Frequently Asked Questions

To meet Social Security's definition of disability:

You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition.

  1. In 2018, substantial work was defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as monthly income exceeding $1,190 a month (in 2019, this will increase to $1,220 a month). This amount may increase each year; and

  2. Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year, or be expected to end in death.

Being disabled is not just a matter of having a medical condition that prevents you from performing your usual job. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must be unable to perform any other job that exists in the national economy that you are suited for, considering your work experience, age, and education. SSA decides what other jobs you might be able to do considering the restrictions your medical condition places upon you.

For some people, a vocational evaluation is necessary to see if skills you have gained from your usual job may be transferred to some other occupation. Social Security sometimes hires vocational experts to offer opinions about alternate jobs you may be able to perform. It is sometimes helpful for you to hire your own expert for your claim. Atty. Rand can help you decide if a vocational expert is necessary, and he will arrange for your own evaluation.

For most cases, a fee agreement is signed by both the client and the attorney, which provides that the lawyer can only be paid if the claim is successful. SSA has to approve the fee agreement and the amount of the fee. As a general rule, the fee consists of 25% of any retroactive benefits awarded up to a maximum of $6000.00. This money is usually withheld by SSA automatically and is sent directly to the lawyer. The client does not have to write out a check. Many people mistakenly assume they cannot afford a lawyer because they have no money to pay a retainer up front. Usually, no retainer is necessary.

SSA will request records from your medical providers themselves. You should prepare a list of your doctors and hospitals or clinics where you have been treated before you apply. Make sure the list is complete, because SSA will rely on this to gather your medical records. You should also prepare a list of medications you are taking including precise dosages.

Atty. Rand will work with you and your medical providers to make sure that your medical condition is thoroughly explained, using Social Security guidelines. Since most doctors are not accustomed to evaluating a patient's work capability, Atty. Rand will help your doctor communicate how your condition impacts your ability to function successfully in a competitive work setting.

Early involvement by an attorney can help to win your case earlier—the earlier the better. Atty. Rand can track your case by reviewing your file with SSA at various stages to see if any important medical evidence is missing. He may then apply for missing records or request your doctors to submit letters for you that effectively address SSA's requirements. He may be able to win your case without a hearing by gathering and presenting the evidence in the appropriate and effective manner. Sometimes claimants can also be awarded only some of the benefits to which they are entitled without really knowing it. It is your lawyer's job is to maximize your benefits.
If you merely reapply after being denied benefits, you may lose some of your back benefits even if a second or third claim is successful. Do not make the mistake of abandoning your claim, because you might be nervous about appearing at a hearing. The key to success is persistence. Do not give up. As your attorney of record, Atty. Rand will receive a notice of any determination SSA makes on your claim and can file an appeal for you online. All you have to do is keep him informed of changes in your medical condition and treatment.
Some people who are chronically ill stop seeing their physicians regularly, especially if their condition is the type that is difficult to treat effectively by traditional means. They give up on the medical profession. If you do not seek medical care regularly, SSA will assume that there is nothing wrong with you. You must seek care with a qualified professional, usually an M.D., and your doctor must be on your side.
Many people return to work after a specific period of disability, sometimes while their application is still pending before SSA. The application process for Social Security disability benefits is a very slow one—sometimes taking up to three years before benefits are awarded. People who return to work after being out for at least a year may be entitled to what is called a "closed period" of disability, or a one time payment for the time they were out of work. If a claimant unsuccessfully tries to return to work, it should not count against their eligibility for benefits, especially if the time worked is less than three months in duration.

You are entitled to an explanation of the overpayment and how SSA claims it occurred. You are also entitled to challenge the amount of the overpayment, or whether there actually is an overpayment. You are also entitled to request a waiver of repayment of the overpayment if the overpayment was not your fault, and repayment would cause you undue hardship, or would be against equity and good conscience, or would defeat the purpose of the Social Security Act.

One of the most common causes of overpayments is work activity that is not accounted for by SSA, either because they did not adjust your payments upon notice of the work activity, or because the work activity was not reported accurately. Although some work activity is allowed by SSA, there are limits imposed on people who return to work while receiving disability payments. The important thing is to report all your work activity so that if an overpayment occurs, it will not be deemed to be your fault. In order for the overpayment to be waived, you must be both not at fault for the overpayment and unable to repay it without depriving yourself of the necessities of life. (housing, food, clothing, etc.)

You may ask for a waiver of the overpayment anytime. There is no time limit. To challenge the overpayment itself, however, requires an appeal within 60 days of the notice of overpayment. The notice should include an explanation of your right to appeal. Sometimes you may need to appeal within a shorter deadline if you wish benefits to continue during the appeal process.