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Maryland Social Security Disability FAQs

At the Law Offices of Scott D. Arnopol in Landover, Maryland, you will discover an experienced SSD lawyer who can provide answers to your most complicated questions. To talk with attorney Arnopol, call our office at 301-850-0065 or toll free at 866-618-2301, or fill out the online contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Social Security Disability FAQs

Specific Cases

The Appeals Process

Help With Medical Bills

Workers' Compensation Issues

Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months."

Who decides if I am disabled?

After an individual files a Social Security disability claim, the case is sent to a disability examiner at the disability determination agency in your state. This individual, working with a doctor, makes the initial decision on the claim. If the claim is denied and the individual requests reconsideration, the case is then sent to another disability examiner at the disability determination agency, where it goes through much the same process.

If a claim is denied at reconsideration, the claimant may then request a hearing. At this point, the case is sent to an administrative law judge who works for the Social Security Administration. The administrative law judge makes an independent decision upon the claim. This is the only level at which the claimant and the decision maker get to see each other.

How can I tell if I will be found disabled by Social Security?

Unless your disability is catastrophic (such as terminal cancer, a heart condition so bad that you are on a heart transplant waiting list, total paralysis of both legs, etc.), there is no easy way for you to tell whether you will be found disabled by Social Security. In the end, the decision of whether or not to apply for Social Security Disability benefits should not be based upon whether or not the person feels that Social Security will find them disabled.

Attorneys familiar with Social Security Disability can make predictions about who will win and who will lose, but even they can seldom be sure. An individual should make the decision about whether or not to file for Social Security disability based upon his or her own belief about their condition.

If the individual feels that he or she is disabled and is not going to be able to return to work in the near future, the individual should file for Social Security Disability benefits. If denied, the individual should consult with an attorney familiar with Social Security Disability to get an opinion as to the chances of success on appeal.

How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security Disability benefits?

Not even one day. You can file for Social Security Disability benefits on the very same day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security Disability claim.

There is no reason to file a Social Security Disability claim if one has only a minor illness or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, an individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits.

What can I do to improve my chances of winning my Social Security Disability claim?

Be honest and complete in giving information to Social Security about what is disabling you. Many claimants, for instance, fail to mention their psychiatric problems to Social Security because they are embarrassed about them. In almost all cases, individuals who were slow learners in school fail to mention this fact to Social Security, even though it can have a good deal to do with whether or not the Social Security Disability claim is approved.

Beyond being honest and complete with Social Security, the most important thing that you can do is just keep appealing and hire an experienced person to represent you. It is important to appeal because most claims are denied at the initial level, but are approved at higher levels of review. It is important to hire an experienced person to represent you because you do not understand the way Social Security works. Statistically, claimants who employ an attorney to represent them are much more likely to win than those who go unrepresented.

How many different types of Social Security Disability benefits are there?

There are at least five major types of Social Security disability benefits. Disability Insurance is the most important type of Social Security disability benefits. It goes to individuals who have worked in recent years (five out of the last 10 years in most cases) who are now disabled. Disabled Widows' and Widowers' Benefits are paid to individuals who are at least 50 and became disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of their husband or wife. The late husband or wife must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured.

Disabled Adult Child Benefits go to the children of persons who are deceased or who are drawing Social Security Disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22. For Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widows' or Widowers' Benefits and Disabled Adult Child benefits, it does not matter whether the disabled individual is rich or poor. Benefits are paid based upon a Social Security earnings record.

Supplemental Security Income benefits, however, are paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. SSI child's disability benefits are a variety of SSI benefits paid to children under the age of 18 who are disabled. The way in which disability is determined is a bit different for children.

Can you receive Social Security Disability benefits for a disease?

In almost every case, no matter what the disease is, the answer is the same: Maybe, it just depends upon how badly you are affected by the disease. One example might be cancer. The word "cancer" is scary to anyone, but there are many cancers which can be treated and cured very quickly, with little or no lasting effect. On the other hand, of course, there are cancers which cause great suffering and ultimately death. The questions in each individual case are "How sick is this particular individual with cancer? How long is this person going to remain sick?"

Skin diseases are another example. The vast majority of skin diseases, while annoying, would not be considered to be disabling. On the other hand, there are some uncommon, very severe skin problems which are clearly disabling. In extreme cases, psoriasis, which is not rare, may be disabling. Thus, almost without exception, the mere fact that an individual has a disease with a certain name does not guarantee that the individual either will or will not be found disabled. It all depends upon how sick the person is.

Do you have to be permanently disabled to get Social Security Disability benefits?

No. You have to have been disabled for at least a year or be expected to be disabled for at least a year or have a condition that can be expected to result in death within a year.

Why does the Social Security Administration consider my age in determining whether I am disabled?

The Social Security Administration has to consider age because that is what the Social Security Act requires. As people get older, they become less adaptable, less able to switch to different jobs to cope with health problems. A severe foot injury might cause a 30 year old to switch to a job in which he or she can sit down most of the time, but it might disable a 60-year-old person who could not make the adjustment to a different type of work.

If I am approved for Social Security Disability benefits, how much will I get?

For Disability Insurance Benefits, it all depends upon how much you have worked and earned in the past. For Disabled Widows' or Widowers' Benefits, it depends upon how much the late husband or wife worked and earned. For Disabled Adult Child Benefits, it all depends upon how much the parent worked and earned. For all types of SSI benefits, there is a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. Other income that an individual has reduces the amount of SSI which an individual can receive.

Why does the Social Security Administration turn down so many claims for disability benefits?

There is no simple answer to this question. One reason is that there is no simple way to determine whether an individual is disabled. Most people who are disabled suffer from pain. There is no way of determining whether or not another individual is in pain, much less how much pain he or she is in.

A second reason is that Social Security over the years has been more concerned with making sure that everyone who is receiving Social Security Disability benefits is "truly" disabled than with making sure that everyone who is disabled receives Social Security Disability benefits. An underlying reason is that Congress has always believed that, given a chance, many people will "fake" disability in order to get benefits.

What is the Social Security hearing like?

The hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are the judge, a secretary operating a tape recorder, the claimant, the claimant's attorney and anyone else the claimant has brought with him or her. In some cases, the administrative law judge has a medical doctor or vocational expert present to testify at the hearing. There is no jury nor are there any spectators at the hearing. There is no attorney at the hearing representing Social Security trying to get the judge to deny the disability claim.

Do I really have to hire a lawyer to represent me in my Social Security Disability claim?

No. You can go through all of the levels of review on your own, if you wish, but statistically claimants who are represented by an attorney win a good deal more often than those who are not represented.

How do lawyers who represent Social Security Disability claimants get paid?

In almost all cases, the attorney receives one quarter of the back benefits if the claimant wins and no fee if the claimant loses.

I have several health problems, but none of them disables me; it is the combination that disables me. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?

Social Security is supposed to consider the combination of impairments that an individual suffers in determining disability. Many, perhaps most claimants for Social Security Disability benefits have more than one health problem, and the combined effects of all of the health problems must be considered.

I got hurt in an automobile accident. I am disabled now, but I expect that I will be able to return to work after I recover. Should I file for Social Security Disability benefits?

If you expect to be out of work for a year or more on account of illness or injury, you should file for Social Security Disability benefits.

I am disabled, but I have never worked at public work. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits?

If you are poor enough, you can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you are disabled, even if you have never worked in the past. It is also possible to qualify for Disabled Adult Child Benefits on the account of a parent if you became disabled before age 22 or for Disabled Widows' or Widowers' Benefits on the account of a late husband or wife.

I have a daughter who has been disabled by cerebral palsy since birth and has never been able to work. Can she get disability benefits from Social Security?

Very possibly. If the child is under 18 and you are poor enough, the child may be able to qualify for SSI child's disability benefits. If the child is over 18, she may be able to qualify for SSI disability benefits without regard to the income of her parents. If her father or mother is drawing Social Security benefits of some type or is deceased, the child may be eligible for disabled adult child benefits.

My doctor says I am disabled, so why is the Social Security Administration denying my Social Security Disability claim?

Social Security's position is that it is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled. It is up to them, and they will make their own decision regardless of what your doctor thinks.

I am 60 percent disabled. Do I get 60 percent of my Social Security Disability benefits?

No. There are no percentages of disability in Social Security Disability determination. For purposes of Social Security Disability benefits, you are either disabled or not disabled. There are no percentages of disability, nor are there any percentages of disability benefits.

I am disabled by mental illness. Can mental illness serve as the basis for a Social Security Disability claim?

Yes. Mental illness is a frequent basis for awarding Social Security Disability benefits.

What is reconsideration?

When a claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the claimant may then request reconsideration of that decision. The case is then sent to a different disability examiner for a new decision. Unfortunately, about 80 percent of the time the reconsideration decision is the same as the initial decision — a denial.

What are my chances of winning at reconsideration?

Statistically, about 20 percent of the time a claimant wins at reconsideration.

How long does it take for Social Security to make a reconsideration determination on my Social Security Disability claim?

In most cases, Social Security makes the reconsideration determination within four months.

If the administrative law judge denies my claim, can I appeal any more?

Yes. You can appeal to the Appeals Council which is still within Social Security.

What is the Appeals Council?

The appeals council exists to review administrative law judge decisions. The appeals council is located in Falls Church, Virginia, and neither the claimant nor the attorney sees the people at the appeals council members who are working on the case.

Can I appeal a case beyond Social Security to the federal courts?

Yes. After being denied by the appeals council, it is possible for a claimant to file a civil action in the United States District Court, requesting review of the Social Security Administration's decision. A Social Security Disability claim can go all the way to the Supreme Court. Perhaps once every year or two years, the United States Supreme Court actually hears an appeal about a Social Security Disability case.

I need help with medical bills even more than I need a cash income. What should I do?

Getting help with medical bills is usually tied up with getting cash benefits. You don't start getting help with medical bills until after you start getting the cash benefits, so you have to keep going with the Social Security Disability claim in order to get the help with medical bills.

If I get Social Security Disability benefits, will I get Medicare or Medicaid?

If you are approved for any kind of Social Security Disability benefit other than SSI, you will get Medicare after you have been entitled to Social Security Disability benefits for 30 months. It is possible to get both Medicare and Medicaid if you are entitled to SSI and some other type of Social Security Disability benefit.

I am still on sick leave from my employer. Can I file for Social Security Disability now or do I have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted?

No, you do not have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted. You should file for Social Security Disability benefits now if you believe that you will be out of work for a year or more.

I got hurt on the job. I am drawing workers' compensation benefits. Can I file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits now or should I wait until the workers' compensation ends?

You do not have to wait until the workers' compensation ends, and you should not wait that long. An individual can file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits while receiving workers' compensation benefits. It is best to file the Social Security Disability claim as soon as possible because otherwise there may be a gap between the time the workers' compensation ends and the Social Security Disability benefits begin.

Can I get both workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits?

Yes. There is an offset, which reduces Social Security Disability benefits because of workers' compensation benefits paid, but in virtually all cases, there are still some Social Security Disability benefits to be paid. In a few states the offset works the other way — workers' compensation benefits are reduced because of Social Security Disability benefits.

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