Social Security Disability Insurance FAQs

Prepare for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process with this list of frequently asked questions.

The Social Security Disability Insurance process is often long and complicated, but knowing more about the basics can take away some of the uncertainty that you might be feeling. Here are some commonly asked questions that will help you better understand the SSDI process and what a difference it makes to have True Help representation.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. Its purpose is to provide income to people unable to work because of a severe, long-term disability.

You must be insured. That generally means you must have worked and paid into the program (payroll taxes) for five of the last 10 years. You must also have been disabled before reaching full-retirement age (65-67) and you must meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Your full-retirement age varies depending on your birth date.

We assist adults who have paid FICA taxes and are expected to be out of work for at least a year or longer. You must have doctor support and a condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) requirements.

People seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits must file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can submit an application to the SSA on your own, or you can work with an expert SSDI representative, like True Help, to submit your application. We’ve created a personalized online tool, empower, that puts our SSDI expertise at your fingertips, guiding you through the application process. You can take our free SSDI Assessment now to determine your likelihood of qualifying.

Generally, it’s being unable to work because of a verifiable mental or physical impairment expected to result in death, or has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months.

It can be. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies 67% of the people filing initial disability applications. It also can take a long time, on average two to four years.

Our overall award rate is about 97% for those who complete the process with us.

You can apply on your own. However, having disability representation like True Help may dramatically improve and speed your chances of receiving disability benefits. As a group, our True Help experts have accumulated decades of disability benefits experience. The vast majority of Social Security Disability Insurance applicants have a representative for their appeal.

  • We will represent you at all levels of the SSDI process, from application through appeals.
  • We have more than 30 years of experience representing people in their local areas.
  • People who choose True Help usually get their approvals faster, which benefits you.
  • We’re here when you need us and we keep you informed on a regular basis.

The SSA governs the fees of representatives. Our typical fee is 25% of the retroactive (back) award, not to exceed $6,000. We do not charge a fee unless we’re successful in obtaining your benefits. And there are no add-on fees for travel, collecting medical records of other out-of-pockets costs.

Unfortunately, it’s not a quick process. Generally, it takes about three to five months for the initial decision. Reconsideration (first appeal) will take another three to five months. The second appeal is before an administrative law judge in Social Security’s Office of Hearing Operations (OHO), and this level may take up to 12-24 months for a decision.

Yes, we offer information and guidance about how to prepare for an appeal hearing. You can find it here.

The dollar amount is based on a complicated formula largely determined by the amount of your past earnings that have been subjected to FICA taxes. Use this online benefits calculator to get an estimate about how much you can expect to receive.

Yes. It doesn’t happen often, but you can lose your disability benefits if your condition improves to the point that you no longer meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled.” The SSA must show there has been medical improvement related to your ability to work before they can cease your SSDI benefits.

Children up to age 18 or who have not graduated from high school are entitled to benefits if a parent is deceased, retired or disabled. Generally, dependent children of a disabled parent will receive an additional amount of about 50% of the disabled parent’s own monthly benefit. The 50% is divided equally among all eligible dependents.

Social Security Disability Insurance provides income until your condition improves, and includes important financial incentives to help you return to work and provides ongoing income if your condition does not improve. You’re entitled to it based on payroll taxes you have paid and your employer has matched. Also, when you receive SSDI, you qualify for other important programs like Medicare and prescription drug assistance, and protect your future Social Security retirement benefits.

Our Understanding SSDI page is a good place to start. It will direct you to other informative SSDI pages on our website. We also recommend visiting the Social Security Administration’s website.

The receipt of unemployment benefits does not necessarily preclude you from receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. It is, however, a factor examiners consider when determining whether or not you qualify for SSDI benefits. Some administrative law judges (ALJs) may not award SSDI benefits if someone is receiving or has applied for unemployment. Disability onset dates may have to be amended to the day after someone received their last unemployment check. (Important: The disability onset date may be the date the disabling condition began, or the date your condition required you to seek SSDI or severely affected your ability to be employed.)

The issue with unemployment versus SSDI benefits is the difference in why someone receives these benefits. When you receive SSDI, you are unable to do your past work or any other work. Unemployment benefits generally indicate you are ready, willing and able to work, but haven’t found employment yet. ALJs typically look at your individual circumstances when determining the significance of your application for unemployment benefits and related efforts to obtain employment when determining if you qualify for SSDI.

No, it is different. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a welfare-based program, with no connection to past employment. Monthly benefits are paid to people who meet requirements for limited income and resources who are disabled, blind or age 65 or older.

Blind or disabled children, as well as adults, can get SSI benefits. If a claimant’s household income exceeds $735 per month for an individual and $1,103 for a couple, or the value of their resources are above $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple, then they are not eligible for SSI.

Our SSDI representation includes screening for SSI eligibility. You may not be eligible for SSI if you are over the financial limits, so Social Security may send a general financial denial. Regardless of SSI outcome, we will still pursue your SSDI claim.

Ready for True Help with SSDI?

empower is a personalized online tool that guides you through the SSDI application process and can help you use these benefits to return to work, if and when you medically recover. Get started by taking our free SSDI Assessment to determine your likelihood of qualifying.

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