What is the definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration?

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.”

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

In general, there is no past work requirement in order to obtain SSI benefits. Also, a person receiving SSI benefits may be entitled to Medicaid whereas a person receiving SSDI benefits may be entitled to Medicare.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

SGA is the most a person can earn and still receive Social Security disability benefits. The SGA amount changes every year. In 2015, SGA is $1090/mo for a person who isn’t blind. There are exceptions to this general rule. If you are attempting to receive Social Security disability benefits and you are working, you should contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney.

Do I have to wait to file for Social Security disability benefits?

No, as long as your disability is expected to last for at least 12 months, you can file your claim for Social Security disability benefits right away.

Do I have to go to a hearing?

It depends. Initially, your application is reviewed by Colorado’s Disability Determination Services and a hearing is not necessary. At the next stage, which is an appeal to the Administrative Law Judge, most claimants do appear before a Judge. Being at the hearing is helpful to your claim and can increase your chances of winning. It is your opportunity to tell a Judge why you can’t work, to explain any inconsistencies in the file, and to express the hardship you’ve endured. Appeals to the Appeals Council and to the Federal Court do not require your presence.

If I win my claim, how far back will I be able to receive benefits?

For SSDI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay benefits to the later of two dates: one year before your filing date or five months after your onset date. For SSI, SSA will pay benefits to the later of two dates: the month after your filing date or your onset date. In some circumstances, it may be possible to reopen a prior filing in order to receive more back pay.

What do you charge?

You owe nothing unless you win your social security disability claim. Generally, if you win your SSI or SSDI claim, the fee is 25 percent of your backpay up to the government imposed maximum, which is currently set at $6,000. Because the fee comes out of your backpay, you do not have to write a check. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically calculate your backpay and send the attorney fee directly to the firm. The remainder is then mailed directly to you by the SSA.

What happens if my condition improves while I’m applying for benefits?

It is possible to request disability for a closed period of time if your disability lasted for a full year. A closed period means that there is both a start date and a set end date to benefit entitlement.

Can the SSA find that I am partially disabled?

No, the SSA will only find that you either are, or are not, disabled.  The SSA will not issue a percentage of disability. The SSA may, however, issue a partially favorable decision, meaning that the SSA has changed your alleged onset date.

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