Q: Why does the Social Security Administration have both SSDI and SSI?

A: The qualifications for each program are different. If a person has a long work history, they will likely qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Under this program, a person must have 40 credits of work time. A credit is earned for each quarter a person works, so essentially you must have 10 years of work experience to apply.

Supplemental Security Income is a need-based program. A person does not need to have 40 work credits to qualify, but that person also cannot have too many assets, or they will not be eligible for the program.

Q: How quickly can I get benefits under each program?

A: There are many factors that affect how long an application takes to either be approved or denied. If the records are clear and adequately validate your disability, you can be approved in as little as 2 months. This, however, is not the norm.

If your application is denied, it can take as long as 24 to 36 months before you can have your case heard by a judge. Working with an attorney from the very beginning may help cut your wait time.

Q: Is there a way I can get my claim reviewed more quickly?

A: There are a few of circumstances where your claim can be expedited. If you are suffering from a terminal disease, are currently homeless or are in grave danger of becoming homeless, or if you are disabled due to a military injury (wounded warrior), the Social Security Administration has the discretion to speed up your application. You will need to provide proof if you fall into one of these categories.

Q: Is a lawyer really necessary?

A: The Social Security Administration uses federal laws to make a decision about your claim. An attorney can help you understand how these rules/requirements apply to your claim and what records/proof the examiner must have in order to make a determination. An attorney acts as your advocate by filling out paperwork, locating medical records and other documents, attending meeting and hearings.

Q: What is the best time to hire an attorney?

A: As soon as possible. An attorney can be of benefit from the very moment you decide to apply. She can review your case, your medical/psychiatric history, and help make a determination about which program (SSDI/SSI) to apply for. Attorneys know how to present legal cases. If you hire an attorney right away, you know that you will have someone safeguarding you from the get go. In addition, the burden of preparing the application, etc., will be lifted from you entirely.

Q: What if I can't afford an attorney?

A: The good news is that there is no fee at the very beginning. Your attorney simply collects a portion of the back pay you are entitled to. If you are approved for benefits, you are entitled to "back pay" for the months while you were waiting for the decision. Your attorney, then, will be paid 25 percent of that back pay as their fees. Your attorney cannot receive more than $6,000 of your back pay.

For example, if you applied for benefits on June 1 and your application was approved on December 1, you would have six months of back pay. If your benefits are $1,000 per month, you will receive $6,000 in back pay. Your attorney would then be paid $1500. If, ultimately, you are denied benefits, you will not owe your attorney any payment.

For further information, or to get a review of your case, call the Law Offices of Cory A. DeLellis, located in San Diego, California, at 619-567-4462 today.

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