Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability

In these FAQs, find some of the most common questions about obtaining Social Security disability in New Mexico. Here, our knowledgeable legal team shares their thoughts and perspectives—whether you’re just getting started or you need help later in the process.
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  • How much does it cost to hire a Social Security disability attorney?

    Social Security Disability Lawyer Meeting With a Potential ClientWhen you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you are more likely to get your application approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are represented by an attorney. However, you may be concerned that you cannot afford to pay a lawyer when you are not working because of your disabilities. Here’s why you do not need to be worried about this.

    How Lawyers Charge Their Fees in Social Security Cases

    Social Security disability attorneys charge their attorney fees on a contingency fee basis. Under this type of agreement, you would not owe any up-front attorney fees. Here’s how payment of the fees works:

    • You would only owe attorney fees if you win your case. If you do not receive SSDI benefits, you would owe no attorney fees.
    • Your lawyer cannot charge you more than 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is less.
    • Your attorney will be paid their attorney fees out of your back pay award before you receive your payment.

    Retainer Agreements in SSDI Cases

    Your lawyer must enter into a written retainer agreement with you, stating how much you will be charged. They must also file a petition with the SSA to obtain approval of the fee agreement. Once the SSA approves it, they will pay the attorney fees directly out of the backpay award.

    How Costs Are Charged in Social Security Disability Insurance Cases

    In addition to the attorney fees you will owe, you must also pay the costs associated with your case. These costs can include copying costs for your medical records and reports from your physicians.

    Some lawyers will require you to pay these extra costs as they are incurred while others will pay them and get reimbursed when they are paid their attorney fees. Your retainer agreement should spell out how you must pay these costs.

    Experience Matters When Selecting Your Attorney

    While the attorney fees you will owe is a consideration when hiring a lawyer, it should not be the only factor you consider. You need an experienced Social Security disability lawyer who has a track record of success if you want to win your case.

    Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Do you need to file an appeal? Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

     

  • What should I do to prepare for my Social Security disability hearing?

    Wooden Gavel Used at a Social Security HearingIf your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to file an appeal and attend a hearing. Providing a good testimony at your hearing will be crucial to getting your SSDI application approved. Here are five tips on how to prepare for it.

    What You Will Testify to at Your Hearing

    Understanding what you will need to testify about can help you as you prepare for your hearing. You will need to answer questions about the following:

    • Your medical conditions that have caused you to become disabled and the symptoms you experience
    • Limitations in your physical and mental conditions caused by your disability
    • Your medical treatments and medications for your medical condition
    • Your education and training
    • Your work history
    • Your day-to-day activities and how your disabilities have affected your ability to do them

    Five Tips to Prepare for Your Hearing

    Being prepared for your hearing is essential if you want to win your appeal. Here are five ways you can get ready for it:

    • Review your file. You need to review your application, your medical records, and any correspondence with the SSA. This will help you to remember what you have told them about your disability and issues in your case that you will need to address at your hearing.
    • Prepare a cheat sheet. You can bring documents to your hearing that will help you remember all the important details about your disability. Collect these documents, such as your application, medical records, and notes to yourself regarding common questions you can expect to be asked.
    • Provide recent medical records. It is important that the administrative law judge has all your current medical records when deciding your case. Submit any up-to-date medical documents with the SSA before your hearing so that they are in your file and can be reviewed by the judge at your hearing.
    • Obtain a written doctor’s statement. One crucial type of evidence you will need is your doctor’s statement about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Even if you filed this statement when you applied for SSDI, you should obtain a more recent one from your physician once you receive the notice of your hearing from the SSA.
    • Retain an attorney. The best way that you can ensure that you are fully prepared for your hearing is to retain an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. They can help you file your application correctly, provide the SSA with all the medical records and other evidence they need, prepare you for your hearing, and attend it with you.

    Do you need assistance preparing for your Social Security disability hearing? Call our Roswell office to learn how our skilled Social Security disability legal team can help.

     

  • What should I do if my SSDI check is late?

    Man Checking Mailbox for an SSDI CheckIf you are eligible for SSDI benefits, you will receive a monthly disability payment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer mails out checks and instead will directly deposit your payment into your bank account. While payments are usually paid on time each month, on occasion, your payment could be late. Here’s what you need to do to report a late payment so you get paid.

    When You Should Expect to Receive Your Check Every Month

    When your initial application is approved, it could take a few months for you to receive your first payment, especially if you are also receiving back pay. The SSA sends out monthly payments on a schedule based on your date of birth. Here is their current schedule of payments:

    • Your payment will be on the second Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 1st through the 10th.
    • Your payment will be on the third Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 11th through the 20th.
    • Your payment will be on the fourth Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 21st through the 31st.

    There are exceptions to these rules. If you started receiving disability payments before 1997, you should receive your payment on the 3rd of the month. If your payment date falls on a holiday, your payment would be made the day before the holiday.

    Why Your Payment Could Arrive Late

    Your payment might be late for a number of reasons, such as:

    • You changed your bank or had a change of address and did not notify the SSA.
    • The bank account used by the SSA to make your payment changed.
    • If the SSA office that is responsible for processing your payment has a slower process, it may take longer for you to receive your check.

    What to Do If Your SSDI Payment Is Late

    If you are worried that your payment was stolen, you should contact the SSA immediately. Otherwise, they request that you wait at least three business days after the date you should have received your check to contact your local office or call them at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) on Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

    You should receive your first payment within 90 days of being approved for benefits. If you do not get it within this time period, contact your attorney if you have one or the SSA.

    Do you need help getting late payments paid by the SSA? Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Our dedicated Social Security disability lawyer is here to help you. Start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • How does an applicant’s death affect a pending SSDI application?

    Social Security Disability Insurance PaperworkIt can take a few years for an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an applicant to die while his application is being considered by the SSA or he is going through the appeal process. However, this does not necessarily mean that he no longer has a right to disability benefits.

    Who May Be Able to Pursue an Applicant’s SSDI Claim After His Death

    An SSDI claim can be continued after an applicant’s death to collect the payments he should have received before his death. The SSA refers to this as “an underpayment.” Only certain family members are entitled to collect these benefits. Family members can pursue the applicant’s right to benefits in the following order of preference:

    • Surviving spouse. A surviving spouse who was entitled to SSDI benefits or living with the applicant in the month of his death has the highest priority to collect the underpayment.
    • Children. Children of the applicant who were entitled to SSDI benefits in the month of his death have second priority to collect the benefits he was entitled to.
    • Parents. Parents who were entitled to SSDI benefits in the month of the applicant’s death can collect his benefits if he did not have a spouse or children.

    If no family member qualified for the underpayment, the estate of the applicant may be able to recover the benefits.

    When Do SSDI Payments Start and Stop?

    There is a five-month waiting period after the date of the onset of the disability before an applicant would be entitled to SSDI benefits. The payment of SSDI benefits would not start until this time period expires in an underpayment case. The payments could continue until the date of the applicant’s death. In some cases, a spouse and dependent children may also be entitled to survivor benefits.

    How to Proceed With a Family Member’s Application After His Death

    If your loved one died while his SSDI application was pending, you need to notify the SSA by filing his death certificate and other required SSA forms. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you file the required legal documents and fight for the benefits your family member deserved. He can also advise you on your right to survivor benefits. To find out how we can help, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • How are SSDI payments calculated?

    Social Security Disability Insurance Search ScreenWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), one of your top concerns most likely is how much your monthly payment will be if you are eligible for benefits. You need this information so you can be certain that you have sufficient income to survive. However, how your monthly payment is determined is complicated.

    How Your SSDI Payments Are Calculated

    The severity of your disability will not affect the amount of SSDI benefits you receive. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine your payment based on your lifetime average earnings before you became disabled. Your benefit amount will be calculated using your covered earnings. These are your earnings at jobs where your employer took money out of your wages for Social Security or FICA.

    Your SSDI monthly benefit will be based on your average covered earnings over a period of time, which is referred to as your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The SSA uses these amounts in a formula to determine your primary insurance amount (PIA). This is the basic amount used to establish your benefit.

    SSDI payments range on average between $800 and $1,800 per month. The maximum benefit you could receive in 2020 is $3,011 per month. The SSA has an online benefits calculator that you can use to obtain an estimate of your monthly benefits.

    Other Income That May Reduce Your SSDI Payment

    If you receive other government benefits, your monthly SSDI benefit could be reduced. Sources of income that could affect your payment include:

    • Worker’s compensation
    • Public disability benefits
    • Pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as a government or foreign government pension

    Can You Receive Retroactive Payments?

    Once the SSA approves your SSDI application and calculates your monthly benefit, you may be entitled to a back pay award. How many months of payments you will receive will depend on the date you applied for benefits and your disability onset date.

    If you are applying for SSDI benefits, you need the assistance of a skilled Social Security disability lawyer to get your application approved and receive the benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team, fill out the online form on this page or call our Roswell office today.

     

  • What is a trial work period for Social Security disability recipients?

    Social Security Disability Paperwork in TypewriterIf you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and are receiving monthly benefits, you may want to try to go back to work if your medical condition improves. However, you may be afraid to do this because you do not want to lose your benefits. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to return to work without jeopardizing them during a trial work period.

    Your Right to a Trial Work Period

    SSDI recipients are entitled to a nine-month trial work period without risking their SSDI benefits during a 60-month rolling period. There is no limit on the amount of income they can earn during the trial work period. The months that a person attempts to return to work do not have to be consecutive.

    While an individual may make a conscious decision to try to work again under this program, this time period can also be triggered if he makes too much total monthly income. The amount that triggers the trial work period is set by the SSA and changes yearly. Here are monthly amounts that start a trial period:

    • 2018: $850
    • 2019: $890
    • 2020: $910

    If a person is self-employed, he will be considered in the trial work period if he works 80 hours or more in any month.

    How Many Trial Work Periods Can You Have?

    An individual is only entitled to one nine-month trial period during a five-year period. Once it is exhausted, a recipient is not entitled to a new trial period unless his SSDI benefits end and he either qualifies for SSDI benefits by filing a new application or through an expedited reinstatement.

    What Is the Extended Period of Eligibility?

    Once a recipient completes his trial work period, he enters into a 36-month Extended Period of Eligibility. During this time period, he can continue to receive SSDI benefits as long as he remains disabled and does not earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount set by the SSA every year. For non-blind individuals, the SGA is $1,220 in 2019 and $1,260 in 2020.

    Do you have other questions about the trial work period or your eligibility for SSDI benefits? Call our Roswell office today to schedule your free consultation with our experienced Social Security disability lawyers to get the answers you need and to learn how we can assist you.

     

  • Should I hire an advocate or Social Security disability lawyer?

    A Client and Lawyer Shaking Hands at the Start of a SSDI CaseWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you have the right to be represented by a Social Security disability attorney or an advocate.

    Reasons an Attorney May Be a Better Choice Than an Advocate

    The cost to hire a lawyer is the same as for an advocate. In addition, both are only paid if your application is approved, and their fees are taken out of your award. Because of this, it makes more sense to retain an attorney. Here are other compelling reasons you should choose an attorney rather than an advocate.

    Reason #1: An Attorney Is More Experienced

    A lawyer has more training and experience than an advocate. He is required to have these qualifications to represent clients:

    • Bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of college
    • Juris Doctorate (JD) degree, which requires three additional years of study in law school
    • Admission to the state bar association, which requires passing a state bar exam and meeting other requirements.

    In contrast, an advocate is a non-lawyer representative that is permitted to represent you by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In order to qualify, he would only need to have these qualifications:

    • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualifications from work experience and training
    • Criminal background check
    • Professional liability insurance
    • Passage of an exam administered by the SSA
    • Continuing education course

    Reason #2: You Have Attorney-Client Privilege With Your Lawyer

    When you hire an attorney, you have the benefit of the attorney-client privilege. Your lawyer is bound to keep anything you tell him and your information confidential. This is not true if you work with an advocate.

    Reason #3: A Lawyer Must Follow Strict Ethical Guidelines

    Attorneys are required to follow strict ethical guidelines that advocates do not have to abide by. For example, your lawyer would have a duty to zealously represent you.

    Reason #4: An Attorney Can File Your Appeal

    If your application for SSDI benefits is denied, a lawyer can file an appeal of the decision for you in federal court. An advocate cannot do this because only licensed attorneys are permitted to represent clients in court hearings.

    Contact Us for the Legal Representation You Need

    Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Our New Mexico Social Security disability lawyers are here to file your application, collect the evidence you need, and fight for the benefits you are entitled to. Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • Can I receive Social Security disability benefits for hearing loss?

    Man With Severe Loss of Hearing on disabilityYou may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are deaf or suffer significant hearing loss. However, these claims are complicated, and you need the assistance of an experienced disability attorney if you want your application to be approved.

    When You May Automatically Qualify for SSDI Benefits for Loss of Hearing

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an impairment listing which states when you can be automatically considered disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits for hearing loss if you do not have cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a medically inserted device that can provide a person with a sense of sound. You may qualify based on the results of one of these two tests:

    • Audiometry. In your better ear, your average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction must be 90 decibels or less. In addition, you must have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or less in your good ear.
    • Word recognition test. If you can repeat 40 percent or less of a list of standardized words, you can automatically qualify for benefits.

    Your Right to SSDI Benefits If You Have Cochlear Implants

    You are automatically eligible for SSDI benefits if you have cochlear implants in one or both ears for one year after they were implanted. This is true whether or not your hearing improves. After 12 months, your word recognition on a “Hearing in Noise Test” (TNT) must be 60 percent or less for you to continue to receive benefits.

    What Happens If Your Hearing Loss Does Not Meet the Automatic Impairment Requirements?

    Even if your hearing loss does not satisfy the requirements of the tests listed above, you may still be eligible for SSDI benefits. You would need to show that there are no jobs that you can perform with your hearing loss. In deciding your application, the SSA will consider your ability to communicate, follow instructions, and do various job tasks.

    Do you have questions about whether you suffer from sufficient hearing loss to qualify for SSDI benefits? Call our office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to learn about your eligibility for benefits and how we can assist you.

     

  • What are Social Security disability work credits?

    In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must be disabled and unable to work under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of a disability and must have worked long enough in a specific time period under their rules. When you are working, you earn work credits and must have a sufficient number of them to qualify for SSDI benefits.

    What Are Work Credits?

    Social Security Disability Claim Form on the Internet

    Work credits are based on your annual income from a job or through self-employment. You can earn one credit per each quarter of the year and a maximum of four work credits yearly.

    The amount of earnings to earn a work credit changes each year. In 2019, you need $1,360 in work or self-employment income to earn one credit. The maximum amount of income you would need to earn your four credits for the year is $5,440.

    How Many Work Credits Do You Need to Qualify for SSDI?

    The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depends on the age when you became disabled. If you are 62 years old or older, you need 40 work credits, and 20 of them must have been earned within 10 years of when you became disabled. However, if you are younger than 62 years old, you may qualify with fewer work credits. Here are some examples of what is required:

    • Before age 24. You need six work credits earned within a three-year period before the date of your disability to qualify.
    • Ages 24 to 31. You must have worked half of the time for the time period between when you turned 21 years old to the date of your disability to have enough work credits.
    • Ages 31 through 42. You need 20 work credits.
    • Ages 43 through 61. The number of work credits increases as you age. For example, you would need 21 credits at age 43, 28 credits at age 50, and 38 credits at age 60.

    How Can You Determine If You Have Enough Work Credits?

    You can determine an estimate of your Social Security disability benefit and whether you have enough work credits by reviewing your Social Security Statement. To learn how to do this, watch our video on this topic. Then call our Roswell office to schedule your free consultation with our experienced disability attorneys to learn more about your eligibility for SSDI and how we can assist you in obtaining the benefits you deserve.

     

  • What is a cumulative medical exam?

    Stethoscope With an Appointment CalendarWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may be asked to go to a cumulative medical exam (CME). This is a medical examination that is scheduled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a physician that they choose. A CME can include a physical examination, diagnostic tests, and lab work.

    Why You May Be Asked to Attend a Cumulative Medical Exam

    The SSA frequently requests that SSDI applicants attend a cumulative medical exam and will use it to determine the existence and severity of an individual’s disability. Some of the reasons that the disability examiner may request that you attend a CME include:

    • The examiner needs a key piece of medical evidence to make a decision on your application.
    • You have not received medical treatment for 60 days or longer.
    • The medical evidence that you provided is not sufficient.

    What to Do If the SSA Requests a CME

    A cumulative medical exam can be a quick procedure, but it can have a big impact on your SSDI application. You should not be charged for the exam. It is important to remember that the doctor performing it does not work for the SSA, but is being paid by them. Here are important tips on how to handle your exam:

    • Be polite and respectful during your exam.
    • Expect to be asked about your symptoms by the examining doctor. You want to give him short answers and include concrete examples.
    • You should be truthful when discussing your illness or medical condition. Do not exaggerate or downplay the symptoms that you are experiencing.

    Importance of Attending Your Cumulative Medical Exam

    You must attend your CME if the SSA requests that you attend one. If you fail to attend your exam, the disability examiner could determine that you are not being cooperative and deny your application.

    Retain an Attorney Immediately If You Receive a Notice of a CME

    One of the most important first steps you should take if the SSA notifies you of a CME is to retain an experienced disability attorney. Your attorney can give you advice on how to best handle your exam and ensure that you receive the SSDI that you deserve. Call the Injury & Disability Law Center today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our skilled lawyers can help you with your SSDI claim.