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Guide to Disability Services

61 Questions About Social Security Disability Services

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Updated October 26, 2013

Question #7: How long does it take to get a decision?

David Bueltemann: Processing times for disability applications vary from state to state. Generally, an initial application will take about four to six months before a decision. Reconsideration (first appeal) will take about three to five months more. A hearing (second appeal) will take another 9 to 15 months or more.

Question #8: How much will I receive?

David Bueltemann: It's a complicated formula largely determined by how much you have earned. The disability benefit monthly average in 2010 was $1,064 per month. During our initial evaluation we will be able to estimate what your monthly benefit would be.

Question #9: Can Social Security take away my SSDI benefits?

David Bueltemann: Yes. It doesn't happen often, but you can lose your disability benefits if your condition improves to the point that you no longer meet SSA's definition of disability. SSA must show there has been medical improvement related to your ability to work before they can cease your SSDI benefits.

Question #10: Can I get additional benefits if I have children?

David Bueltemann: Children up to age 18 or who have not graduated from high school are entitled to benefits if a parent is deceased, retired, or disabled. Generally, dependent children of a disabled parent will receive about 50% of the disabled parent's monthly benefit. The 50% is divided equally among all eligible dependents.

Editor note: If you several children, the 50% benefit will continue to be split (equally and in full) between your remaining children until each dependent turns 18 or graduates from high school.

Question #11: Can a person work and earn a certain amount while receiving SSDI?

David Bueltemann: There are two answers to this question that are important to highlight. The first is that the Social Security Administration has a program designed to allow you to try and re-enter the work force without risking your SSDI benefits. This trial work period (TWP) does however have some restrictions. It is limited to 9 months of trial work within a 60 month period but within those months of work there are no limits to how much you can earn and still collect SSDI. Once you hit month 10 however, your SSDI benefits would then be scheduled to end approximately 3 months later.

Secondly, the more basic answer is that you can earn up to $720 a month in 2010 without losing your SSDI or having it count against your 9 months of allowable trial work. Additionally, a trial work period is not guaranteed if you return to work before your disability claim is awarded. It is also important to be aware that during a trial work period the SSA can re-evaluate if you are still meeting the disability standards based upon the work you are doing, and this could result in the loss of your SSDI benefits. If after your TWP you are still disabled, you may be eligible for an extended period of eligibility (EPE), a 36 month period beginning with the 10th month of the TWP during which a benefit can be paid for any month in which the earnings drop below the Substantial Gainful Income (SGA) amount. The SGA amount in 2010 was $1,000 per month ($1,064 if you are blind). If medical improvement occurs the TWP could be less than 9 months.

Question #12: Are there other benefits from getting SSDI?

David Bueltemann: Yes, there are several benefits that come along with SSDI in addition to the regular monthly income. For example, regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI benefits, you are eligible for Medicare, including Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits). A variety of Medicare Advantage plans also are available.

Question #13: If a person's income exceeds the Substantial Gainful Income amount and their SSDI income stops, will they continue to receive Medicare benefits if still considered disabled?

David Bueltemann: Most individuals with disabilities who work will continue to receive at least 93 consecutive months of hospital and supplementary medical insurance under Medicare, after the 9 month trial work period. You pay no premium for hospital insurance. Although cash benefits may cease due to work, you have the assurance of continued health insurance.

Question #14: What happens after the 93 months? Can a person buy into Medicare?

David Bueltemann: After the 93 months of premium-free Medicare coverage ends due to work, some individuals who have returned to work may buy continued Medicare coverage, as long as they remain medically disabled. (This applies only those people who are medically disabled but who continue to work in spite of their disability.) Some individuals with low incomes and limited resources may be eligible for state assistance with this cost.

Question #15: Does age make a difference when applying?

David Bueltemann: It may. If your condition does not meet a specific listed set of medical requirements, a person's age may factor in to the disability decision.

Question #16: With someone who is older, SSA may be less stringent than with a younger person?

David Bueltemann: Yes. Someone who is under age 50 has potentially a more difficult challenge to being considered disabled by the SSA.

Question #17: When should I apply for SSDI benefits?

David Bueltemann You can apply as soon as it's determined that you have a disability that will keep you from working for 12 months or longer, or is terminal. A common mistake people make is waiting too long to apply.

Question #18: Does SSA still consider Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) when making a disability determination?

David Bueltemann: Yes. It is used at step 5 of their evaluation process.

Go on to Part 3 --- 61 Questions About Disability Services --- >

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