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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  • 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.

     

  • What can I do to stay afloat financially while I wait for my Social Security Disability benefits application to be approved?

    Numerous People in a Waiting Room Looking for Public AssistanceIt can be very stressful to be too disabled to work and have no income coming in while waiting for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application to be approved. It can take at least three months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision on your application and months or longer to get your application approved if you must file an appeal. If you are like most people, you may not have the financial resources to pay your basic monthly bills while you are waiting to receive disability benefits.

    Places to Go for Financial Help

    You may need to seek financial assistance from outside sources while your application is pending. Fortunately, the SSA generally will not consider these funds in deciding whether you qualify for SSDI. Here are possible sources of help that you should explore:

    • Public assistance. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for public assistance through the New Mexico Human Services Department. One of your first steps should be to apply for any benefits that you may be eligible for.
    • Family and friends. It may not be pleasant to ask family and friends to help you out, but they may be a good source of financial assistance. They may be sympathetic to your temporary financial challenges and have the resources to assist you.
    • Churches and religious organizations. If you are a member of a church or other religious group, you should contact them to see if they have any resources for members struggling financially. There may be other religious organizations in your community, such as the Salvation Army, that provides people in need with help for basic needs, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and clothes.
    • Food bank. Many communities have food banks for residents going through challenging financial times. Going to a food bank for food can help you feed your family and free up some of your money to pay your other monthly expenses.

    How to Speed Up the SSDI Application Process

    One of the best ways that you can make the SSDI application process go faster is to retain an experienced disability attorney to help you complete your application properly and provide the SSA with the information they need to make a decision. A lawyer can also file a prompt appeal on your behalf if this is necessary. To find out how The Injury & Disability Law Center can assist you, start a live chat to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • How is my disability onset date determined?

    Calendar With a Date Circled in Red MarkerWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must establish the date that you were unable to work due to a medical condition or disability. This is known as your disability onset date. The date you pick is an important one and can have a significant impact on the amount of back benefits you will receive.

    How Your Disability Onset Date May Be Determined

    It can be easy to establish your disability onset date if you become disabled due to an accident. However, if your disability has been caused by a medical condition or illness, you may have become disabled over time. Determining your onset date can be complicated in this situation. Here are some of the factors that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider when determining this date:

    • The date you list on your SSDI application
    • The date that you stopped working, or only worked in a limited capacity, and did not earn substantial income
    • Your physician’s determination of the date you became disabled
    • Your medical records

    Why Your Disability Onset Date Is Important

    Your disability onset date determines the amount of back disability payments you will receive. When you apply for SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period before you are eligible for benefits. In addition, you are only entitled to a maximum of 12 months in back disability benefits from the date that you apply for benefits.

    Here is an example of how your disability onset date will affect the amount of your back benefits if your application was approved by SSA on 12/1/2018 and you claimed your disability onset date was 9/1/2017:

    • If the SSA agreed with your onset date of 9/1/2017, you would be entitled to back benefits from 2/1/2018, which is five months after your onset date, to 12/1/2018.
    • If the SSA does not agree with your onset date and instead claims your disability began on 2/1/2018, you would only receive back benefits from 7/1/2018, which would be five months after 2/1/2018, until your approval date of 12/1/2018.

    Get the Legal Assistance You Need When Applying for SSDI Benefits

    Do you have questions about your disability onset date? Was your application for benefits denied? Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to explain your right to SSDI and ensure that you receive all the disability benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call our Roswell office today.

     

  • How can I pay a Social Security disability attorney if I am not working?

    Potential SSDI Client Holding an Empty WalletIf you are unable to work due a medical condition or disability, the process of filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and fighting with the Social Security Administration (SSA) about your right to benefits can be complicated and lengthy. You may know that you need the assistance of an experienced Social Security disability attorney but fear that you will not be able to pay his attorney fees when you have no paycheck anymore. Fortunately, you can afford to retain a lawyer even if you have limited funds.

    How Social Security Disability Attorneys Are Paid

    Lawyers who represent clients filing for SSDI are paid on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not charge any attorney fees up front. In addition, the SSA has set limits on how much an attorney can charge for his services. Here is how a contingency fee agreement works:

    • You only owe attorney fees if you win your case.
    • If your claim is denied, you would not be charged any fees by your lawyer.
    • Your lawyer will receive a percentage of your disability benefits as his attorney fees. Under SSA rules, an attorney can only receive 25 percent, but no more than $6,000, of your back disability benefits at the time your application is approved.

    How Legal Fees Are Paid in SSDI Cases

    When you hire your attorney, you will sign a contingency fee agreement. It gives the SSA permission to pay your lawyer for his services when your claim for benefits is approved. Your lawyer would file an application for his fees with the SSA rather than sending you a bill. Once approved, his attorney fees would be paid out of your past-due benefits.

    Out-of-Pocket Expenses You May Owe

    Your lawyer is permitted to charge you for out-of-pocket expenses as well as attorney fees for his services. These costs can include the fees for obtaining medical records, expert witness fees, and postage. You may owe these expenses whether or not you win your case. It is important to discuss these additional fees with your attorney before you hire him so you understand what they are and how their payment will be handled.

    Let Us Help You File Your Claim for SSDI Benefits   

    Unfortunately, many SSDI applications are denied by the SSA even when the applicant qualifies for benefits. Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to guide you through the process of filing your application and fight for the benefits you deserve. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.

     

  • Can I receive Social Security disability benefits if I’m self-employed?

    Red and White Self-Employed BlocksAccording to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 9.6 million self-employed workers during 2016, including entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers. Self-employment has numerous advantages, such as having more freedom in the workplace and the ability to work from home. However, self-employed individuals sometimes wonder if they can still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) should they suffer from an injury or illness that prevents them from working. The good news is, self-employed workers can still receive these benefits, under certain circumstances.

    Self-Employment and Social Security Insurance

    Self-employed individuals may qualify for SSDI if:

    • They have paid Social Security taxes. While employees pay into the Social Security system automatically when taxes are deducted from their paychecks, self-employed workers must pay these taxes on their own.
    • They have accurately reported their income. Self-employed individuals must accurately report their earnings when filing federal income taxes.
    • They have worked long enough to qualify for benefits. All workers are required to pay Social Security taxes for a number of years before they can collect benefits in the event of a long-term disability. While the amount of work necessary to qualify for disability benefits varies with a person’s age, they are typically required to have worked for at least five out of the last ten years.
    • They have a qualifying disability. Just like everyone else pursuing SSDI benefits, self-employed individuals must prove that they have a disability that is expected to last for over a year. Furthermore, this disability must prevent them from continuing to work.
    • They can no longer engage in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) means that a person is engaged in significant physical or mental labor. For 2019, SGA is defined as earning $1,220 or more per month from employment.

    An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve

    If you’ve been self-employed, and qualify for SSDI benefits due to an injury or illness, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What is the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled?

    Man Holding a Disability Sign in His HandsAn individual must be considered disabled in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict set of requirements that must be met before disability benefits will be paid.

    Qualifications for SSA Disability Benefits

    The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine whether or not a claimant qualifies to receive Social Security disability benefits. These five steps are:

    1. Work Status. Social Security disability applicants cannot qualify for benefits if they are engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2019, any individual earning more than $1,220 a month is considered to be engaged in SGA. Most claimants have no difficulty complying with the work status requirement since they have already stopped working due to their disability.
    2. Severity Assessment. To qualify for disability payments, a claimant’s impairment must be severe enough to completely interfere with basic work-related activities. It also must last, or be expected to last, at least 12 months. Disabilities that only mildly interfere with an applicant’s ability to work for less than one year are unlikely to be considered severe.
    3. Disabling Conditions. The SSA has established an extensive list of medical conditions that may qualify claimants as disabled, known as the listing of impairments. If the claimant’s medical ailment is found in the listing of impairments, it will typically qualify for disability benefits. Even if the medical condition isn’t specifically listed, it may still qualify for benefits if it is of equal severity to an ailment that is on the list.
    4. Previous Relevant Employment. The next step in the sequential evaluation process involves determining the claimant’s ability to perform past relevant work, which relies upon their residual functional capacity (RFC). Determining RFC involves assessing the claimant’s medical records to discover which tasks may still be performed. If the applicant is found to be incapable of doing the lightest possible work they have performed previously, the claim will move on to the final step.
    5. Performing Other Work. In the final step of the assessment process, the SSA considers the applicant’s education, work experience, and age when determining the claimant’s ability to perform other work. This step may involve consulting a vocational expert to determine the jobs that a claimant may be capable of performing.
     

    Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

    As you can see, the SSA considers many factors when determining whether or not a claimant qualifies as disabled. If you are entitled to SSA benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What could cause the termination of my Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?

    Terminated Stamp With a CalendarWhile Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients typically continue to receive benefits for many years, some actions may cause these benefit payments to stop.

    Termination of SSDI Benefits

    SSDI applicants and recipients should be aware of actions that may cause these benefit payments to cease. Conditions that may result in termination of SSDI benefits include:

    • Returning to work. The most common reason SSDI benefits end is because the recipient went back to work. Returning to work can cause SSDI benefits to stop if the recipient is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The primary determinant of whether or not employment qualifies as SGA is the amount of money the worker is being paid. For 2019, earnings in excess of $1,220 ($2,040 for blind individuals) per month qualify as SGA, even if the work is only part-time.
    • Reaching retirement age. Individuals are not permitted to receive Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits simultaneously. Upon reaching full retirement age, currently 66 years old, these benefits will stop. SSDI recipients instead begin receiving Social Security retirement payments when they reach full retirement age. Since full retirement benefits are typically equal to SSDI disbursements, the total benefit payment won’t change.
    • Incarceration. Confinement to a penal institution upon conviction for a crime results in the cessation of SSDI benefits. These benefits are suspended after 30 days of incarceration, and are subsequently reinstated during the month following release from confinement.
    • Medical improvement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) periodically reviews the case of each beneficiary, typically every three years. However, if the recipient is over the age of 50, or if the medical condition is unlikely to improve, a review may only be conducted every seven years. If a recipient’s disabling medical or psychiatric conditions improve, the SSA may determine that the recipient is no longer disabled.

    Receiving SSDI Benefits

    The rules governing the administration of SSDI benefits are extremely complicated. If you’re entitled to receive SSDI benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What is Residual Functional Capacity?

    Social Security Disability Claim FormWhen an individual applies for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the agency must determine which tasks the applicant is still capable of performing. To do so, the SSA will complete an assessment of the applicant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).

    The Importance of Residual Functional Capacity

    When you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your RFC level will have a profound effect on your disability benefits. RFC forms must be completed for every disability case, and they are typically filled out by the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS). However, having your doctor complete this form instead will strengthen your case. This is because:

    • Your doctor knows you best. If your RFC form is filled out by a disability consultant at the DDS, it will be completed by someone who has never physically examined you. Instead, the consultant will reference your medical records to determine your functional abilities and restrictions. Obviously, an RFC form completed by your doctor is likely to provide a better picture of your overall condition than one completed by someone you’ve never met.
    • You need a detailed RFC record. To maximize your probability of receiving sufficient benefits, your file must properly reflect the physical limitations your injuries have caused. How much you can lift, how long you can walk and stand, your level of flexibility, and how long you can sit are all crucial factors in determining compensation. No one has a better sense of your capabilities and limitations than your treating physician.

    Receiving Help With Your Disability Insurance Claim

    Since your doctor understands how your condition is impacting you better than anyone, he can be an important partner in the pursuit of your disability claim. If you hire a disability lawyer, your attorney can send the necessary RFC forms to your physician to collect the required information regarding your medical condition. Social Security attorneys are experienced in working with physicians and may be able to help with the completion and filing of the RFC form. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What are the differences between SSDI and SSI?

    The differences between Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security IncomeSince the acronyms for Social Security Disability Insurance and (SSDI) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are so similar, many people confuse these two programs. However, they are distinct from one another, with different objectives. If you’re entitled to disability compensation, it’s important that you apply for the correct program to avoid wasting time in pursuit of a benefit you aren’t qualified to receive.

    Social Security Disability Insurance

    SSDI provides benefits to individuals who have paid into Social Security via payroll deductions on their previously earned income. Program participants must have a disability that is anticipated to last for at least a year or result in death. Key characteristics of this program include:

    • Benefits are provided to eligible individuals regardless of their assets or unearned income—interest, investments, or a spouse’s income. However, income from work is strictly limited for those receiving Social Security disability payments.
    • Disability benefits are subject to a five-month waiting period, starting from the date of disability.
    • Medicare coverage for health benefits is subject to a two-year waiting period from the date of entitlement (the month a disabled individual became entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits).
    • The monthly Social Security disability payment amount is based upon covered earnings—the earnings on which a disabled worker paid Social Security taxes. These covered earnings are averaged, and a complicated formula is applied to calculate the monthly benefit.

    Supplemental Security Income

    SSI helps disabled individuals who cannot qualify for SSDI benefits, either because they have never been employed or because they haven’t worked for a long time. This is a need-based program, typically for individuals 65 years of age and older with very little income. Key characteristics of this program include:

    • SSI is a means-tested benefit program, requiring participants to meet a strict set of financial requirements.
    • Claimants may start receiving benefits the same month they file—there is no waiting period.
    • Medicaid health coverage begins as soon as SSI benefits are approved.
    • The monthly payment amount is determined by subtracting countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), which is the maximum federal monthly SSI payment amount. Those with countable income over the FBR are not eligible for benefits.

    Help With Your SSDI or SSI Benefits

    If you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

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  • What is the Compassionate Allowances program?

    compassionate allowances programThe process of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits can be extremely long and difficult. Compassionate Allowances are used to identify medical conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits, expediting the application process in order to provide benefits as quickly as possible.

    How Compassionate Allowances Can Help

    Social Security provides disability benefits for those individuals who have medical conditions that prevent them from working. These conditions primarily consist of some types of cancer, brain disorders, and rare childhood illnesses. The Compassionate Allowances program is designed to identify these types of claims, and help families in need by providing:

    • Quick approval. Generally speaking, applying for Social Security disability payments is a lengthy process. The application itself is long and complicated, requiring numerous medical documents and testimonies regarding the victim’s condition. The decision process may then take as long as 6 to 12 months. Compassionate Allowances expedite this process dramatically, allowing families to receive the compensation they need while the remainder of the application is still being processed.
    • No extra work. The Social Security disability application requires extensive documentation of the applicant’s medical condition. However, applying for a Compassionate Allowance doesn’t require any extra effort. When the Social Security office reviews the disability claim, they will refer to a list of Compassionate Allowances to determine if the applicant has a qualifying disorder. If so, the applicant will start receiving payments as soon as possible. These payments typically begin anywhere from just a few weeks to a couple of months after the application is filed.
    • Retroactive payments. Qualifying applicants are entitled to receive retroactive pay for the period between the genesis of their disability and the approval of their application.

    Qualifying for Compassionate Allowances

    Speaking with an experienced disability attorney is the best way to determine eligibility for a Compassionate Allowance. He can help you complete applications, keep paperwork organized, and guide you through the appeals process, if needed. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.