Social Security Disability – FAQs

Do I need to work for a certain amount of time to be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits?
  • Yes. The general rule is that in order to be eligible for SSD benefits, you must have worked and paid into Social Security for 40 quarters, or 10 years.
  • Further, you must show “gainful earnings” in these quarters for them to count towards SSD entitlement.
  • For people under the age of 30, you must have recorded work in half of the years since you turned 18.
  • The current 2014 quarterly earnings amount to be considered “gainful” is approximately $1,200.00 per month.
  • For a list of previous earnings requirements, see www.ssa.gov.
I have 40 quarters, but have not worked in a while. Will this effect my rights to SSD benefits?
  • Yes. In addition to having the requisite 40 quarters, you must have “current earnings.”
  • Generally, this means that you must have 20 quarters within the 10 years just prior to becoming disabled.
  • If you do not have the 20 quarters in the past 10 years prior to becoming disabled, then you must prove that your disability occurred within 5 years of your date last insured.
How do I find out if I have enough credits to qualify?
  • The simplest way is to visit your local social security office and request this information from them.
  • You can also request a social security statement online. This will involve creating an account online.
If I do not have enough quarters of coverage, what are my options?
  • You may still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. However, like SSD, you must show that you are totally disabled from gainful employment. You must also show that you have limited resources.
How do I know if my resources are considered “limited” within the rules for SSI.
  • You must apply for SSI online, or at your local Social Security office. There are a series of questions pertaining to your living situation, assets you own, income you receive, etc. You must answer these questions honestly. Social Security will then make the determination if you qualify.
If approved for SSD, can I work?
  • Yes. Generally, so long as you do not have any “gainful” earnings, you can continue to work and earn.
  • In 2014, “gainful” earnings were are considered anything above $1075 per month.
  • If your earnings go above $1075, you could risk being shut off.
  • There are several other rules involving returning to work that an attorney can explain in further detail.
What determines my SSD rate?
  • Your prior earnings will determine how much you will receive if approved for SSD of SSI benefits. Generally, the more you have earned, the higher your rate.
  • Presently, the highest rate for an individual is approximately $2,500.00 per month. Additional amounts may be due for families with dependent children.
Are my children entitled to any money?
  • Yes. If you are approved for benefits and you have dependent children, they are entitled to half of your total benefit.
  • This amount is split among the dependent children. They do not each get half your benefit.
  • For example, if you are awarded SSD benefits at the rate of $1500 per month, and you have 1 dependent child, that child is entitled to receive ½ of your total benefit, or $750.
  • If you have 2 dependent children, they would split the $750, and so forth.
What are my chances of getting approved?
  • That depends on a number of factors. Most importantly, the severity of your disability.
  • Other factors that come into play are your work history, your age, and educational background.
  • Additionally, the past few years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of claims for both SSD and SSI benefits. Consequently, there has also been a much higher percentage of disapproved claims.
Can I collect Social Security Disability while receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits?
  • Social Security Disability benefits are offset by the receipt of Workers’ Comp benefits. This means that your SSD benefit could be reduced in part, or completely, if you are receiving Workers’ Comp.
  • However, if your earnings were high enough before becoming disabled, you may not be in any offset at all. In that case, you could collect Workers’ Comp and your full SSD benefit.
  • To make this determination, you need to know your highest year of income within the past 5 years before becoming disabled.
  • An attorney can help make this determination.
Who will hear my case?
  • At the earliest stages, your Social Security Disability claim will be reviewed by a number of individuals (case examiners) at the local Social Security offices.  
  • Often times, the cases are sent to a State Agency known as Disability Determination Services.  There, it is assigned to a known disability examiner.  Our north shore disability attorney's have the option of being in contact with these individuals and work to provide them with information helpful to your claim.  
  • If the case then proceeds to the Hearing level, the case will be heard at one of  the Social Security Hearings offices.  There, it will be assigned to one of the Administrative Law Judges.
  • There is no way to know which Judge will hear your case.  They are assigned at random.
What are the approval/denial ratings for the different Judges?
  • Approval ratings can be found online, and they can sometimes be a good indicator of how favorable a Judge may be in hearing your case.
  • The best way to find out is simply to google "Social Security Judge approval ratings," or something to that effect.
  • They site changes on a fairly regular basis, otherwise we would provide a link.