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Social Security has a lengthy and complex set of rules for disability claims. Below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.


Q: When should I file for Social Security disability? If you have a disability that you expect to last for 12 months or more, you should file immediately. Delaying your application for too long can result in a loss of benefits.

Q: If my doctor says I am disabled, does that mean Social Security will approve my claim? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Social Security has its own rules for determining your eligibility and a doctor's statement alone is not enough. Our representatives are here to guide you through the process.

Q: Do I have to have a certain illness to qualify for benefits? No. Social Security must consider all medical conditions that can be documented by your doctors. They must also consider how your medical conditions affect your specific job. Conditions such as chronic headaches, back pain, or the inability to stand up for long periods can affect many occupations. Contact us for more information if you have questions.

Q: What about mental conditions such as bi-polar disorder? Social Security must consider the effect of mental impairments as well as physical impairments. Many disability cases are awarded on the basis of mental conditions.

Q: Isn't Social Security just for people close to retirement age? No, Social Security Disability Insurance protects workers of all ages. If you become unable to work at any age, you may qualify for benefits.

Q: Social Security denied my application. How long do I have to appeal? You have 60 days from the date of your determination notice.

Q: What if I can't afford to pay for representation? The Forsythe Firm charges no upfront fee to file your case, handle all paperwork and appeals, and represent you in Social Security hearings. We only collect a fee once your case has been won and benefits begin. The amount of our fee is reviewed, regulated and approved by the Social Security Administration.

Q. If I work part-time can I still be found disabled? Yes. Social Security bases disability decisions on your ability to work full-time. If you are only able to work part time, you may be found disabled.

Q: I am drawing workers compensation for an on-the-job injury. Can I still get Social Security disability? Yes, you may still qualify for Social Security disability if you remain disabled for 12 months or more. There is an "offset" that may temporarily reduce your Social Security disability benefit while you are collecting workers compensation. But if you expect a long-term disability, you should definitely apply for Social Security benefits now.

Q: What is the best way to appeal if I am turned down? Depending on where you live, you request reconsideration of your case, or a hearing before a judge. The hearing is your only opportunity to meet face-to-face with someone and ask for your case to be reconsidered.

Q: What is involved in an appeal? You must gather and evaluate medical records, complete a Residual Capacity Function form, and file a notice for an appeal before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Also, you should investigate the vocational implications of your disability to determine what your chances are of going back to work in a vocation similar to your last job. A good representative will also anticipate problems in the appeals process and attempt to solve those problems before your hearing.

Q: May I represent myself at the appeal hearing? Yes. You have the right to represent yourself or appoint a representative to help you. Social Security statistics show that claimants with professional representation are awarded benefits more often than those who are not represented.

Q: How long does the appeal take? The process usually takes one year or more from the date you file your appeal. The process has been backlogged due to the recession and the large number of applicants.

Q: Can I receive "back pay" for disability while my appeal is being processed? Social Security law allows for back pay, but you must win the case before you can receive any money.

Q: Do I receive Medicare if I win my Social Security Disability? After 24 months of continuous disability, you can receive Medicare.

Q: What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid? Medicare is a federal program for persons who are of retirement age or disabled. Medicare has no restrictions on financial resources or income (You do not have to be poor to get Medicare). Medicaid is a state operated program for the poor, and you must meet strict financial guidelines to receive Medicaid. Many doctors will not accept Medicaid, but most doctors will accept Medicare.

Q: If I get Social Security disability benefits, may I return to work if I get better? Yes. Social Security encourages return to work if your medical condition improves. They will pay you up to 12 months while you work in many cases.

Q: If my condition improves and I return to work, what happens if I become disabled again later? You have 3 years to reclaim your Social Security benefits without a new hearing.

Q: Who can represent me before a Social Security administrative law judge? You may appoint a qualified representative approved by the Social Security Administration. All Forsythe Firm representatives meet or exceed the standards set by the Social Security Administration.

Q: What can an approved advocate do for me? Your representative will build your case and guide you through every step of the process. We can help appeal your case if you are turned down and will appear with you at all hearings. Our goal is to relieve the worry and uncertainty that often comes with disability while preserving your legal rights.

Q: Can a representative or advocate work with my doctors? Yes. With your permission, we will obtain medical records from your doctors and present your best case to Social Security.

Q: Can you guarantee that I will win my appeal? No one can guarantee what a judge will find, but having a qualified representative can improve your chances of success.

Q: Are there other Social Security benefits besides disability? Yes. Social Security offers 5 basic benefits. These may include survivor's disability for widows, widowers, or children, or adult child benefits in certain cases.

Q: Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I never worked? Probably not, though you could still qualify for Social Security's SSI program. Contact us for more information on SSI claims.

Q. What is SSA's definition of "disability"? A condition expected to last 12 months or longer, or result in death, which makes the claimant unable to perform any "significant gainful activity." That usually means full time employment or earnings of more than $1,000 per month.

Q. Can children receive Social Security disability benefits? Yes. Disability for children is much like Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If based on the child's own disability, two qualifications are necessary:

(1) The child must have a condition, lasting or expecting to last at least 12 months or end in death, which significantly restricts the child from normal functions.

(2) The child must have limited income and resources which meet SSA standards. If the child lives with his/her parents, the parents income will be considered. Some income, however, can be excluded. Income or resources over the limit will make the child ineligible for disability benefits.

Q. My child has ADHD. Can he receive SSD benefits? Possibly. You must demonstrate that the condition is severe enough to cause marked and significant restrictions on the child's ability to function. In addition, the child and family must meet the income and resources restrictions established by Social Security. Some income may be excluded.

Q. Is there a list of diseases that will qualify a child for disability benefits? Not really. There is no particular disease that a child must have to qualify. Almost any condition could qualify for disability if it is severe enough to significantly limit the child's ability to function. A key question is: How severe is the condition? Simply having a diagnosis of a disease will not necessarily qualify for benefits, except in some catastrophic illnesses. The condition must be severe and restrict the child's ability to function. If you believe your child is disabled, go ahead and apply. You may contact a local Social Security office. You may also contact an advocate, attorney or representative to assist you with your case. There should not be a fee unless you win lump sum "back payment" of benefits. Using a professional representative will not reduce your monthly benefits.

Q. How do I get started with my claim? To file your own claim, contact your local Social Security Office. If you have questions or concerns before you file, we can help. Simply contact one of our local offices. There is never a charge for us to evaluate your case.