Shapiro & Siegel, P.C. Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income Lawyers

Social Security Disability & SSI Benefits:
Frequently Asked Questions

Unsure whether you qualify for Social Security benefits? Don’t know how to start disability benefit application process? Depressed after your initial application denial?

Don’t give up and don’t get intimidated! For your convenience, our team of experienced Social Security attorneys have put together a list of answers to the mostly frequently asked questions about Social Security disability benefits.

We hope that the answers will help you educate yourself about the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs offered through the Social Security Administration to provide you with a financial safety net, in case you become disabled and cannot work to support your daily living.

If there is a Social Security question that has not been answered on this page, please do not hesitate to contact us by using the quick contact form on the left or by calling us toll-free at (800) 336-7456. Attorney Bernard L. Shapiro will answer your question promptly, at no charge and no obligation to you.

Click on the questions below to go directly to the answers: 

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one of the largest Federal disability programs offered through Social Security Administration to provide financial support to people with disabilities.

Only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria set forth by the Social Security Administration may qualify for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to you and to certain members of your family if you are “insured”, meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

What is SSI (Supplemental Security Income)?

SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is a federal Social Security program that provides monthly cash payments to people who do not have much income or own many things. SSI is for elderly people, as well as blind or disabled people of any age, including children.

People who don’t have enough work credits to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits may possibly qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if they have limited income and resources. You must be a U.S. resident and live in the United States or Northern Mariana Islands to get SSI. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but you are a resident, you still may be able to get Supplemental Security Income. To find out how you may be able to get SSI under these conditions, please contact us by using our free case evaluation form or calling us toll-free at (800) 336-7456.

How do I know if I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program?

To qualify for disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, Social Security pays monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits is generally 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Be sure to contact a qualified attorney if Social Security raises any questions about your eligibility.

How long will my Social Security benefits continue?

Your Social Security benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. You should also be aware that you are responsible for letting Social Security know if your health improves or you go back to work.

What is Social Security’s definition of “disability”?

The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are paid for partial disability or for short-term disability.

Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work. They consider you disabled under Social Security rules if you cannot do the work that you did before you became disabled and if they decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability must also last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

Can other members of my family get Social Security disability benefits?

You can receive Social Security disability benefits until age 65. When you reach age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

Certain members of your family may qualify for Social Security benefits on your record. They include:

  • Your spouse who is age 62 or older, or any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is under age 16 or disabled and also receiving checks.
  • Your disabled widow or widower age 50 or older. The disability must have started before your death or within seven years after your death. (If your widow or widower caring for your children receives Social Security checks, she or he is eligible if she or he becomes disabled before those payments end or within seven years after they end.)
  • Your unmarried son or daughter, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in high school full time.
  • Your unmarried son or daughter, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. These children are considered disabled if they meet the adult definition of disability. (If a disabled child under age 18 is receiving benefits as the dependent of a retired, deceased or disabled worker, someone should contact Social Security to have his or her checks continued at age 18 on the basis of disability.)


What if my initial application is denied?

After Social Security has reviewed your application and the information you have provided, they may decide that you do not meet the qualifications for disability benefits. If you disagree with that decision, you have the right to ask Social Security to look at your application again.

The notice you receive from them that says you don’t qualify will explain how to make that request and the time period in which you must make it. Do not accept Social Security’s decision that you don’t qualify. Be sure to contact our firm to help you protect your rights. All of the clients we represent have been denied. With our help many of them do get benefits.

What happens after my application for disability benefits is granted?

If your application is approved, your first Social Security benefit will be paid for the sixth full months after the date the Social Security finds that your disability began.

Will Workers’ Compensation and other disability payments affect my Social Security disability benefits?

Disability payments from private sources, such as private pension or insurance benefits, do not affect your Social Security disability benefits.

However, workers’ compensation and other public disability benefits may reduce your Social Security benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits are paid to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness. They may be paid by federal or state workers’ compensation agencies, employers or by insurance companies on behalf of employers.

Will my disability case be reviewed after I am granted disability benefits?

In general, your benefits will continue as long as you are disabled. However, the law requires that Social Security review your case periodically to see if you are still disabled. How often they review your case depends on whether your condition is expected to improve.

What information must I report to Social Security after my application for disability benefits is approved?

You are responsible for promptly reporting any improvement in your condition, if you return to work, and certain other events as long as you are receiving disability benefits. The booklet sent you when your application is approved explains what you need to report to Social Security. Be sure to put any communications and reports in writing and get proof of mailing.

Do I have to pay taxes on my Social Security disability benefits?

Some people who get financial support from Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. (About one-third of our current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits.) You will be affected only if you have substantial income in addition to your Social Security benefits.

  • If you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your income is more than $25,000, you have to pay taxes.
  • If you file a joint return, you may have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a combined income that is more than $32,000.
  • If you are married and file a separate return, you will probably pay taxes on your benefits.


Do I qualify for Medicare if I receive Social Security benefits?

After you receive disability benefits for 24 months, you will be eligible for Medicare. You will get information about Medicare several months before your coverage starts. If you have permanent kidney failure requiring regular dialysis, a transplant or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), you may qualify for Medicare almost immediately.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not entitle you to Medicare. You may be eligible for medical assistance under your State’s Medicaid program.

What happens if I work while receiving disability payments?

You should tell us if you take a job or become self-employed, no matter how little you earn. If you are still disabled, you will be eligible for a trial work period, and you can continue receiving Social Security benefits for up to nine months.

Also, tell Social Security if you have any special work expenses because of your disability (such as specialized equipment, a wheelchair or even some prescription drugs) or if there is any change in the amount of the expenses. WHY?

What is a representative payee?

Sometimes people are unable to manage their money. When this happens, Social Security should be notified. They can arrange to send benefits to a relative or other person who agrees to use the money to take care of the person for whom the benefits are paid. Social Security Administration calls the person who manages someone else’s benefits a “representative payee.”

How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

Apply as soon as you become disabled. You can:

  • Apply for disability benefits online at the Social Security Administration website
  • Apply by phone by calling Social Security Administration’s toll-free telephone number (800) 772-1213. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY (800) 325-0778.)
  • Apply by calling or visiting your local Social Security Office. Locate Social Security Office near you.


If there is a Social Security question that has not been answered on this page, please do not hesitate to contact us by using the quick contact form on the left or by calling us toll-free at (800) 336-7456. Attorney Bernard L. Shapiro will answer your question promptly, at no charge and no obligation to you.