treatment,” says Josh. “Or, I can assist them in securing a vocational rehabilitation program that leads to a new type of work. I do all I can do to help.”

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

Graham & Graham offers a free initial consultation, and if you hire us to represent you, you pay no hourly fees—and no fees at all—unless we recover money for you.

Aside from our contingency-fee model, the SSA caps the fees that an attorney can charge. Attorneys’ fees are paid directly by the SSA out of the back benefits that a claimant is due at the time of disability approval. So even if the claim is approved and the attorney is owed fees, the client never receives a bill.

Graham & Graham provides assistance at all phases of the claims process, including filing an initial claim, appeals, and hearings. To schedule a free initial appointment, contact Joshua Graham: jrg@grahamlpa.com / 740-454-8585.

 

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