McGill & Noble, LLP Attorneys at Law

McGill & Noble, LLP
3518 Westgate Drive
Suite 425
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: (919) 493-8876
Toll Free: (800) 921-5899
Fax: (919) 419-7149
Map and Directions

Social Security FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability Benefits

Overview of Social Security's Disability Programs

What are Social Security Disability benefits?

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Who qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits or SSI?

What are examples of disabilities?

What is the earliest age at which a person can receive Social Security benefits?

What is the earliest age at which a person can receive SSI?

What should I keep in mind when dealing with the Social Security Administration?

 

The Application and Appeal Processes

When should I apply for Social Security Disability benefits and SSI?

How do I apply for Social Security Disability and SSI?

What should I do if I am denied benefits?

Do I need an attorney?

 

Hiring an Attorney

What can my attorney do to represent me in my disability case?

How much does it cost to hire an attorney?

When should I contact an attorney?

What does it mean for an attorney to be a Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability?

 

Once You Are Approved for Benefits

What happens if I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or SSI?

How much money will I receive if I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

How much money will I receive if I qualify for SSI?

If I receive Social Security Disability benefits or SSI and my disabilities get worse or I am diagnosed with other health problems, can my monthly benefit amount be increased?

Will I be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid if I am found disabled?

How long will I be able to receive Social Security Disability benefits?

Will my workers' compensation payments and other disability payments affect my Social Security Disability?

 


Overview of Social Security's Disability Programs

WHAT ARE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?

Social Security Disability is a benefit received from the Social Security Administration by disabled workers and in some cases their dependents, similar to those received by retired workers.

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY AND SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)?

Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. For most people, the medical requirements are the same and the person's disability is determined by the same process. The major difference is that SSI disability benefit awards are also based on financial need.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or DIB or Title II) is a program financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers and self-employed persons. Disability benefits are payable to disabled workers, disabled widow(er)'s or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible. Auxiliary benefits may be payable to a worker's dependents, as well. The monthly disability benefit payment is based on the Social Security earnings of the insured worker on whose Social Security number the disability claim is filed. When you become entitled to twenty-four (24) months of SSDI you are entitled to Medicare at a nominal cost.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI or Title XVI) is a welfare type program financed through general tax revenues. SSI disability benefits are payable to adults or children who are disabled, meet the income, resource and living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. No Auxiliary benefits are paid with SSI. The monthly amount of SSI payments are different in every state and can vary by the persons income and resources. You can be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked or paid taxes under FICA. Generally, however, to be eligible for SSI payments you need to be a U.S. citizen or meet certain requirements for non-citizens. If you receive SSI you are entitled to Medicaid which is free.

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WHO QUALIFIES FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE BENEFITS OR SSI?

To receive benefits under the Social Security Disability or SSI programs, you must have a physical or mental health problem (or a combination of problems) severe enough to keep you from working in any regular paying job for at least one year. The test is not whether or not you are able to go back to your old job or whether an employer is likely to hire you for another job. Rather, the test is whether you are capable of doing any job available in the national economy. By using an extensive set of regulations, the Social Security Administration takes into account your medical condition, your age, your abilities, your training and your work experience in deciding your case.

The Five Step Evaluation that Social Security uses to determine if you are disabled is as follows:

1) Are you working? If you are and you are earning more than the current SGA amount (currently $900 a month), you generally cannot be considered disabled;

2) Is your condition severe? Your impairment must be expected to last one year or result in death and interfered with basic work related activities;

3) Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? Social Security maintains a list of impairments for each of the major body systems that are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on this list, Social Security has to decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on this list. If it is, your claim is approved. If it is not, Social Security goes on to the next step;

4) Can you do the work you did previously? Does you condition prevent you from doing any work that you did in the last fifteen (15) years. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, your claim will be considered further; and

5) Can you do any other type work available in the national economy? Social Security considers your age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills against the job demands of occupations as determined by the Department of Labor. If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim will be approved. If you can, your claim will be denied.

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WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF DISABILITIES?

Asbestosis • Asthma • Allergies • Back Pain • Blindness • Cancer • Carpal Tunnel • Chronic Fatigue • Diabetes • Depression • Emphysema • Epilepsy • Fibromyalgia • Anxiety • Herniated Disc • Hip Replacement • HIV / AIDS • Heart Disease • High Blood Pressure • Hypertension • Knee Replacement • Psychiatric Impairments • Mental Retardation • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy • Leukemia • Arthritis • Multiple Sclerosis • Migraine Headaches • Neck Pain • Joint Pain • Seizures • Stroke • Lupus • Hepatitis C

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WHAT IS THE EARLIEST AGE THAT A PERSON CAN RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?

There is no minimum age. However, to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to a maximum of four (4) work credits per year. The amount of earnings required for to earn one credit increases each year.

The number of work credits you need for Social Security Disability Benefits depends on your age when you became disabled. Generally you need twenty (20) credits earned in the last ten (10) years ending with the year you became disabled. However, some younger workers depending on there age may qualify with fewer credits.

If you do not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you may still qualify for SSI.

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WHAT IS THE EARLIEST AGE THAT A PERSON CAN RECEIVE SSI?

There is no minimum age. Anyone, even children can be eligible for SSI if they meet the disability criteria and the income and resource levels.

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WHAT SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND WHEN DEALING WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION?

  • Keep all decisions, letters, and notices you receive from SSA in a safe place.
  • If you speak to someone from SSA, always get the name and telephone number (including extension) of the person you talked to.
  • Read everything you get from SSA. The booklets that come with award letters and notices are well written and informative.
  • When reading the booklets you receive from SSA, pay special attention to the kind of information you are required to report to the Social Security Administration. Report promptly and in writing and keep a copy with your social security papers.
  • Don't necessarily believe everything they tell you at the SSA 800 number. If you have an important issue to take up with SSA, sometimes it is better to go to your local Social Security office.

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The Application and Appeal Processes

WHEN SHOULD I APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS AND SSI?

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as possible after you become disabled and unable to work. You do not need to wait 12 months to apply, your disability need only be expected to last for at least one year or will result in death.

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HOW DO I APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY AND SSI BENEFITS?

You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and tell them you wish to file an application for disability benefits. They will take some information and set you up with a telephone or in-person appointment with your local Social Security office. When applying you should be prepared to give Social Security a list with the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the doctors, hospitals or clinics who have treated you for your condition. You should also bring a list of where you have worked in the past 15 years.

You will also need to provide Social Security with an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, your last earnings documents (W-2, last pay stub, statement of your employer, etc.) and  copies (keep the originals) of any medical records you may be able to obtain.

Please note, however, that you should not delay filing for benefits if all documents are not immediately available.

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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM DENIED BENEFITS?

Appeal! Many disabled people become so disheartened and frustrated after they receive a disability benefits denial notice that they do not appeal. This is often a mistake. Nationally, about 75% of all applicants are denied initially and about 90% are denied at the first appeal stage--Reconsideration. Call us for help with your appeal. Nationally about 50- 70% of claimants represented by an attorney receive benefits after hearing in front of an administrative judge.

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DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

You have the right to have an Attorney represent you in your Social Security Disability case. Statistics have shown that claimants represented by Attorneys have been much more successful than people without representation. You should seriously consider the advantages of having an Attorney represent you by examining what an Attorney would do in your Social Security Disability or SSI case.

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Hiring an Attorney

WHAT CAN MY ATTORNEY DO TO REPRESENT ME IN MY DISABILITY CASE?

Every case is different. Your Attorney's role depends on the particular facts of your case. However, a few of the things an Attorney may do are:

  • Gather medical and other evidence
  • Analyze your case under Social Security Regulations
  • Contact your doctor and explain Social Security regulations to obtain a report consistent with those regulations
  • Obtain documents from your Social Security Disability file
  • Ask that a prior application for benefits be reopened
  • Advise you how to best prepare yourself to testify at your hearing
  • Protect your right to a fair hearing by objecting to improper evidence and procedures
  • If you win, make sure that the Social Security Administration correctly calculates your benefits
  • If you lose, request review of the hearing decision by the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council
  • If necessary, represent you in a Federal Court review of your case

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HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?

There are no fees or costs unless we win. We will accept your case on a contingent fee basis. If we win, the fee will be 25% of past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.

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WHEN SHOULD I CONTACT AN ATTORNEY?

As soon as possible. We handle cases as soon as your claim is denied by Social Security. Much preparation, analysis and evidence gathering are required for adequate representation of your case. The earlier we start working on your case, the better your chances of winning.

Please note that not all Attorneys practice before the Social Security Administration. You will do best to find an Attorney familiar with the complex Social Security Disability regulations and the somewhat unusual Social Security Disability procedures. Both attorneys in our firm have been certified as specialists in social security disability law by the North Carolina State Bar.

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AN ATTORNEY TO BE A BOARD CERTIFIED SPECIALIST IN SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY?

Both attorneys at McGill and Noble have been certified as specialists in social security disability law by the North Carolina State Bar, the organization that oversees the state's lawyers. To be certified as a specialist in a practice area, a lawyer must:

  • devote a substantial portion of his or her practice to social security disability law,
  • be favorably evaluated by other lawyers and judges,
  • pass a written exam on social security law, and
  • attend continuing legal education seminars in social security law and related topics.

At McGill and Noble, our practice is devoted almost entirely to representing claimants in social security disability cases. Both attorneys received favorable reviews of their work from social security judges and passed examinations in social security disability law. We attend yearly seminars on social security law, which keep us informed of current developments in the complex laws relating to social security disability.

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Once You Are Approved for Benefits

WHAT HAPPENS IF I QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE BENEFITS OR SSI?

If you are found eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you will get paid retroactive benefits beginning 5 full months after you become disabled, but only for a maximum of 12 months before you applied for benefits. You will also start receiving a monthly check from SSA.

If you are found eligible for SSI, you can be paid retroactive benefits beginning with the first month after you filed your application. You will also start receiving a monthly check from SSA.

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HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I RECEIVE IF I QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE BENEFITS?

For Social Security disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), there is a five-month waiting period; therefore, your back benefits will actually begin with the sixth month after the onset of your disability. But you can only be paid for up to 12 months prior to your application for benefits (that is, 17 months - the 5 month waiting period). The amount of your monthly benefit depends on what is called your Primary Insurance Amount ("PIA"), which, just like for your retirement benefits, depends on how much money you earned when you were working.

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HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I RECEIVE IF I QUALIFY FOR SSI?

Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") back-pay begins with the first month following your application for benefits. The amount of your SSI benefit depends on of your income, marital status and living arrangement. The maximum monthly benefit is $623 for 2007. SSA uses complicated formulas to figure out the amount of SSI benefits.

When SSA calculates the amount of an SSI benefit, it will consider but not necessarily count all other income, whether received "in cash or in kind that you can use to meet your needs for food, clothing and shelter." Income is divided into two categories, earned income and unearned income. Different rules apply for counting earned and unearned income. Income which is counted operates to reduce the amount of the monthly SSI benefit.

There are also resource limits. You cannot have more than $2,000 in assets (with some exceptions) if you are single and $3,000 in assets (with some exceptions) if you are married. After you received SSI an SSI back payment, you will be allowed six months to spend your checks for back benefits. There are assets that do not count against that limit (e.g. your home, a car valued at $4,500 or less). If you have questions, please contact me or Social Security.

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IF I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS OR SSI AND MY DISABILITIES GET WORSE OR I AM DIAGNOSED WITH OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS, CAN MY MONTHLY BENEFIT AMOUNT BE INCREASED?

No, for the purposes of social security disability and SSI you are either disabled or you are not. Your benefits are calculated as described above; they will not increase if your condition worsens.

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WILL I BE ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICARE OR MEDICAID IF I AM FOUND DISABLED?

Medicare is associated with Disability Insurance Benefits and Medicaid is a needs-based program like SSI. Medicare begins after you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for 24 months. To receive Part B of Medicare (which pays for doctor visits), you pay a premium that will be deducted from your social security disability monthly check.

Medicaid can begin before or immediately upon receipt of SSI. Like SSI, your eligibility depends in part on your income and resources. Medicaid can be retroactive up to 3 months prior to the date of a Medicaid application. Therefore, you should apply for Medicaid as early as possible. You can file your Medicaid application at your local Department of Social Services.

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HOW LONG WILL I BE ABLE TO RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?

You will receive Social Security Disability benefits as long as you remain disabled and unable to work. If you recover and can resume work you must let SSA know.

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WILL MY WORKERS' COMPENSATION PAYMENTS AND OTHER DISABILITY PAYMENTS AFFECT MY SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY?

Ordinarily, disability payments from other sources do not affect your Social Security Disability benefits. However, if the disability payment that you receive is workers' compensation or another public disability payment (such as some civil service disability benefits, some military disability benefits, some Federal, State or Local government retirement benefits which are based on disability) yours and your family's Social Security benefits may be reduced.

Your Social Security Disability benefit will be reduced so that the combined amount of the Social Security Disability benefit you and your family receive plus your workers' compensation payment and/or public disability payment does not exceed eighty percent (80%) of your average current earnings.

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Contact McGill & Noble, Attorneys at Law for a free consultation with a Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability law.

Free consultations • No fees or costs unless benefits are awarded • Home and hospital visits • Evening and weekend appointments available

Our office is on the fourth floor of the Southpark building, located at the corner of Westgate Drive and University Drive in Durham.

McGill and Noble

McGill & Noble, Attorneys at Law
3518 Westgate Drive
Suite 425
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: (919) 493-8876
Toll Free: (800) 921-5899
Fax: (919) 419-7149
Map and Directions
Disclaimer

McGill & Noble, Attorneys at Law are located in Durham, NC and serve clients throughout the Triangle, Durham County, Orange County, Alamance County, Person County, Chatham County, Granville County and Wake County, including Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Creedmoor, Mebane, Burlington, Roxboro, and Raleigh, North Carolina.