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What is Social Security’s definition of disability?+
Generally, it is being unable to do any type of work because of a verifiable mental or physical impairment expected to result in death, or has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months.
My doctor thinks I can work, but I don’t feel that I can because of my problems. Should I switch doctors?+
You should consider at least consulting with another doctor. It is extremely important for your claim to have your doctor’s support. However, you also have to consider what is best for you medically. You must weigh the possible benefit of switching doctors against any medical risk you might be taking.
What should I do if the Social Security Administration denies my application for the first time?+
For many claimants, receiving a denial is a major setback. Although they have been told to initially expect the worst, it can come as a shock and be very discouraging. Even those who are otherwise emotionally healthy can get worn down simply by the long process of obtaining SSD/SSI benefits. It is very important not to get discouraged. You should file a request for a hearing as soon as possible.
I got a denial notice three months ago, but I was in the hospital for the last two months. Is it too late to appeal?+
You generally have 60 days to submit an appeal after receiving a denial notice. However, under certain circumstances the Social Security Administration will accept a late appeal. Some reasons the Social Security Administration might consider a “good cause” for filing a late appeal are: having a serious illness or being hospitalized during the 60-day appeal time; having limited mental capacity to understand the appeal process; and not having received written notice of the denial.

If your reason for appealing late is not accepted as good cause, you can still file a new application and request reopening of the prior application. Unfortunately you will be starting the process over, but the good news is that if your claim is approved and the reopening is granted, your back benefits may extend as far back as they would have with the original application.
Can Social Security take away my Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?+
Yes. It doesn’t happen often, but you can lose your disability benefits if your condition improves to the point that you no longer meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled”. SSA must show there has been medical improvement related to your ability to work before they can cease your SSDI benefits.
Do I have to pay income tax on my Social Security benefits? Are Social Security disability benefits taxable?+
Some people who get Social Security will have to pay taxes on their benefits. Less than one-third of our current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits.

You will have to pay federal taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your total income is more than $25,000. If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income that is more than $32,000.
How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?+
Disability under Social Security for an adult is based on your inability to work because of a medical condition. To be considered disabled:
  • You must be unable to do work you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of a medical condition.
  • Your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability.
What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI disability?+
The Social Security Administration is responsible for two major programs that provide benefits based on disability: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on prior work under Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under SSI, payments are made on the basis of financial need.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons. To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn a specific number of credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes. Disability benefits are payable to blind or disabled workers, widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible. The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.
Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?+
The five month waiting period ensures that during the early months of disability, we do not pay benefits to persons who do not have long-term disabilities. Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after you have been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months. Therefore, Social Security disability benefits will be paid beginning with the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are not entitled to benefits for any month in the waiting period.
Do I automatically get Medicare benefits if I’m eligible for disability benefits?+
Social Security will automatically enroll you in Medicare after you get disability benefits for two years. We start counting the 24 months from the month you were entitled to receive Social Security Disability, not the month when you received your first check. People with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) get Medicare beginning with the month they become entitled to disability benefits.

Medicare has two parts – hospital insurance and medical insurance. Hospital insurance helps pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you paid while you were working financed this coverage, so it’s premium free. The other part of Medicare, medical insurance, helps pay doctors’ bills and other services. You will pay a monthly premium for this coverage if you want it.
How do workers’ compensation payments affect my disability benefits?+
Disability payment you receive from workers’ compensation and/or another public disability payment may reduce you and your family’s Social Security benefits. Your Social Security disability benefit will be reduced so that the combined amount of the Social Security benefit you and your family receive plus your workers’ compensation payment does not exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings prior to your work ending date. (Note that the unreduced benefit amount is counted for income tax purposes.)

A workers’ compensation payment is one that is made to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness. It may be paid by federal or state workers’ compensation agencies, employers, or insurance companies on behalf of employers.

For more information, see How Worker’s Compensation And Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits (SSA Publication No. 05-10018).
How many credits are required to be eligible for disability?+
The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Also, the credits must have been earned within a certain time period. Generally, you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.

Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. For example:

"A worker who becomes disabled before age 24 needs to have earned six credits in the three-year period ending when disability starts."

A worker who becomes disabled between age 24 to age 31 needs to have credits for half the time between age 21 and the time disability starts. If disability starts at age 27, the worker would need credit for three years of work (12 credits) out of the past six years between age 21 and age 27.
How does a disabled widow or widower become entitled to benefits?+
Benefits may be payable to a widow or widower with a disability if the following conditions are met:
  • He or she is between ages 50 and 60.
  • The widow or widower meets the definition of disability for adults.
  • The disability started before the worker’s death or within seven years after death.
Note: If a widow or widower caring for the deceased’s children receives Social Security benefits, he or she is eligible if disability starts before those payments end or within seven years after they end.
For more information, please call:
(585) 663-6333
We are happy to answer your questions or to talk to you about your best course of action.

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