How do I prove that I am disabled?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability as the inability to perform any substantial work as the result of medical conditions that last or are expected to last for at least one year or result in death.

How long does the disability process last?

Unfortunately, Social Security is a long process.

Once you file your application, it usually takes about three to five months to get a decision. However, around sixty-four percent of applicants are denied at this level.

If you are denied, it is taking anywhere from one year to a year and a half from the date that you file your Request for Hearing to get a hearing. Then, it may take the Administrative Law Judge anywhere from one to three months to issue your decision.

Is there anything that I can do to help speed up the process?

Yes. There are several ways you can work with your representative to try and speed the process up.

  1. Request for TERI status: SSA will expedite claims where the applicant is terminally ill. When SSA is informed of a terminal illness, it will place a special marker “TERI status” on the claim to ensure that the claim is expedited. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, please notify us immediately.
  2. Request for Dire Need status: SSA will expedite claims where the applicant has insufficient resources to meet an immediate threat to health or safety. This generally occurs when a claimant’s home is being foreclosed on. Therefore, if your home is being foreclosed on, please forward a copy of the foreclosure to us so that we may notify SSA.
  3. Request for an “on-the-record” (OTR) favorable decision: An OTR decision is one that is based solely on your file, prior to a hearing. These decisions are reserved for applicants whose claims are so strong that a hearing is not needed. However, it is up to the Administrative Law Judge or his Attorney Advisor to decide on whether to grant your claim “on-the-record.” If your impairments are so severe that your physician would be willing to write a letter explaining the limitations caused by your impairments, we may be able to speed your case up by requesting that the Administrative Law Judge issue an OTR favorable decision.

May I work while I apply for Disability benefits?

Before you will be eligible for disability benefits, you must prove that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). There is a presumption that if you are not blind and you earn over $1040 net income per month in 2013 that you are engaging in SGA. If you are blind, the presumption is that you are engaging in SGA if you earn over $1,740 net income per month in 2013. Working while you apply may show SSA one of two things: First, it may show that there is additional work that you are able to do, thus, defeating your claim for disability benefits. Or, it may bolster your credibility by demonstrating your desire to continue to work full time if you were able. For more information, check out SGA Information.

May I get unemployment in addition to disability benefits?

No. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, in order to be eligible for unemployment you must demonstrate that you are “able to work, available for work, willing to accept suitable work, [and] actively seeking full time work.” For more information, check out Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. In order to be eligible for Social Security disability, either SSI or DIB, you must show that you are unable to work. Therefore, if you are unable to work, you should apply for disability, but if you are able to work, you should apply for unemployment.

May I work and still receive Disability benefits?

Yes. SSA has several programs that allow you to work while you are receiving benefits. For more information on these programs, check out SSA Programs.

What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare?

Medicaid is a program that is funded by the Federal Government and the State jointly. Medicaid is generally available to low-income families and is provided to people who are eligible for SSI. Entitlement usually begins the same month that you become eligible for SSI, but it some situations it can be retroactive for up to three months. For more detailed information on Medicaid, check out Medicaid.

Medicare is a Federal health insurance program available to people over 65 and to certain younger individuals, such as those who qualify for DIB. It has four parts, two of which are important to individuals with disabilities: hospital insurance and medical insurance. When you worked, you paid taxes that financed the coverage of the hospital insurance. Therefore you will not be required to pay an additional premium for this coverage. The medical insurance covers your doctor’s visits and you will be required to pay an additional premium to receive this service that will be deducted from your Social Security checks. SSA will automatically enroll you in the Medicare program 24 months after the first month that you are entitled to receive DIB (Note: this is calculated from the first month you are entitled to benefits, not the first month that you receive a check). For more detailed information on Medicare, checkout Medicare.