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Social Security Disability FAQs

Our nation has set up two programs — Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — to provide benefits for people who cannot work due to disability or illness. Children may also be eligible for SSI benefits.

A high percentage of initial SSD and SSI claims are denied at first, usually because they lack the proper paperwork and the information the Social Security Administration is looking for. Powell & Denny has over 50 years of combined experience preparing these claims for clients in Birmingham, Huntsville and throughout Alabama. We understand the SSI process.

Powell & Denny can provide a free case evaluation. Call 800-227-0882 to speak with an experienced lawyer and see our frequently asked questions below.

What help can Powell & Denny provide?

Our firm has one mission — to help disabled and injured people obtain the compensation and benefits they earned.

We assist and represent clients throughout the entire process. We can help you prepare your claim or step in at any time after that. Our firm can collect and organize the medical information needed to pursue your claim and represent you in your hearing before the administrative law judge.

Powell & Denny will be there with you throughout the entire legal process.

The Social Security Administration denied my claim. Do I have any options?

Absolutely. Many applicants simply give up after having been denied on their initial claim. Don’t give up. With the help of an experienced attorney, you may still be able to get your claim approved.

Our lawyers understand the claims approval process, the rules that apply to SSD and SSI claims, and how to guide claims through the system. Our goal will be to obtain benefits for you.

I haven’t worked for 6 years. Is it possible to get SSD benefits? What about SSI benefits?

Even if you have had a long lapse between periods of employment, you may still be entitled to SSD benefits. In fact, it may be possible for you to file a claim for both SSD and SSI benefits, what is called a concurrent claim.

Powell & Denny understands the complex rules and procedures of the system. We will work to obtain all the benefits you need and deserve.

Does a condition have to be physical to qualify for SSD or SSI?

No. A number of behavioral disorders can qualify you for benefits, including mental illness, depression, anxiety, or severe childhood behavioral problems. Powell & Denny can discuss your situation.

What will it cost me up front to hire Powell & Denny to represent me in my claim for Social Security Disability benefits?

You will not have to pay anything for a phone discussion or for our initial, personnel consultation, and by law, the only way our firm can receive payment is if we help you win your claim for disability benefits.

Will the same attorney I meet with personally handle my hearing for Social Security Disability benefits?

Yes, if at all possible, the attorney who you speak on the phone with and meet with in our office will represent you at your hearing for disability benefits. Rest assured that you will not be passed onto another attorney who does not know who you are or the facts about your claim for disability benefits.

If I am able to work a little, can I still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

Yes. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the Social Security Administration has to find that, given your disabilities, you are unable to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which is classified as a certain amount of money earned by working. Call Powell & Denny so we can help you determine if you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.

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

Social Security Disability benefits are awarded to persons who are unable to work because of their disabilities who have a qualifying work history. SSI is a needs-based program, and to qualify for SSI benefits a person must be disabled and have limited economic resources.

Can I receive workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time?

Yes, although workers’ compensation benefits may cause a reduction in your Social Security Disability benefits.

You probably have additional social security questions. An attorney at Powell & Denny can answer these and provide a free case evaluation.

How far back will my benefits go?

The answer to this question hinges on whether you were awarded SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefit. If you were awarded SSI benefits, your right to benefits may go back no further than the date you applied for SSI benefits. Remember, SSI is a “needs based” social safety net, and regardless of how long you have actually been disabled, you cannot collect benefits back longer from the time you actually requested them.

SSDI benefits are based partially on paying your Social Security taxes, and part of the reason these taxes were paid is in case you later become disabled and need them; however, you may not wait for years and then apply for SSDI benefits and expect the government to pay your years and years of back pay. Your right to SSDI benefits can only go back up to one year before the date you applied for disability, so even if you have been legally disabled for 5 years and you were able to prove this fact, your right to collect back pay will only go back one year from your protective filing date. Having stated this, the years of back pay you might be entitled to can be substantial. Recently we helped a client win their disability claim after 7 years of fighting in the courts. Our client will receive all 7 years of back due benefits as the United States District Court determined that they had in fact been disabled the entire dependency of their claim.

This is one important reason why you should not procrastinate applying for SSDI or SSI benefits if you believe you are entitled to them.

Will I get Medicare?

When you are awarded SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration determines the date on which your disability began. 29 months after the date your disability began, your right to Medicare kicks in. If you stopped working due to your medical problems, applied for disability benefits and were immediately awarded-you will have a wait on your hands before becoming Medicare eligible. If 29 months have already passed from the date the Social Security Administration found your disability began to the date you were finally awarded benefits, you should be automatically entitled to Medicare.

If you are already covered under a spouse’s insurance policy, Medicare will become your secondary payer; your already existing insurance policy will remain your primary provider.
Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

Will my children draw benefits?

If you have been awarded disability benefits, your children may be eligible to draw monthly benefits as well as you. The determining factor is how much you are drawing in monthly benefits.
When you work, you pay Social Security taxes; the amount you pay is premised on the amount you earn while working. The amount you have paid in and the number of years you have paid in to the system are used in calculating whether your children are eligible for benefits.

If you are not drawing all the money available for a family, then your children are entitled to receive up to ½ of the amount you receive in monthly benefits-depending on the difference in your monthly benefits and the family maximum available. If you have multiple children, this amount is split between the children.

If your children are entitled to draw benefits, they will remain eligible for said benefits until they reach age 18 (19 if still in High School). If your child is also disabled, then they may continue to draw benefits on your record unless they marry or they marry someone drawing SSDI benefits.

If you have been awarded SSI benefits, then your children will not be entitled to draw any benefits. Only children of parents who have been awarded SSDI benefits are eligible.

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Can I work and draw Disability?

The question seems to be counterintuitive-if you are disabled, you can’t work, right? Well, not necessarily.

You can’t be able to perform what the Social Security Administration calls “substantial gainful activity,” which currently means earning more than $1,040 a month before taxes (this amount is subject to annual change and is slightly more for those who are legally blind), but if you earn less than this amount, you can still be entitled to disability benefits.

In addition, if you have already been awarded SSDI benefits, the government will allow you to earn more than this amount during a trial work period as the government wants you to feel safe in attempting to return to gainful employment. If you knew that a work attempt meant the certain stoppage of your SSDI benefits, a person would be extremely hesitant to attempt to work in fear that their SSDI check would stop and they might not actually be able to return to gainful employment. For 2013, monthly income of $750 or more is considered a trial work month or working 80 hours or more if you are self-employed. The government will allow you a 9 month trial work period; once you have completed the trial work period, you may still draw SSDI benefits for months when you do not earn substantial gainful amounts for up to 36 months.

Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

What are SSI Benefits?

As has been shown, SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. Like SSDI benefits, there are two hurdles you must clear to be eligible for SSI benefits. First, you must first show that you meet the legal definition of being disabled. Secondly, you must not have more than $2,000.00 ($3,000.00 for a married couple) in assets.

The reason for the asset limitation is because Supplemental Security Insurance benefits is a “needs based” program. It is a social safety net for persons incapable of substantial gainful employment who do not qualify for SSDI benefits. You may be found to be disabled, but still unable to draw SSI benefits if you have too much in assets.

If you live in Alabama, you believe that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits and you have questions about your rights, please do not hesitate to contact and speak with one of the experienced Alabama Disability Attorneys at Powell and Denny.

Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

What are SSDI Benefits?

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must show that (i) you meet the legal definition of being disabled and (ii) that you are insured for disability purposes. You become insured for disability purposes by paying your social security taxes while being able to work. There are four quarters in each financial year, and you can “earn” up to 4 credits per year. To be fully insured for disability benefits, you must have 20 out of 40 credits, which breaks down to having worked 5 of the last 10 years. So, if you have a good work history and last worked in 2009, you should be insured through 2014 (5 years out).

How many assets you have is immaterial. If you have earned enough credits and meet the legal definition of being disabled, you are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits-even if you are worth over a million dollars. You may also be legally disabled, but unable to draw SSDI benefits due to a lack of credits-although you may still be entitled to SSI benefits.

If you live in the “Over the Mountain” area*, you believe that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits and you have questions about your rights, please do not hesitate to contact and talk to one of the experienced Alabama Disability Attorneys at Powell and Denny. Our office in Hoover is conveniently located off Alford Avenue, where Hoover, Vestavia and Homewood come together.

Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

My Claim was Denied — what do I do?

Many people believe that their initial application was reviewed in detail and that a denial of benefits means that they are not entitled to benefits, so they forgo taking any steps to appeal the denial; this is a mistake. The majority of persons who apply for Social Security Disability benefits are denied after their initial application. Often the Social Security Administration makes their initial decision without receiving all your medical records and the Administration simply does not have the resources to contact your main treating physicians to ask the detailed questions needed concerning your condition(s). The fact is that your best chance at being awarded disability benefits is after your appeal.

You have sixty (60) days from the date of your denial of benefits in which to appeal the decision. Sixty days may sound like a long time, but it runs extremely quickly. If you have received a denial, the time to appeal is as soon as possible

If you live in Alabama, you believe that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits and you have questions about your rights, please do not hesitate to contact and speak to one of the experienced Alabama Disability Attorneys at Powell and Denny.

Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

How do I file a claim?

Once you have decided that you really should apply for disability benefits, you probably are unsure about how exactly to get started. This lack of knowledge often causes people to forgo applying for disability benefits for months to years because they would really rather be able to work and do not want to apply for disability benefits. While this sentiment is noble, if you are disabled, waiting will only cause you more stress and financial hardship and could make it considerable more difficult to prove your case when you do get around to filing.

If you believe that you are disabled, go ahead and apply for your SSDI and/or SSI benefits. You may get the process started by going to, or by calling your local Social Security Administration office to schedule a disability interview. To help you with the process, it would be a good idea to have already prepared a list of your employers for the last 15 years and of the physicians and medical personnel who have been treating you for the last few years.

Can I get Partial Disability?

The answer is NO. Congress had not provided any avenue in which a person may qualify for partial disability benefits. According to the law, either a person is totally disabled or they are not. Having stated that, this does not mean that if you were given a permanent partial impairment rating after suffering an on the job injury or a partial disability rating by the VA that you cannot qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Face it, a 100% permanent partial impairment rating means that you are dead, so any impairment rating you might have been given following a job injury will be less than 100%, and just because the VA does not believe you meet their definition of permanently disabled does not mean that the Social Security Administration will agree with their determination.

Can I get Temporary Disability?

The short answer is no. Congress had not provided any avenue in which a person may qualify for temporary disability benefits. According to the law, either a person is disabled or they are not; however, that is not to say that one cannot go through a period of time (at least 12 months by law) where they were unable to work due to some problem or condition, but later return to work once they improve. This occurs quite often, and when it does happen, we call this a closed period. This means that for a certain period of time (again, the time must have been for at least 12 months), the claimant was unable to work, and although their circumstances happily changed and they were able to return to work-they are still entitled to disability benefits for the time period they were unable to work.

So, if you were disabled for a period of time lasting at least 12 months and later returned to work, you might still be entitled to disability benefits for the period of time you were unable to perform substantial gainful activity.

How much will I receive?

Some claimants believe that the amount they may receive if they are awarded Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) is tied in to their medical problems; it is not. The amount of your disability benefits is determined by your average lifetime earnings before the date your disability began.

The Social Security Administration mails out statements to workers which sets forth the amount they would obtain if they continued working to retirement age, and this statement also estimates what amount the worker would receive if they became disabled. You may also wish to go to for an estimate of what you might receive if you are awarded disability benefits.

If you live in Alabama, you believe that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits and you have questions about your rights, please do not hesitate to contact and speak to one of the experienced Alabama Disability Attorneys at Powell and Denny.

Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t

How long does it take?

It depends on it you are talking about (i) how long does it generally take to hear back for Social Security after filing your initial application or (ii) after an initial denial, how long does it take to present your case in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

Generally, it takes around 3-5 months to hear back from the Social Security Administration after your initial application. The time varies in accordance with: (a) the nature of your disability; (b) how quickly the Administration can obtain a copy of your medical records; (c) whether the Administration feels that a consultative medical examination is needed and (d) whether your claim is randomly selected for quality review. If you have not heard anything by the end of 5 months, you should contact the Social Security Administration to ensure that a determination has not been mailed to the wrong address or otherwise fell through the cracks.

If your case was denied, and the overwhelming majority of cases are denied upon initial review, then you have 60 days in which to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Be sure to act quickly as 60 days will run quickly. Once your appeal has been filed, it can take up to a year before your case is set for hearing. How quickly depends on the evidence you are able to present (dire need), the severity of your condition (some conditions are given priority), whether your disability is related to an condition suffered while serving in one the U.S. Armed Services (these are given priority status) and the number of other claimants already scheduled in front of you. If you have a strong case with medical evidence to support your claim, the Administration may choose to pay you on the record without a hearing, but this does not happen often.

Contact Our Alabama SSD and SSI Attorneys

For a free initial consultation with Powell & Denny, call 800-227-0882 or contact us online. We have offices in Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, to serve you.

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