Frequently Asked Questions.
Here are some common questions
about Social Security Disability and SSI.

Guide to Social Security Disability and SSI

Who should read this?

You should, if you or someone you care about is disabled and unable to work.

This page will tell you what types of disability programs are available from Social Security; Who is eligible; how to apply; the appeal process; and what you need to know once benefits start. You should also be aware that both adults and children may be eligible for benefits.

We urge you to contact the Law Center for Social Security Rights for a FREE CONSULTATION at 1-800-832-3471.

What are the two disability programs available?

Benefits may be payable under either or both the Social Security Disability Insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The medical requirements for disability payments are the same under both programs and a person’s disability is determined by the same process. While eligibility for Social Security Disability is based on prior work, SSI disability payments are made on the basis of financial need. There are other differences in the eligibility rules for the two programs.

Under the Social Security disability program there are three categories in which you may qualify:

  1. a disabled worker under 65 who has been employed or self-employed long enough and recently enough under Social Security.
  2. a person who has been disabled since childhood but before age 22 if one of the parents covered by Social Security retires, becomes disabled or dies.
  3. a disabled widow or widower between the age of 50 or 60 if the deceased spouse was covered under Social Security at the time of death.

Under the SSI program the disabled individual is the only person eligible for benefits. There are no benefits payable to the children or the parents.

The rules are quite complex, and our attorneys can review the facts in your case and advise if you may be eligible. A second opinion is always a good idea.

Am I eligible for disability benefits?
You may be eligible for disability benefits if you satisfy the requirements stated above and meet the definition of disability.
What is the definition of disability?
The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 months.
Are there other parts to this definition I have to meet?

Yes. You must have a severe impairment which makes you

  1. unable to do your previous job or
  2. any other substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.

To determine if you can do any other work, the Social Security Administration will consider you age, education, and past work experience.

How do I begin?
Call the Law Center for Social Security Rights for a free consultation at 1-800-832-3471 BEFORE you even apply. You may also contact Social Security directly either by phone, 1-800-772-1213, mail, or by visiting the nearest Social Security office.
What kind of evidence do I need to supply to Social Security?

The Social Security Administration will need to get copies of your medical records to make a decision about your claim. If you have or can readily get copies of your records, bring them with you when you file your application. Any records you do not have available will be requested directly from your doctors, and other treating sources.

The Social Security Administration may also have you evaluated by one or more of their physicians, or a psychologist if appropriate.

You may also be called upon to discuss your formal education and work history for the last 15 years, including the duties and responsibilities you had on your jobs.

You will need to provide your birth certificate and military record, if any.

If you are filing for SSI, you will be asked about other information concerning your income and things you own, as well as your living arrangements.

You may also be called upon to complete additional forms concerning your daily activities, pain level, etc. Your family members may also be requested to fill out forms concerning your daily activities.

Do I need an Attorney?
Although it is not mandatory to have an attorney to apply for benefits, The Law Center for Social Security Rights can offer assistance immediately, even before an application is filed. An attorney who is knowledgeable in Social Security disability rules and regulations can assist the Social Security Administration. The attorney will obtain the proper medical documentation to support your claim and assist you in completing all necessary forms. The Center has the required forms available in our office.
If I hire an attorney, how much does it cost?
Most attorneys that specialize in this field, including our Law Center, accept these claims on a contingency basis. This means that we only charge a fee if the claim is successful and benefits are paid. Fees are regulated by Social Security and prior approval is required before an attorney can collect a fee. It is always wise to talk about fees with the attorney during your first conversation if you decide you want the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
How is the disability decision made?
Trained disability evaluation specialists will review your medical record and gather information on your education and past work history. They will often call you for a description of your daily activities and contact others who may know about your medical condition. A decision in writing will then be made.
What do I do if my claim is denied?
If your claim is denied or you disagree with any part of the decision made by the Social Security Administration, you may appeal that decision. There are various levels of appeal. You usually have 60 days from the time you receive the decision to file an appeal to the next level. If you do not file a timely appeal, you may be waiving some of your rights. Eventually, you will have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge where testimony is taken and the medical evidence is reviewed. Remember, you may retain an attorney at any level of the decision making process. However, WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU OBTAIN LEGAL CONSULTATION AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Remember, the government is not always right if they deny your claim!
What will I receive if I am approved for Social Security disability benefits or SSI benefits?
You will receive monthly cash benefits under either or both programs. Under the Social Security disability program your children may also be eligible to receive monthly cash benefits. The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your earnings covered by Social Security. Monthly benefits are generally increased each December to reflect changes in the cost of living. SSI benefits are paid up to a certain maximum amount.
Will I receive help with my medical bills?
If your claim for Social Security disability insurance benefits is approved, Medicare benefits will be available to you after 24 months of eligibility. If your claim for SSI disability is approved, you generally will be able to get Medicaid immediately.
How can I tell if I am disabled enough to apply for social security disability benefits?

Social Security regulations make it easier to be found disabled as you get older. It becomes easier for a few people at age 45 (those unable to read English), for more people at age 50, for most people at age 55, and even more people at age 60. If you’re over age 55 and you cannot do any job you have done in the past 15 years, you should definitely apply. If you’re over age 50 and have a severe impairment that keeps you from doing all but the easiest jobs, you ought to apply.

But even if you’re a younger person, you don’t have to be bedridden in order to be found disabled. If you’re under age 45 or 50 and you cannot do your past jobs and you cannot work full time at any regular job, that ought to be enough.

Nevertheless, being unable to work and being found “disabled” by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are two different things. It is often difficult to convince SSA that someone is “disabled” even when he or she genuinely cannot work. But it is not impossible. Every case is different. If you’re not sure whether you qualify, please contact us for a free consultation.


How do I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers three ways for you to apply for Social Security disability benefits: by telephone, in person at a local Social Security office, or via the Internet. If you want to use the Internet to apply, go to www.socialsecurity.gov  If you want to apply for SSA’s other disability program — Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — you cannot complete an SSI application online, but you can complete one of the necessary supporting documents, the Adult Disability and Work History Report, on the Internet.

If you want to complete an application for SSI or Social Security disability by telephone or in person, you must first telephone SSA at 1-800-772-1213. If you choose to go to a Social Security office to complete the application, the person at the 800 number above will schedule an appointment for you, give you directions to the Social Security office, and tell you what papers you need to bring along. If you want to apply by phone, you will be given a date and an approximate time to expect a phone call from someone at the Social Security office who will take your application over the phone. The application will then be mailed to you for your signature.


How Long Does It Take To Get My Hearing?

Disability claimants who have already gone through the initial phase of a Social Security disability (or SSI) case need to request an appeal hearing to get a judge to hear their case. Unfortunately, the time spent waiting for a hearing is usually considerable, and no doubt causes financial hardship for families. The wait varies from court to court in Michigan, sometimes greatly, depending on where you live. Social Security uses your zip code to determine where your case will be heard. In other words, the county you live in has nothing to do with the “jurisdiction”. Even living in the State of Michigan may mean nothing, as many downriver residents’ cases are heard in Toledo, Ohio. The wait time is calculated by the filing date of your Request for Hearing (501). There is a great degree of variance in the wait time for a hearing between different hearing offices within the State of Michigan. The approximate hearing time waits are:

  • Detroit has a wait time of 15-18 months
  • Flint has a wait time of 18-20 months
  • Grand Rapids has a wait time of 24-30 months
  • Lansing has a wait time of 18-20 months
  • Livonia has a wait time of 15-18 months
  • Mt Pleasant has a wait time of 24 months
  • Oak Park has a wait time of 15-18 months
  • Toledo has a wait time of 15-18 months

Unfortunately, a disability claimant has no choice as to which hearing office will be assigned their case. This can be frustrating as some hearing offices are “faster” scheduling cases than other hearing offices. There are many reasons for this- some offices have to deal with greater numbers of cases, other hearing offices are simply better organized and more efficient.

Can I Get A Faster Hearing?

Can you speed up how long it takes to get a disability hearing date, despite the lengthy “average” wait times? It is very difficult to speed up the wait time. However, there are some very limited ways that this can be done. Notably, the most effective way to request an expedited hearing is by an attorney.

Dire Need: The first way to potentially speed up your disability hearing is to send a dire need letter. In a dire need letter, an SSD or SSI disability claimant points out the severity of their financial circumstances. It is discretionary on the part of the office. Claimants whose situations are extreme should draft a detailed dire need letter and forward this to the ODAR where their hearing is waiting to be scheduled. Typically this requires that you are homeless and/or living in a homeless shelter. Please contact our office to assist you in writing a dire need request.

Congressional Inquiry: Another way to potentially expedite a disability hearing is to contact the office of a local congressman or senator. This will launch what is referred to as a congressional inquiry. Such inquiries typically involve a congressional staff member either calling or writing the hearing office on a Social Security claimant’s behalf. Congressional inquiries often have mixed results. A congressional inquiry might get you a few months shaved off the hearing wait time.

On the Record Review: A Social Security disability or SSI case for which a hearing has been requested can also be expedited by requesting what is known as an on-the-record (OTR) review. In an OTR review, the attorney requests that the judge review the claimant’s file, on record, prior to a hearing date because of the extreme medical evidence. In other words, for an on-the-record review to be granted, a claimant’s medical evidence must be particularly compelling. In most cases, disability attorneys we will not even consider requesting an OTR review because of the rigorous standard require to have the case decided without a hearing. On the record hearings are rare.

Compassionate Allowance:  This type of case also allows an expedited process to get Social Security disability. The claimant must have a certain medical condition that is listed on the “Compassionate Allowance List”.  You must have a medical condition on the compassionate allowance list to be considered for this program. A decision under the compassionate allowance can come in a matter of weeks instead of the normal wait time. Here is a link to the compassionate allowance list: www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/condition


Still need help?

Please fill in our contact form or call us
at  248-350-1000