How long after becoming disabled should I wait to file a claim?

You should not wait at all. Because the process of obtaining disability benefits can be a very long one, you should file a claim as soon as it becomes apparent that you have a physical or mental impairment that will prevent you from working for a period of at least one year. While a minor illness or injury may not result in disability under Social Security standards, the worsening of a serious, chronic condition may be an indication that you may be approaching the time in which you will be unable to maintain productive work. If you believe you are nearing that point, you should consider filing a claim, even if you are still performing some work.

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If I receive Social Security Disability benefits, will I receive them for the rest of my life?

You should receive benefits for as long as you remain disabled. Social Security may periodically review claims of individuals receiving disability benefits, to determine whether or not their disabling conditions have improved. Social Security is not supposed to terminate disability benefits unless there is medical evidence that indicates a claimant’s condition has improved to the extent that he is no longer disabled. In the majority of reviewed claims, disability benefits are continued. If your benefits are terminated, you have the right to a hearing to contest the termination.

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Do I need a lawyer for my disability claim?

The Social Security Administration does not require that you be represented by an attorney in order to obtain benefits. You have the right to be represented, however, and, according to information from the Social Security Administration, represented claimants are granted benefits far more often than those who try to obtain benefits without an attorney.

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When Should I Get a Lawyer?

You may hire an attorney at any point during the process of trying to obtain benefits. In most cases, however, claimants retain an attorney after they have received their first or second denial, and prior to requesting a hearing. If you are going to hire a lawyer to represent you on your claim for benefits, you should not wait until shortly before your hearing date. Your lawyer will need sufficient time to review your medical records and perhaps obtain additional medical evidence to support your claim.

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How much is the attorney fee, and how does my attorney get paid?

The payment of attorney fees in Social Security disability claims is controlled by federal law. If your lawyer is not successful in obtaining benefits for you, there is no fee. If he is successful, his fee is up to 25% of past-due benefits. These are the “retroactive” benefits that are paid to you when you prevail on your claim, and represent the disability payments you would have received from the date you first became entitled to benefits. In SSDI cases, your past-due benefits may start as early as one year prior to the date you applied for benefits. In SSI cases, however, past-due benefits may not begin prior to the date of your application. You will not be paid benefits for the first five months after becoming disabled.

An attorney fee may be taken only out of your past-due benefits. A lawyer may not make a claim for fees against your ongoing monthly benefits. If your lawyer obtains benefits for you, the Social Security Administration will deduct the attorney fee from your past-due benefits, and pay your lawyer directly.

Regardless of the amount of the past-due benefits, the attorney fee may not exceed $6000, except in extraordinary cases.

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I am disabled and receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Can I apply for Social Security  Disability benefits?

Yes. The fact that you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits does not prevent you from applying for disability benefits. If you are awarded benefits, however, there will be an offset that takes into account the workers’ compensation benefits that you received. That is, you will not receive the full amount of both Social Security disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits for the same time period.

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I was disabled for a while, but now I can return to work. Am I entitled to any benefits?

You may be entitled to what is called a “Closed Period”. This refers to a past period of disability that lasted at least twelve months. For example, assume that you suffered a serious illness in February, 2015, which left you unable to work, but recovered in August, 2016 to the extent that you regained your ability to work. This 18 month period of disability is called a closed period. Even though you may currently be able to work, you would be entitled to benefits for that past period.

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Are there deadlines I need to remember?

In trying to obtain SSDI or SSI benefits, there are certain deadlines that cannot be ignored. When you receive your initial denial, you have sixty (60) days to submit a form called Request for Reconsideration. If your claim is again denied, you have sixty (60) days to submit a Request for Hearing. You may submit the required forms electronically or to any Social Security office within the time allowed. Only in exceptional cases will you be permitted to proceed with your claim if you fail to meet the appropriate deadline. If you retain an attorney to represent you on your claim for benefits, it is the attorney’s responsibility to meet the appropriate deadlines.

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What should I do if I get a denial on my Social Security Disability claim?

First, Don’t take it personally. Approximately 65% of all disability claims are initially denied. The denial is a form letter based on the decision of someone who may not have reviewed all of the relevant medical evidence and has made a decision based only on what he/she has seen in your application and medical records. He/she has not had the benefit of talking with you in order to truly understand the reasons you can’t work.

Second, call an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. There are deadlines that apply to the  appeal of a denied claim. If you receive a denial, call an attorney that specializes in disability claims to ensure that your appeal is filed within the time allowed.  If you do not appeal in a timely manner, you will have to start the application process over again.

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