Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Social Security Disability Benefits

What are Social Security Disability benefits and how can I get them?

Social Security Disability benefits are monthly payments that you may be able to receive if you are disabled and unable to work for at least one year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) handles two types of Social Security Disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSA has specific rules for determining which applicants qualify as disabled, and the qualifications for receiving SSDI and SSI benefits are different.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough, pay into Social Security taxes, and have earned enough work credits. If you do not qualify for SSDI benefits, or if the amount will be low, then you may be able to qualify for SSI benefits. SSI is a needs-based benefit for disabled individuals. Accordingly, if you have limited or no income and limited or no assets, then you may be able to qualify for SSI benefits. Disabled children with parents of limited income and resources may also be able to qualify for SSI benefits.

If you are unsure whether you qualify for either type of disability benefit, then you can contact your local Social Security office, call the national Social Security number at 800-772-1213 or speak with an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability law.

I am attorney Cory A. DeLellis, and I specialize in Social Security Disability law. I can help you determine whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, and if so, which type.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

To apply for SSDI benefits, you can go online at ssa.gov and click on the Disability tab to apply, or you can contact your local Social Security office to apply. If you do not have the phone number to your local Social Security office, then call the national Social Security number at 800-772-1213. An attorney can also assist with the application.

To apply for SSI benefits, contact your local Social Security office or call the same national number.

What should I expect after I file my application?

Expect the Social Security Administration (SSA) to take anywhere from three to seven months to make a decision on your application. Unfortunately, because most applications are denied, the majority of applicants often wait anywhere from 18 months to three years for their claim to resolve.

If your application is denied, then you can file an appeal. You can have an attorney do this for you. Once the appeal is filed, it will take SSA approximately two to six months to make another decision. This level is called the reconsideration level. Unfortunately, at least 80% of claims get denied at this level.

If your application is denied again, then you can file a second appeal, which will be the request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An attorney should also be able to do this for you. Once you file this second appeal, it will take SSA approximately nine to 19 months to schedule you a hearing before an ALJ. The wait time to see an ALJ greatly varies per person and depends on a lot of factors. Most people with an attorney will win their claim before an ALJ at the hearing level.

Why should I hire an attorney?

No one is required to hire an attorney to make a SSDI claim. However, an attorney can certainly help make the process easier, identify the legal issues in your case, strengthen your claim, help you obtain the maximum benefits, make appropriate arguments and take necessary action. Plus, there are no upfront fees to hire an attorney. An attorney only gets paid if your claim gets approved and you receive benefits.

If you are still unsure whether to hire an attorney, you should ask for a free consultation from an experienced attorney to find out what your best options are.

When should I hire an attorney?

You may consider hiring an attorney if you need help with the application, if your application is denied, if you need to file an appeal or if you are going to a hearing before an ALJ. I provide free consultations to help determine if and when it is appropriate to hire legal counsel.

How much does it cost to hire an attorney?

There are no upfront fees when you hire an attorney. A Social Security Disability attorney only gets paid if your claim gets approved. If your claim gets approved, the attorney can only collect 25% of your backpay. Your back pay includes the eligible months you have been waiting to receive your disability benefits but have not yet received them. By law, your attorney cannot collect more than $6,000 of your backpay.

For example, let’s say that you win your claim, and you receive $2,000 of ongoing benefits each month. If Social Security owed you $16,000 in backpay (for all the months that you have been waiting to get your claim approved and paid), then your attorney would only be entitled to collect $4,000 total in attorney fees. However, if Social Security owed you $100,000 in backpay, then your attorney would be limited to collecting $6,000 total in attorney fees.

How can I speed up the processing of my claim?

Generally speaking, SSA can expedite the processing of your claim if:

  • You are in a dire need situation (i.e., homelessness or imminent danger of homelessness)
  • There is an issue with personal or public safety
  • You have a terminal illness
  • Your disability falls under one of SSA’s compassionate allowances
  • You are a wounded warrior

If any of these situations apply, then you should notify SSA right away and make a request to expedite the processing of your claim. An attorney can do this for you. It is recommended that you or your attorney furnish any documentation to SSA in order to support your request (e.g., an eviction notice, VA report or a medical report with the terminal diagnosis).

Can I work while I have an active Social Security Disability claim?

You can work, but it could possibly jeopardize your Social Security Disability claim.  SSA defines “disability” as the inability to do substantial gainful activity, and there are a lot of factors involved. You should speak with your attorney before engaging in any work. If you do not have an attorney, then you should contact your local Social Security office and speak with an agent before engaging in any work.

Why should I hire The Law Offices of Cory A. DeLellis?

I focus my entire practice on Social Security Disability law. I have years of experience in handling both SSDI and SSI claims, from the initial application to the hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). I provide free consultations and do not get paid unless you do.

I embrace a client-centered approach. This means putting the client first, answering all phone calls, returning phone calls promptly, maintaining good communication, and making sure that my team does everything both ethically and aggressively possible to provide the best outcome for my clients. I strive to make the process of obtaining Social Security Disability benefits as smooth, quick and successful as possible.

I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychology. I obtained my law degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego. My passion for this area of law started when I was just a child working with my father, Anthony DeLellis, Esq., at his law practice. He also focused on Social Security Disability claims. I am proud and grateful to be doing the same type of rewarding work.

Schedule A Free Consultation

I have addressed some common questions about Social Security Disability benefits on this page, but every case has unique circumstances. I welcome the opportunity to review the facts of your case and answer your questions.

For further information, or to get a review of your case, call The Law Offices of Cory A. DeLellis, at 619-567-4462 or use my online contact form to schedule a consultation.

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