1. What are Social Security disability benefits?

There are two government programs that pay a monthly benefit to disabled individuals: Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), part of a program sometimes referred to as Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI); and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

2. How do I become eligible for disability benefits?

You become eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) by working and paying employment or FICA taxes, the same taxes you pay toward Social Security retirement. You must have worked for about five out of the last 10 years to be eligible for DIB, and you must meet Social Security's definition of disability. {Code of Federal Regulations, 20 CFR ?404.130, et seq.}

To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must meet the definition of disability and meet Social Security's financial eligibility requirements. Basically, this means you must own almost nothing and have little or no income.

3. What is Social Security's definition of disability?

Social Security defines disability as a physical or mental condition that has rendered you unable to work for at least 12 months or that is expected to last for at least 12 months. {Code of Federal Regulations, 20 CFR ?404.1505}

4. Do I need a disability lawyer?

Most people who are disabled would benefit by hiring an attorney to help with their claim. Fulfilling the requirements to receive Social Security disability benefits can be complicated and confusing. The paperwork is unfamiliar to most people, and the detailed legal arguments can be complex. A lawyer can help with all these hurdles.

5. How long will it take to get my disability benefits?

Unfortunately, in the Charleston/Coastal South Carolina area, you can expect a disability application, from start to the issuance of the first check, to take up to 24 months. This time period varies, of course, but the average is about two years for the hundreds of cases won by Milton English & Whitten.

6. Why will it take me so long to get my benefits? I know people who got their benefits right away, and they weren't as sick as me.

First: Everyone's medical problems and, thus, everyone's disability cases, are different. Many disabled people have medical issues that are not obvious at first glance, such as heart disease, diabetes, back problems, mental illness and arthritis. In other words, you might not know as much about your neighbor's cousin's disability as you think. Just because a person looks pretty good does not mean that person isn't disabled. It's not unusual for you and your doctor to be the only people who really understand the depth of your medical problems.

Second: There are some frauds and liars out there. At Milton English & Whitten, we don't think Social Security disability fraud is as widespread as most people think, but fraud certainly is an issue with most government benefits. If you know for a fact that someone who is not disabled is cheating the government, we encourage you to report that person. Anyone who is stealing from the government is, after all, stealing from all of us.

To report Social Security fraud, call the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security at (800) 269-0271, or submit an online report at www.socialsecurity.gov.

7. What can I do if I already had a hearing and the Social Security judge turned me down?

There still may be some steps you can take to get your disability benefits. It is possible to take your case to the Appeals Council, even after receiving a written denial from the Social Security judge (ALJ). When the Appeals Council reviews your case, it can determine that the ALJ was correct in denying your benefits or that the ALJ made an error in turning you down. If the Appeals Council finds that there was an error, it usually returns your case to the judge who heard it, with instructions to correct the mistake.

8. Can I get Social Security disability benefits for a mental illness?

Yes. In fact, mental illnesses are a leading cause of disability.

9. What are the other most common causes of disability?

The other most common cause of disability is back problems.

10. Can children get disability benefits?

Yes. There are special rules that apply to disabled children. If a child meets these requirements, he or she may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Since these rules are very strict, it's fairly difficult to get SSI benefits for disabled children.

11. How does the disability application process work?

You can apply directly to Social Security, either by telephone at (800) 772-1213, in person at your local Social Security office or online. However, we recommend hiring a specialized attorney to serve as your advocate, ensuring that your case will be handled in a professional manner and reach the best possible outcome. If you choose to work with Milton English & Whitten, our office will help you make the initial application.

12. When should I hire a disability lawyer?

An attorney can provide professional help during any phase of the process. Milton English & Whitten accepts cases at any point in the application process, from before the initial application to the federal District Court appeal stage. We also consult with and counsel people who are still working but are thinking about applying for disability benefits.

13. Can I still get disability benefits if I am collecting early retirement benefits at age 62?

Yes. Even if you are receiving early retirement payments from Social Security, you can still apply for Social Security disability. Your monthly benefit will increase if you are able to prove that you quality for disability benefits.

14. What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income is paid to anyone who meets Social Security's definition of disability and who has very little income, money or other resources.

15. Can I get Social Security disability for fibromyalgia?

Yes, as long as the fibromyalgia condition meets all the requirements for disability. The Social Security Administration has issued a ruling on fibromyalgia, a directive to Social Security disability decision-makers about how fibromyalgia cases are to be considered.

16. Will I be eligible for medical benefits or health insurance coverage if I get disability?

Yes. If you receive Disability Insurance Benefits (also known as OASDI), you will be eligible for Medicare after a waiting period. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you will be eligible for Medicaid.

17. How much money will I receive if I am eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

That depends on how much you earned and how much you paid in taxes while you were working. The national average monthly disability benefit payment is around $1,000. If you have a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) from Social Security, this document will tell you how much your estimated disability benefit should be. If you don't have a recent PEBES, you can request one from Social Security.

18. I think I can still work part-time. Can I get partial Social Security disability benefits?

No. Unfortunately, you can receive Social Security disability benefits only for full disability.

19. Will my Social Security disability benefits ever expire?

No. You can continue to receive disability benefits for as long as you remain medically disabled.

20. If I have private disability insurance coverage, can I still get Social Security disability benefits?

Yes. Private disability coverage usually will be reduced or will stop as soon as you begin receiving Social Security disability payments. However, the answer to your question depends on your specific private disability coverage.

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