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 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.

     

  • What's the Social Security Disability Sequential Evaluation Process?

    When you must file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), it's helpful to understand how the claims process works and the rules that apply to these cases. Knowing how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates a person’s medical condition or illness to determine disability helps predict what might happen with your claim.

    We explain the Social Security Sequential Evaluation Process that's used to evaluate whether or not you're entitled to benefits.

    Questions Asked in the Social Security Disability Sequential Evaluation

    In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, your medical condition must meet the requirements of a disability. It's defined as the inability to engage in any gainful activity due to a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment which is expected to last for at least 12 months or results in death.

    The Social Security Sequential Evaluation is a series of five steps in the process used to determine whether you're disabled. At each stage, the SSA worker assigned to your claim asks questions pertaining to eligibility.

    Here are the questions in the process:

    • Step 1. Are you working above the SGA level? SGA stands for Substantial Gainful Activity, which is working at a job. For example, in 2017, the SGA level income amount is $1,170 per month.
    • Step 2. Is your physical or mental condition severe? Your medical condition or illness must be severe enough to meet the definition of a disability, as discussed above. To be severe, the condition must interfere with basic work-related activities.
    • Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of the Listing of Impairment? The SSA lists many medical conditions and illnesses in its Listings of Impairments, which is also known as the Blue Book. If you can prove your condition is included in the Listing or is substantially as severe, you can establish a disability.
    • Step 4. Can you perform any of your past relevant work? If the answer is no due to your condition, it furthers your claim.
    • Step 5. Can you make an adjustment to any other work? The SSA has the burden of proving that work, other than what you performed in the past, exists in sufficient number; and that you can adjust to another form of employment given your age, educational level, work experience, and impairment.

    Do you have questions about filing your application for SSDI benefits? Has your claim been denied? Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you prove that you are disabled under Social Security Administration laws. We have more than two decades of experience guiding our clients through the process of obtaining the SSDI benefits they deserved. To discuss your situation and rights to benefits, call our office or fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • Who's eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?

    If you're disabled and unable to work, this doesn't automatically mean that you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI), or that you won't have to fight for the benefits you deserve. Your eligibility for disability income depends on both your work history and disability. Here, we discuss basic eligibility requirements that you need to meet.

    What Are the Work History Eligibility Requirements for SSDI?

    To meet the work eligibility requirements to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify. Eligibility is based on the number of work credits you have earned. For each quarter of work with income of a certain amount, you can earn one work credit.

    The amount of work needed changes, but for example, in 2017, if you earn $1,700 per quarter or more in the year, you would earn four credits for the year.

    How many credits you will need to qualify for benefits will depend on your age. These general rules apply:

    • Generally, you must have earned 40 work credits with 20 of them having been earned in the last 10 years.
    • If you're younger than 31 years old, you may qualify for SSDI benefits with fewer work credits.

    Disability Requirements for Social Security Disability Benefits

    social security disability eligibilityYou must also be considered disabled to be eligible for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines disability by the following requirements:

    • You can no longer perform your former job; and
    • You cannot perform other work due to your medical condition; and
    • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or result in your death.

    The SSA maintains a Medically Approved Listing of Impairments. If your medical condition is on the list, you may automatically qualify for benefits. However, if your disability isn't on the list, this doesn't mean you're not entitled to SSDI benefits.

    If you don't qualify for SSDI benefits, you may be eligible for Supplement Security Income benefits (SSI). To be approved, you must be disabled and meet strict asset and income rules.

    Let Us Help You With Your Social Security Disability Claim

    Even if you clearly qualify for SSDI benefits, you shouldn't be surprised if your application for benefits is denied. Unfortunately, the SSA denies many legitimate claims. If you need help filling out your initial application for benefits or fighting for the benefits you deserve, our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help. Call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.