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Q: I can’t work at my old job due to my health conditions. Why did Social Security turn down my application for disability benefits?

A: To get Social Security Disability, it’s not enough to prove that you can’t do your old job. You have to show that you can’t do any kind of work. So even if you can no longer work as a carpenter due to disability, your claim will be denied if you can perform lighter work.

Q: Does Social Security consider my mental-health conditions when determining whether I’m disabled?
A: Absolutely. Social Security recognizes that mental-health conditions can be as disabling as physical conditions.

Q: What’s the difference between SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance? Which one should I apply for?
A: SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two types of disability benefits paid by SSA. SSI is available to disabled people who are also financially needy. If you have assets (a car, a house, money in the bank), you will likely be disqualified from SSI. SSI is available to disabled, financially needy people who haven’t worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.

SSDI is available to disabled people who have paid money into Social Security over years of working. For SSDI, it doesn’t matter if you have assets. If you stop working, you will eventually be ineligible for SSDI, so you should not delay in applying for benefits if you don’t think you’ll be able to return to work.

Q: If I get Social Security Disability, does this mean I can never return to work?
A: No. You can return to work at any time if your condition improves. Also, depending on what type of benefits you are receiving, you may be able to work and still receive benefits. Social Security allows you to attempt a trial work period (https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/twp.html) without jeopardizing your benefits.

Q: I was out of work for two years because of my health, but I’m back at work now. Can I get Social Security disability even though I’ve returned to work?
A: Yes. You can receive Social Security disability even if you’ve returned to work. If you were disabled for more than a year, you may qualify for a “closed period” of disability.

Q: I’m already receiving benefits on my workers’ comp claim. Should I bother to file for Social Security?
A: Yes. Generally speaking, you will receive greater benefits if you are receiving both workers’ comp and Social Security Disability benefits. You can receive up to 80% of your pre-disability earnings when receiving both types of benefits. Also, depending on what type of workers’ comp benefits you are receiving, it is possible that those benefits could be terminated. If that happens, your Social Security benefit will provide a safety net.

Q: I have been found totally disabled on my workers’ comp claim. Does that mean my Social Security Disability claim will automatically be approved?
A: No. Social Security follows its own process for deciding Disability claims. A decision by Washington State Department of Labor & Industries that you are disabled isn’t binding on Social Security.

Q: Once my claim is approved, when do my benefits begin?
A: When SSA finds you disabled, you usually start receiving your benefits within 60 days. However, you do not receive benefits for the first five months of disability. So if SSA finds that you became disabled on January 1, 2015, you would not receive any benefits for January through May of 2015.

Q: Can I get retroactive disability benefits?
A: That depends. For SSI, you cannot get benefits prior to the date of your application. However, for SSDI, you can receive past-due benefits for up to one year prior to the date of application.

Q: I really need health insurance. Can I get that through my Social Security Disability claim?
A: Yes. You become eligible for Medicare two years after you start receiving your Social Security disability benefits.

Q: I can’t afford to pay an attorney an hourly fee. Can you still represent me?
A: Yes. If we think you’re appeal is likely to be approved, we can represent you on a contingency-fee basis. You would not owe an attorney’s fee unless we won your case and you were paid past-due benefits. The fee, which is set by the Commissioner of Social Security, is currently 25% of past-due benefits, with a cap of $6,000.

Q: If my claim is approved, how much will I receive every month in benefits?
A: That depends on how much you’ve paid into Social Security over the course of your life. You can request that information from SSA here.

Q: I have young children. Will they get benefits if my claim is approved?
A: Yes. Generally speaking, children of a disabled parent receive benefits until they are 18 or finish high school.

Q: What makes a good case?
A: Successful cases are generally ones with the best medical evidence. SSA and the judges who decide appeals look for strong medical evidence that proves that you have severe medical and/or psychiatric conditions that limit your ability to work. Simply having pain without a clear diagnosis of the underlying cause is not going to be enough to get your claim approved. Similarly, having a diagnosed condition—for example, depression, or diabetes, or a herniated disk—is not enough to win your case. You need to show that these conditions prevent you from working.

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