Prominent Minnesota SSD Benefits Attorney
If you have Social Security Disability questions, we have put together several FAQs and answers provided directly by attorney Gerald Weinrich. We invite you to schedule a consultation with our office if you have concerns not addressed on this page.
What steps do I need to take to file for disability benefits?
There are three stages to the initial administrative application process. First, you need to file an application for disability benefits with the SSA. This application can be filed by going in person to any Social Security office, or in most cases can be done online. We can help you with the initial application process online at our office or by telephone. If you do not qualify to submit an online application, you will need to apply in person at a local Social Security office to file for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI). We can help you complete most of the forms that Social Security requires to be included with an SSI application.
How do I prove I am disabled?
The SSA has a number of rules that are used to determine whether somebody qualifies for disability insurance benefits. These rules are very complex, but for all practical purposes there are three ways to prove that you meet the disability requirements to receive benefits. First, you may be found disabled through applying the rules of the medical vocational guidelines grid. This is a series of regulations the SSA has adopted that take into consideration your age, education, previous work history and any functional limitations that result from your physical or mental impairment. Second, you may be found disabled by applying the medical listings. This is another series of regulations where the SSA has listed various physical and mental conditions that can impair your ability to work, describing the severity level at which they consider you to be disabled. Finally, if you do not meet either the grid or the listings, you can still qualify for disability benefits if we can prove that your condition and the resulting impairments on your ability to perform normal daily activities limits the number of jobs you can perform such that you are, for all practical purposes, unemployable or unable to work on a full time sustained basis.
Do I need to have an attorney represent me with the initial application?
There is no requirement that you have an attorney or representative help you with the initial application. You can do this yourself if the online application processes is available to you, or you can seek assistance of the staff of the local Social Security office. However, in our experience, it is very helpful for an applicant to seek the assistance of an attorney or representative from the very beginning. The application itself is deceptively simple. They ask you a very long series of very short questions. However, if you want your application taken seriously, it helps to have someone working for you who understands the language and specific terms that the Social Security Administration is looking for.
How long will it take to process my application or for a hearing to be held?
The initial process, from the initial application through the reconsideration stage, can take from two to six months. A lot depends upon how seriously the SSA takes your case. If the SSA believes your case warrants it, they may schedule you for an evaluation with one of its doctors. If we need to file a request for hearing, it can be 18 months or more from the date of the request before a hearing is scheduled. After the hearing, it takes an average of two to three months for a decision to be issued. After that, if we win, it takes a month or two for current benefits to start being paid. From the date of the decision, it can take from one to six months for all back benefits to be paid. Thus, this process takes a long time, much longer than it should. We've discovered that there are few opportunities for a representative to speed things up. We will do our best, however, to prevent the process from slowing down.
Do I need to get medical records or reports for my representative?
No, you do not have to get any medical records or reports yourself. In fact, it is better to let our office request this information so we have the complete and up to date medical records.
But what if my doctor gives me a report?
If you happen to get something such as a disability form completed by your doctor for an insurance company, etc., be sure to send us a copy so we may properly file it directly with SSA to ensure your case stays up to date.
What if the SSA sends me a form to be completed?
At each stage of the process, the SSA will be sending you forms it wants you to fill out. You should try to complete these forms to the best of your ability. However, do not hesitate to call our office to schedule an appointment if you want our assistance in completing the form. Do not send the form directly back to SSA. Instead, call to make an appointment so we can review the form with you and make any changes we believe are necessary. We will see that the form is properly filed. Most of the time, these forms come with letters saying that they need to be returned within unrealistically short periods of time. Do not be concerned about these deadlines. Filing an application for disability benefits is an ongoing process, and we are always submitting new information to the SSA.
Should I inform my representative whenever I see a doctor?
No, is not necessary to contact us about routine medical care, but keep track of the dates of all medical treatment between now and the time we go to your hearing. When we send you the letter about your hearing date, we will send you a form to complete regarding the medical care you've received since we first saw you.
Under what circumstances should I call my representative?
There will be little need for you to call me to discuss your case prior to the hearing. However, please call if one of the following occurs:
- There is a dramatic change in your condition, for the worse or the better
- Your doctor gives you a new diagnosis of your medical condition
- You are hospitalized
- You go back to work
- You change your address or telephone number
- Someone from SSA contacts you
- You get a letter from SSA which you do not understand
- You get a notice of hearing without first getting a letter from us regarding the date of your hearing
- You get a form from the judge to be completed by your doctor
How far back can I collect disability benefits?
The Social Security Administration will advise you of the date of entitlement for your case. Social Security Disability benefits never begin on the date one becomes disabled due to the five-month waiting period. Another rule limits payment of back benefits to 12 months before the date of the application. Therefore, your benefits begin either 12 months prior to the date of application or five months after the date you were found to be disabled, whichever is later.
What will the amount of my monthly benefits be?
The SSA may calculate your benefit amount before it pays you. If you are approved, you will be informed in writing of your monthly benefit amount. You will receive cost of living increases, which are applied every December. If you feel that the SSA is underpaying you, please contact our office.
If I am approved for benefits, will I be eligible for Medicare?
Medicare eligibility begins after you have received 24 months of Social Security Disability benefits.
Do I have to pay taxes on the Social Security Disability benefits I receive?
This depends on the amount of your total income. Most people will not have to pay taxes on their Social Security Disability benefits. Couples whose combined income is more than $32,000 and individuals with income exceeding $25,000 will pay income tax on a portion of their Social Security Disability benefits.
The IRS has an odd way of figuring out total income for this rule. The IRS uses adjusted gross income as reported on Form 1040, plus half of the total Social Security benefits received for the year, plus non-taxable interest.
Single people with incomes over $34,000 and married people with incomes over $44,000 pay tax on a higher percentage of their benefits.
If you fall into the group of people who may be taxed on Social Security Disability benefits only because you received a large check for past-due benefits during the year, you still may not have to pay tax on your Social Security benefits. The IRS has set up a way to recalculate your back benefits and consider them received in the year you should have received them rather than in the current year.
Contact Our Firm
If you have questions for a Rochester lawyer regarding topics not addressed on this Social Security Disability FAQ page, schedule a consultation with Gerry at Weinrich Law Office by calling 507-216-0217 , or complete the e-mail form located on this website.