Questions about Eligibility for SSD Benefits

What types of disability benefits are available from Social Security?

Social Security runs two programs providing disability benefits for people with major health limitations.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial assistance for people who worked a substantial amount before their health declined.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides benefits for people who also can’t work because of health problems, and have low incomes, few assets, and little recent work history.

What are the differences between SSDI and SSI?

SSDI is for people who worked and paid into the Social Security system throughout their lives. SSI helps people who cannot meet the work history requirements of SSDI and have limited economic resources. Both are for people who currently cannot work because of health problems.

Generally, SSDI pays a larger monthly amount than SSI. People who receive SSDI also become eligible for Medicare health care coverage, after a waiting period, even though they haven’t reached the usual age for Medicare.

People who receive SSI automatically get Medicaid—called SoonerCare in Oklahoma.

How does Social Security define a “disability” for the purpose of awarding benefits?

A disability that qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits may look different from what people often think of as a disability.

The key is how your health impairment affects your ability to work. You must either be unable to work much at all, because of your health, for at least a year, or have a condition that, whether within a year or some other amount of time, will eventually lead to death.

To determine if you meet this standard, Social Security uses a 5-step process of analyzing your disability benefits claim

The Tulsa disability lawyers at Troutman & Troutman can help you through this.

Can I get Social Security Disability if I haven’t worked in a while?

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked five out of the last 10 years.

People who are 31 or younger could qualify with fewer years of work because their age makes it impossible to have a long work record. 

If you haven’t worked much for a long time, you may not be able to get SSDI. In that case, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be the right option for you because it doesn’t have a requirement for years of work.

Do I have to work a certain number of years to qualify for SSD?

The exact length of your work record to qualify for Social Security Disability depends on your age. Most of the time, you have to show several years of work to be eligible for benefits. 

Social Security uses a measure called “work credits,” which is based on how much you earn, to decide if you have worked enough for SSDI benefits. You can earn up to four work credits for every year that you reach a minimum amount of income.

The rule that applies to many people is that you need 40 work credits, 20 of them from the 10 years before your disability began. But younger workers who haven’t had as much time in the workforce could get benefits with fewer credits.

How much can I receive in Social Security Disability benefits?

SSDI calculates monthly disability income based in part on your past earnings and how much you paid into the Social Security system. The exact amount is different for each person.

The average monthly benefit in 2023 was $1,483. The highest possible amount was $3,627, but few people receive the maximum amount. The payments typically go up over time.

SSI pays a set amount for everyone. In 2023, it was $914 for individuals and $1,371 for eligible couples. 

When can I claim Social Security Disability death benefits?

Certain family members can collect survivors’ benefits after a loved one who received Social Security Disability benefits dies: spouses, former spouses, unmarried children, and parents of the person who died if they depended on their child for financial support.

If you also have a qualifying disability under Social Security’s rules, and you’re not yet retirement age, you could collect a large portion of the benefits your husband, wife or other close relative received.

You may need help showing that you qualify, help that Troutman & Troutman Oklahoma disability attorneys can provide.  

Can I lose eligibility for SSD benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits last until retirement benefits begin—unless your health and ability to hold a job improve first.

Every three to seven years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) conducts a “continuing disability review,” or CDR, to see if your health would let you return to work, and to check on other changes to your financial situation.

You also can lose SSD benefits if you’re already working too much. Maybe you’re trying to earn a little to help support yourself, but you can’t earn more than an SSA standard called “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, and still get benefits.

The SGA limit adjusts every year. If you make more money than SGA, your disability benefits will stop.

For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, having limited income and few other financial resources like investments and property are core qualifications for benefits, so increases in your economic means could end your SSI benefits. (Other than being unable to work, SSDI doesn’t have a limit on wealth you could hold.)

If nothing changes to stop your disability benefits, you’ll continue to receive them until you reach retirement age and start getting retirement benefits instead.

If a CDR results in your benefits ending, and you feel it’s too soon, an experienced Social Security attorney could help you make the case that you should keep receiving benefits.

Questions about the Process of Getting Social Security Disability

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

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits involves filling out multiple forms, providing records of your medical treatment, sending details of your work history, possibly providing statements from friends and family and more.

You can submit your application to the Social Security Administration (SSA) at a local Social Security office, online or over the phone.

But to save you the legwork, help you avoid mistakes that can lead to a denial, and sometimes even increase your chances of winning benefits, you may want to work with a Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyer.

Troutman & Troutman disability attorneys charge no fee until you win benefits, and make the process easier for you.

How long does it take to get disability benefits?

Social Security’s answer to your initial claim for disability benefits may take three to six months.

If you receive a denial of benefits—which happens in most cases—that adds time. It could be another three to six months to reach a hearing with a Social Security administrative law judge.

If the judge denies your benefits again, you can pursue further levels of appeal. In all, it could take up to two years to start getting benefits. 

The government has a lot of rules, steps, and checks in place to stop people from wrongfully claiming disability benefits, but they cause the process to take more time. 

Once I get disability benefits, how long will they last?

 Social Security Disability benefits are permanent, meaning they last as long as you still have health problems that leave you unable to work.

You must keep Social Security updated on changes in your health and employment status. Social Security may occasionally check on you.

When you reach retirement age, you’ll switch from disability benefits to retirement benefits.

What is Social Security Disability back pay? Can I get it?

Because it’ll often take months or longer to get approved for disability benefits, in the end you’ll receive a lump sum payment to compensate for the time when you had an eligible disability but were waiting for your benefits claim to be processed.

Social Security calculates the amount of your back pay by going back to what it determines was the official beginning date of your inability to work, minus a five-month mandatory waiting period for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).

The Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyers can help make sure you receive the proper amount of back pay. 

If I’m denied benefits, can I appeal?

You absolutely can. And probably should. Getting denied is so common that it’s almost a built-in step in the process.

Appealing your denial may be your best opportunity to finally win life-changing disability benefits.

It gives you a chance to address the reasons you were denied.

Pay attention to the timing, though. Once you’re denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal.

Appealing is much more complicated than applying. It feels much more like a legalistic process. The Tulsa disability lawyers at Troutman & Troutman fight for you to get the benefits you deserve.

Questions about Social Security Disability & Retirement

Do I have to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits to get Social Security Disability?

No. In fact, the purpose of SSD is to provide economic support when you have to stop working before retirement age because of medical conditions.

Social Security Disability helps fill a gap between your current age and the age when you can start collecting Social Security retirement.

Once you’re old enough to get retirement benefits, you will stop receiving disability benefits.

What if my health problems start after I file for retirement? Can I still get Social Security Disability?

If you are at full retirement age under Social Security, you cannot receive SSD benefits. SSD is for working-aged people who cannot work.

If you took early retirement, you may still be able to switch to disability benefits, though the increase in the amount you receive over retirement benefits may be minimal.

If I’m receiving SSD, when will I switch to Social Security retirement benefits?

At age 66, you’ll move from Social Security Disability to retirement.

You may not notice much difference when you switch. The size of your monthly check may be the same. 

The only difference is behind the scenes at Social Security. They’ll shift the source of your payments from their disability fund to their retirement fund.

For any kind of help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Tulsa disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman.

Questions about Working with an Oklahoma Social Security Disability Lawyer

Do I need a Social Security Disability lawyer?

You’re not required to get a lawyer to apply for Social Security Disability benefits or appeal a denial, but having a lawyer can relieve the burden on you and increase your chances of winning benefits.

One government study found that people who brought a representative like a lawyer with them to their disability hearings were almost three times more likely to be awarded benefits than people who represented themselves.

A lawyer who works extensively in disability law can take over much of the legwork of gathering information and documentation for your claim. Your lawyer can help you avoid mistakes, keep you informed about the status of your case, and be a friend to you in this difficult process.

What does a disability lawyer do for me?

These are some of the tasks that a disability lawyer handles for your Social Security Disability claim:

  • Gathering information and details about your work history
  • Working with your medical providers to collect the medical documentation you need
  • Making sure the multiple application forms are filled out correctly
  • Collecting statements from people who know you personally
  • Adding evidence to your Social Security file when you need to appeal a denial
  • Preparing legal arguments and briefs before your hearing with an administrative law judge
  • Representing you in the hearing
  • Questioning vocational experts and others who might testify about you

How does my disability attorneys get paid?

The good news is that you don’t pay an attorney fee for a disability lawyer until you win benefits.

Both Social Security itself and disability attorneys understand that when you need disability benefits, it isn’t exactly the time when you feel you can afford a lawyer.

But at the same time, you deserve the help a lawyer can provide to gain more financial stability through disability benefits. 

So under Social Security rules, disability lawyer fees only come out of the back pay you receive after you win benefits. Back pay covers time you spent waiting on benefits. 

You lawyer’s pay never comes out of your pocket up front, or from your monthly benefits in the future. 

And the amount of your back pay that goes to your attorney’s fee is strictly capped in Social Security regulations. (No more than 25% of your back pay, up to a limit of $7,200, whichever is lower.)

This is called a “contingency fee” arrangement. You only pay in the event that you successfully receive financial support from Social Security Disability. 

And it never costs you anything to have your first conversation with us, to find out what you can expect from your disability benefits claim.

“(My disability lawyer) was professional and very knowledgeable. She explained how Social Security determines eligibility in a way that was understandable. She and her staff were quick to respond to emails or phone calls. She won an appeal of a denial of disability benefits for my son. I highly recommend if you need help with a Social Security matter.”

Maureen Knudson in Google Reviews


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