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QUESTION:   How do I apply for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

ANSWER:   You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits by going in person to your local Social Security office, or by calling the Social Security Administration to request an application, or by going to the Social Security Administration's website at www.ssa.gov.

QUESTION:   How does the Social Security Administration decide whether I am disabled?

ANSWER:   The Social Security Administration defines "disability" as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last 12 months or to result in death. The key issue in determining whether you are "disabled" under Social Security rules is whether your physical and mental impairments prevent you from doing any type of full-time work. Just having a medical condition is not enough by itself to qualify you for disability benefits.

QUESTION:   Can I get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits even if I haven't worked much due to my health problems?

ANSWER:  In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must  be "fully insured." The number of years that you must work before you are "fully insured" varies according to the age at which you became disabled. Therefore, you may not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you do not have enough work history to be fully insured. However, you may still qualify for SSI benefits based on your disability, even if you have never worked, as long as your household income and resources fall below the SSI program's financial eligibility limits.

QUESTION: What do I do if my application for disability benefits is denied?

ANSWER:  If your application for disability benefits is denied, you have the right to appeal that decision. You must request an appeal in writing, and you only have a limited time to request an appeal. In general, uou must request your appeal within 60 days from the date on your denial notice. 

QUESTION:  Do I have to get a lawyer to appeal the denial of my application for disability benefits?

ANSWER: You are not required to have a lawyer to appeal your case. However, a claimant who is represented by an attorney is more likely to have his or her benefits approved on appeal than an unrepresented claimant.

QUESTION: What will it cost to hire an attorney to help me with my Social Security claim? 

ANSWER:  You do not have to pay any attorneys' fees up front. Instead, you pay attorneys' fees only if you win your case. Once you are approved for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will withhold 25% of your back benefit award up to a maximum amount of $5300 for attorneys' fees. You do not have to pay attorney's fees if you do not win your case, although you may be responsible for some costs, such as the cost of your medical records.