Q: I Filed My Application for Disability Benefits. How Long Will It Take to Get a Decision?
Most initial determinations are made between 3-4 months after you submit your completed application. If you are denied as a result of the initial determination, then you can file a request for reconsideration and SSA will reconsider your claim. On average that decision takes about 3-4 months.
If you are denied as a result of a reconsideration determination, then you can file a request for an administrative law hearing. The hearing is scheduled by region and certain regions have different wait times for scheduling hearings. On average in the Seattle metro area, this hearing will be scheduled within 10 months from when you made a request for it.
Q: I Heard that Social Security Denies Everybody’s Disability Claim at First, And You Have to Keep Appealing the Case if You Want to Win Your Benefits. Is That True?
Not necessarily. While statistics are always subject to change, the current statistics are that SSA grants about 50% of the initial and reconsideration applicants who apply. This means that about half of those who apply will be granted disability prior to ever going to an actual hearing.
Q: Will I Win My Case If I Hire a Lawyer?
We wish we could answer yes to this, but there is no way to guarantee you will win your case, even if you hire a great lawyer with many years of experience to represent you. Whether you are disabled is a question of law. An experienced lawyer knows the law and knows how to present your case in the best possible way in order to win. Therefore, you increase your chances of winning your case if you hire a lawyer who understands the law, and who is familiar with the entire process.
Q: How Much Back Pay Will I Get if I Win My Case?
This will depend on your specific case. If you win a claim for Social Security disability, which is based on your work history, then the maximum amount of back pay or past-due benefits you will receive is 1 year prior to the date of your application. If you win a claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits, meaning you are disabled and in financial need of assistance, then the SSA can pay you benefits as of your application date, but no earlier.
You may have previous applications that you never appealed. In some circumstances the denial of the previous claims can be re-opened. If that happens then you can receive more past-due benefits as a result. This depends on the facts of your case and when your previous applications were filed and denied. For a previous Social Security disability claim denial, SSA can reopen a claim that was denied 4 years prior to the date of the current application. For a previous Supplemental Security Income denial, SSA can reopen a claim that was denied 2 years prior to the date of the current application.
Q: If I Decide to Hire a Lawyer and We Win The Case, How Will My Lawyer Be Paid?
We are paid a percentage of your past-due benefits directly from SSA. You will not have to calculate this yourself. SSA has what is called an automatic fee approval process. SSA will approve your lawyer’s fee agreement as long as it fits their rules, and then they will pay your lawyer directly if you win your case.
Q: What Can I Do to Make My Case Better and Increase My Chances of Winning Benefits?
In the world of Social Security disability, less is not more. This means that you should try and get as much treatment as you can for the disabilities that are preventing you from working. SSA will be looking at your medical records very closely as evidence of your disabling conditions. If you are getting limited medical treatment or are not getting any medical treatment, then you will not have any evidence to show the nature of your condition and how it is affecting you.
Also, SSA is supposed to rely heavily on the opinions of your doctors and medical providers. You should mention this to your doctor and see whether he/she will be supportive of your claim and your inability to work. Later on in the process, we can reach out to your doctor or medical provider to obtain supportive evidence in an effort to strengthen your case.
Q: I Don’t Have a Lot of Treatment Because I Don’t Have Medical Insurance. What Can I Do?
You may be eligible for medical benefits through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. You would need to contact them directly and begin the application process: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/food-cash-medical
Also, you can apply for benefits through the Washington Benefit Health Exchange: https://wahbexchange.org
Q: Can I Get Partial Disability Through Social Security?
No. Social Security pays only for total disability, which means you are unable to work due to a disabling condition for a period of 12 months or more.
Q: Can I Get Disability Benefits While I’m Still Working?
Maybe. The Social Security Administration will first determine whether you are working and earning over an amount they consider to be substantial gainful activity. In 2015 substantial gainful activity is $1090/month. In 2014 substantial gainful activity was $1070/month. If you are earning substantial gainful activity, then you will not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. There is an exception for those who are working at a job where they may not be performing the work competitively. This is something that an experienced lawyer would have to go over with you in order to learn about the specific facts of your situation.