Frequently Asked Questions

Many basic questions about Social Security can be answered by clicking here.

What is Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Philadelphia Social Security Disability law firm1Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federally run programs that provide cash assistance to people who are unable to work for at least 12 months due to physical or mental medical impairments.

Social Security regulations are complex and the process is difficult to navigate. You must present medical reports with clinical and laboratory findings establishing that you are unable to perform any work that exists in the national economy.  It is also crucial to obtain reports from your treating doctors about what they think you are capable of doing in a work setting.  Your testimony alone cannot establish disability.  Because many doctors are unfamiliar with the legal standards, it is necessary to have an attorney working with your medical providers in order to obtain all the required evidence.

What is the Difference Between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security Disability and SSI are both federally run disability programs, and they have identical requirements to prove medical disability.  However, the non-medical requirements for each program differ.  In some circumstances, you may be entitled to both Social Security Disability and SSI.

To receive Social Security Disability, you must have paid into the Social Security system over the course of your working life for long enough to have become “insured.”  There are complex requirements about how long you have to have worked in order to establish eligibility.  If you meet these requirements, and prove medical disability:

  • You can get benefits for up to a year before you applied.
  • You cannot collect benefits for the first five months you are disabled.
  • The amount of your benefits depends on how much you paid into the system.
  • You can usually get benefits for your minor or disabled children.

The rules for SSI are different.  To prove you are eligible for SSI:

  • You don’t have to have worked at all.
  •  You have to prove that you are financially needy. You cannot have more than $2000 in resources ($3000 for a couple), but Social Security doesn’t count the home you live in.
  • You can have some income but the rules are complicated and depend on whether the income you have is earned or unearned.
  • Monthly benefits vary depending on household income. The maximum monthly payment is set each year by the federal government.  For the year 2014, the maximum federal benefit for an individual is $721 a month.
  • Benefits cannot start before the first full month after the month you applied, but there is no five-month waiting period, as there is for SSD.
  • In most states, you are automatically eligible for Medicaid.
  • You can’t get benefits for your children.  However, there is a separate SSI program for children who are disabled.

Why do I Need an Attorney to Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?

Whether you are starting a new application or appealing a denial, legal representation by experienced attorneys is essential.  Social Security statistics show that claimants who hire attorneys are more likely to obtain disability benefits than those without representation. Dealing with Social Security can be intimidating, and you may be unsure about how to present your case without an attorney advocating for you.  It is especially important that your representative be an attorney from a law firm, rather than a non-attorney acting in a representative capacity, because attorneys have years of experience and training. It’s also important to have an attorney who is familiar with the Social Security adjudication process in your geographical area.

How Can I Afford to Pay a Philadelphia Social Security Disability Lawyer to Represent Me?

At the Philadelphia Social Security Disability law firm of Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein, all initial consultations are free of charge.  If you decide to hire one of our attorneys to represent you in your Social Security disability or SSI (Supplemental Security Administration) case, we cannot charge and collect a fee unless it is approved by Social Security.  If we win your case, the fee is generally 25% of your and your children’s back benefits or $6000, whichever is less (unless your case has to be appealed to federal court).  If you lose, we will not charge you any attorneys fees.  If there are any costs to get your medical records, we will not ask you to pay those costs until your case is over.