If you’ve become disabled, you could get help to pay for your medical and living expenses from
Social Security Disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides financial support to people who become disabled and lose their ability to work.
Some people buy disability insurance on their own or through their employer, which roughly replaces your take-home pay during the time you’re disabled or until the end of a predefined benefit period. But if you don’t have a separate disability insurance policy, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, and they're free.
If you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, these are benefits that you’ve earned by working and paying payroll taxes to the Social Security Administration (SSA). But it’s notoriously difficult to qualify for SSDI.
The vast majority of initial SSDI applications are denied, and after all levels of appeal the final acceptance rate has averaged a mere 34%. It can help to find a
Social Security disability lawyer near you to assist with your application.
How much does a Social Security disability benefits lawyer cost? The first thing to know is that SSDI lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case.
An SSDI attorney's fees are taken out of your Social Security Disability Insurance backpay award (past benefits owed to you, not future payments). If you don’t get awarded SSDI benefits, you pay no legal fees.
There are also limits on SSDI attorneys' fees. By law, the maximum fee a
Social Security disability lawyer can charge is 25% of your SSDI backpay award up to a maximum of $6,000. Typically, the Social Security disability lawyer's fee is less than the maximum $6,000 amount.
There are limited circumstances, though, in which an SSDI lawyer could seek more than $6,000 in attorneys' fees.
For example, if you are initially denied benefits and your Social Security disability lawyer appeals your case to the SSA Appeals Council or to federal court, your SSDI lawyer could petition the SSA to be able to ask for additional attorneys' fees.
But again, most SSDI lawyer's fees are less than the $6,000 maximum.
Wondering whether you need a Social Security disability lawyer? You are not technically required to hire an SSDI lawyer to apply for Social Security disability benefits. But many people hire Social Security disability lawyers because it can increase your chances of receiving SSDI benefits, and of getting them faster. (Remember, a mere 34% of applications are accepted).
And since SSDI is a federal program, you don’t need to hire a Social Security disability lawyer near you--you can hire one from anywhere in the country. It may be helpful to hire a
Social Security disability lawyer, though, if you intend to meet in person to discuss your case.
Get the benefits you've earned
So, what are the Social Security disability requirements to qualify for SSDI?
You are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if you are an American citizen or a legal resident. In the SSDI application process, you’ll need to prove that your disability may last for at least one year. And often you will also need to prove that you’ve been working for several years and are no longer able to earn an income above a certain threshold.
The Social Security Administration uses a five-point test to determine whether you meet the SSDI definition of disability:
Under each of these questions, the SSA evaluates various criteria to determine whether you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.
If you hire a
Social Security disability lawyer, they will handle the filing process for you. You can also apply on your own:
You may be wondering, "do I need a lawyer to apply for SSDI?" There is a clear financial benefit to applying on your own--if your application is successful, you won’t have any SSDI attorney fees deducted from your award.
But keep in mind that less than ⅓ of Social Security disability applications are approved, and many fail due to incomplete forms or information.
The SSDI application process can be overwhelming and confusing, and having a
Social Security disability lawyer guide you through the process will increase your chance of success.
The Social Security disability application process requires a lot of information. There are several things you should do to prepare for completing the application.
This information will help you complete your SSDI application, the Adult Disability Report, and answer any questions the SSA may have.
Typically, it takes three to four months to hear whether you are approved for Social Security disability benefits. If you are approved, the SSA will send you a letter detailing your benefits and any back pay benefits as well.
If your SSDI application is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the SSA.
If your Social Security disability benefits claim is denied, you can appeal that decision. There are several levels of appeal your application may go through.
Below is an overview:
Each step in the Social Security disability benefits appeals process is different.
It can take anywhere from three months to over a year to receive your Social Security disability benefits, depending on whether you need to go through the appeals process.
Below is the typical timeline for each stage:
It typically makes sense to apply for SSDI as soon as you become disabled. The Social Security disability application process will take at least three months, and there is also a mandatory waiting period of five months after the onset of your disability. The time that your SSDI application is pending counts towards the mandatory waiting period, though, so it makes sense to start the process as quickly as possible.
The SSDI application process can be overwhelming, confusing, and lengthy. A
Social Security disability lawyer can help you navigate the process and get you the benefits you’ve earned.
Get the benefits you've earned