Social Security – Frequently Asked Questions
What type of social security benefits are available for a disabled person?
Answer: The disabled person (the “claimant”) can generally receive one of two types of benefits defined as Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income. There are certain circumstances where the claimant can receive both but the important thing to remember is that in order to receive either, the claimant must be “disabled” as defined by the Social Security Administration.
How does the Administration decide which benefit the claimant may be entitled to?
Answer: If the claimant has been working and paying money on a regular basis to the Administration, that person is usually able to receive Social Security Disability. The amount to be received is based upon the amounts that have been paid in. Think of receiving Disability as the same thing as “early retirement” – meaning that if you become disabled, you can start collecting social security retirement benefits early. You don’t have to wait until retirement age.
If the claimant has not worked much at all – or – if the disabled person is a child, that person hasn’t paid in enough to get an “early retirement”. Therefore, the only benefit available for this claim is Supplemental Security Income. The amount received is based on the “needs” of the claimant, and there are maximum amounts.
There are many rules that apply to the circumstances of what amounts the claimant may or may not be able to receive. However, once again, the major factor to remember is that in order to receive anything at all, the claimant must be determined to be “disabled”.
How does a person know if they are considered “disabled”?
Answer: This is a very difficult question to answer because everyone’s situation is different, and the Social Security Administration takes many factors into consideration. Some of those factors include the claimant’s age, education and past relevant work. It places a lot of emphasis on the claimant’s medical treatment and considers the opinions of treating physicians. If the claimant is a child, the Administration considers how the child does in school and how well the child functions in social settings. In my opinion, it is nearly impossible for an attorney to predict how the Administration will view things without having the benefit of looking at all of the related information first.
Do I need a lawyer in order to apply for benefits?
Answer: Yes. Where lawyers can assist is in helping you to navigate through the process of applying and obtaining information that helps your claim. You should also know that attorneys always handle social security cases on a contingency basis which means that they earn fees only if you are determined disabled. Hiring an attorney doesn’t cost you anything up front. Also, the amount that the attorney can earn is capped by federal law such that there should be no negotiations involved.
Where can I get more information?
Answer: Your local social security office can provide you with many of the answers you need, as well as an experienced social security attorney or authorized representative. Additionally, the social security website, www.ssa.gov , has helpful information and publications readily available.