What's the difference between SSDI and SSI?

The biggest difference between both benefit programs comes down to financial requirements. To be eligible for SSI, potential recipients must be age 65 or older, disabled or blind and receive regular income below the federal benefit limit. SSI is intended for medically eligible individuals that do not earn enough on their own or through existing SSDI benefits to support themselves.

Another difference between the two is where the benefit funds come from. SSDI benefits are paid forward by recipients in the form of paycheck taxes throughout their working life. SSI funds, unlike SSDI funds, come from general tax revenues.

How does the SSA define "Disability?"

Social Security defines “disability” as the “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.”

When can I file for Social Security Disability Benefits?

You can file for Social Security Disability benefits on the day that you become disabled if you believe that you will be out of work for one year or more. Often claimants are told that they must wait 5 months or 1 year to file a claim; this is not true. It is best to hire a representative to help you as early in the process as possible.

Is it hard to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

No. There are two ways to apply for a Social Security disability claim. The first is to go to the Social Security District Office and file the claim in person. The second way is a telephone interview. Social Security can be contacted by telephone at 1-800-772-1213. A telephone interview will be arranged for you.

If Disability Experts of Florida is representing a client’s interests we will prepare the application for you. Our clients have their choice of an in office appointment or a telephone appointment. In any case Social Security’s availability for a new application appointment may be as much as 6 weeks from the time a claimant calls to file a claim before an appointment can be arranged. Disability Experts of Florida will prepare and file an application within 3 days of a call to our office for representation. This saves our clients' precious time and begins the adjudication process.

Can I get Social Security Disability Benefits if I expect to get better and return to work?

Yes, as long as your disabling impairment(s) have lasted or are expected to last at least 12 continuous months.

What's the average time it takes the SSA to inform me of their decision from the moment I file?

The time periods vary from area to area, but generally most initial Social Security decisions are made within four months. If you are turned down and have requested reconsideration it will generally take another four months to receive a decision. If you are turned down and have requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge it could take up to two years before you have a hearing. And, if you are turned down at the hearing level and have requested an Appeals Council review, it could take one year or more to receive a decision.

Why are the time periods so important in Social Security cases?

Timely filing is a very important thing to remember with Social Security. In all cases but two you have 60 days from the decision to apply for a higher-level appeal. If you go past the 60-day period, without good cause, you may have to file an entirely new claim. The two exceptions are:

  1. When your benefits have been ceased, you have 60 days to appeal the decision but only have 10 days to request your payments be continued during the appeal process
  2. If your case was remanded by a Federal District Court and was again denied by a Judge you have 30 days to appeal the recommended decision to the Appeals Council
What if Social Security tells me they are going to cut off my disability benefits?

You should immediately contact the Social Security Office and file an appeal. You have 60 days to appeal the decision terminating your benefits but only 10 days after being notified to request that your benefits be continued during the appeal.

Where can I get help with my Social Security disability/SSI claim?

In Florida you can contact Disability Experts of Florida (Toll Free) at (855) 777-0455.

Is it necessary to hire a representative to represent me in my Social Security Disability claim?

No. Claimants can represent themselves in all phases of the Social Security Disability process.  Claimants with representation tend to win their cases more often than those who are not represented.  You can hire either an attorney or a non-attorney professional representative.

Recent research by Herbert M. Kritzer, Legal Advocacy: Lawyers and Nonlawyers at Work (1998) indicates that non-lawyers can be more effective than lawyers. Most law schools and most graduate schools do not teach courses in Social Security. The important skills and knowledge pertaining to Social Security are acquired after leaving law school.

Our firm is augmented by professionals with extensive direct knowledge of the Social Security Disability process.

Is there a difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

Yes. Medicaid is associated with SSI and Medicare is associated with Disability Insurance Benefits.  Medicaid begins immediately upon receipt of SSI. Medicaid pays for prescription medications. Medicaid can also be retroactive up to three months prior to the date of an SSI claim. Medicare begins after you have received Social Security Disability cash benefits for 24 months; that includes Disability insurance Benefits, Disabled Widows or Widowers Benefits or Disabled Adult Child Benefits.

Can my spouse and/or children get benefits on my SSDI? Would this take away from my own benefits?

Yes. The SSA provides monthly SSDI benefits for each family member at 50% of your current rate, up to the Family Maximum rate (generally, 150-180% your benefit rate). Family member rates are decreased across the board to meet the Maximum Rate if they exceed it. The SSA provides family benefits to:

  • Spouses: spouse must be age 62+ or taking care of your child (child must be a minor under 16 years old)
  • Divorced spouses: divorced spouses must be age 62+, unmarried and must have been married to you for 10+ years
  • Children: biological children, stepchildren or adopted children can receive benefits under your SSDI if they are under age 18, a high school student up to age 19, or have a disability that onset before age 22.