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What Documents Do I Need to Apply for Social Security Disability?

What Documents Do I Need to Apply for Social Security Disability?

documents needed for social security disability

Getting ready to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits but aren’t sure you have all the proper documents? The disability application process can be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before, and ensuring that you provide adequate evidence of your disability is crucial to getting approved the first time. Find out more about the documents needed for Social Security disability with this guide from Social Security Disability Advocates USA. 

Personal Information & Family Details

The beginning of the SSDI application will ask for basic personal information and supporting documents about you and your spouse, former spouses, and any unmarried children under the age of 18 (or children between the ages of 18 and 19 who are enrolled in secondary school full-time). Here are the most important documents you’ll need:

  • Your original birth certificate* (or a certified copy)
  • If born outside of the United States, a certificate of citizenship or permanent resident card
  • Your marriage certificate or marriage license
  • Divorce decree for any previous marriages that lasted 10 years or more
  • Your Social Security card
  • The Social Security numbers, birthdates, and living arrangements of any qualifying dependents 
  • Banking information (i.e., your bank account number and routing number so you can enroll in direct deposit)

*If you are unable to provide your birth certificate, the Social Security Administration may also accept certain religious records, such as a baptismal certificate from age five or younger.

Education, Work History, & Military Service

You must also provide basic information about your education and a detailed history of your recent employment. Documents and information you’ll need include:

  • Highest level of education completed, the city/state where the school was located, and the date you left school
  • Any vocational training or trade schools attended, including the date you completed them and the city/state they were located in
  • Copies of W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns from the previous year
  • Employer information or self-employment information for the current year and the past two years (this information can often be found on old pay stubs)
  • The date that your medical condition(s) began to affect your ability to work
  • Types of jobs you had (up to 5 total) in the 15 years prior to your disabling condition
  • Kinds of tasks you were assigned at the job you had the longest
  • Service in the U.S. military, including branch, type of duty, and service period dates
  • Your discharge papers if you were discharged from the military prior to 1968

Workers’ Compensation

If you have received workers’ compensation due to a debilitating injury or illness, documents needed for Social Security disability also include:

  • Your award letter and claim number
  • Your settlement agreement
  • Pay stubs
  • Any other proof you have of temporary or permanent workers’ compensation benefits you’ve received

Photocopies of the above documents are acceptable.

Medical Records & Documentation

Of all the documents needed for Social Security disability, evidence of your debilitating medical condition are some of the most important. Insufficient documentation of an injury or illness is one of the biggest reasons for SSDI claim denials. If you do not have access to or don’t know how to request your medical records or other corroborative documents, a disability benefits lawyer can help you in sourcing this crucial evidence. 

Remember, as a disability claimant it is your responsibility to establish through medical and nonmedical evidence that 1) you have a medically determinable impairment and 2) the severity of your impairment prevents you from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Examples of acceptable supporting documentation are listed below.

  • Contact information for doctors, clinics, hospitals, or other medical personnel who have treated you
  • Dates of diagnoses, hospitalizations, doctor’s appointments, procedures, or surgeries
  • Copies of test results and laboratory findings
  • List of all prescription medications you’ve taken for your disability, length of time you’ve been taking the medication, and the efficacy of the medication
  • Copies of medical reports, medical histories, clinical findings, treatment history, and prognoses
  • Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form completed by your primary care doctor or treating physician
  • Statements from nonmedical sources such as an employer, spouse, parent, caregiver, sibling, relative, friend, neighbor, clergy, social welfare agency personnel, counselor, therapist, teacher, etc.

Get Help from a Social Security Disability Lawyer

To get help with applying for Social Security programs, accessing crucial documents, appealing a decision, or just to talk about all your legal options, consider contacting Social Security Disability Advocates USA. We offer free consultations to anyone with questions about disability benefits. There’s no hidden fees and no obligation to utilize our legal services—just quality legal advice from a compassionate and dedicated law firm.

To get in touch with a Social Security disability lawyer, give us a call 24/7 at 602-952-3200. Representatives are also standing by via LiveChat to answer your questions. To request your free case review online now, simply fill out this form

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.
How Can a Lawyer Help Win Social Security Disability Benefits?

How Can a Lawyer Help Win Social Security Disability Benefits?

disability benefits lawyer

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits has a reputation for being a difficult process, but do you really need a lawyer in order to successfully get approved for benefits? While there’s no requirement to have your application reviewed by a Social Security disability attorney, there are a few major reasons why you might want to consider it. Learn more about the advantages of consulting a disability benefits lawyer from Social Security Disability Advocates USA. 


#1: They Can Determine Which Programs You May Be Eligible For

Before you even start filling out an application, an experienced disability benefits lawyer can help you figure out which benefit programs you might be eligible for. This might include SSDI, Supplemental Security Income, VA disability benefits, workers’ compensation, or other local assistance programs. Because the approval process for SSDI can take a while, an attorney may also be able to guide you towards other types of financial aid that you may qualify for in the meantime.


#2: They Can Review Your Application for Common Errors

The initial application for SSDI is quite lengthy. If you don’t have all the information you need before you start the process, don’t understand the instructions, or rush through it, you will likely end up with a denied claim (along with about 60% of other first-time applicants). 

With the odds stacked against you, you need to make sure that your application is complete, accurate, and well-supported by appropriate evidence. An experienced disability benefits lawyer knows exactly what to look for and will ensure that your application is submitted correctly the first time. They will also look over your entire application for common errors, missing information, and anything else that might compromise your approval.


#3: They Can Help You Properly Document Your Claim

In addition to information about your disability, your application must also include all relevant personal information, banking information, family details, a thorough education and work history, and a plethora of medical records relating to your diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, etc. Tracking down and coordinating all of this information could easily overwhelm anyone, let alone someone who may also be suffering from physical, mental, or emotional symptoms related to their disability.

When you hire a disability benefits lawyer, you’re not just choosing someone who will show up in a suit at a hearing. You’re also consulting with an organized professional—one who can assist you in sourcing and obtaining the medical records, doctor’s notes, hospitalization history, tax records, work and salary verification, diplomas or certificates, and any other evidence that will prove to the Social Security Administration that your condition meets their stringent requirements to qualify for disability.


#4: They’ll Represent You at an Appeals Hearing

The first step in the appeals process after receiving a denial letter from the Social Security Administration is to ask for a reconsideration. This level of appeal involves a complete review of your original application and supporting documents by an employee who did not take part in the original evaluation of your claim. If time has passed and you now have additional supporting information, you can include it in the reconsideration. 

If you submitted your application on your own and were denied, this is a good time to consult a disability benefits lawyer, as a few key pieces of evidence may be the difference between yet another denial and being approved for monthly benefits.

If you’re still denied benefits after a reconsideration, you will need to appear at a hearing by an administrative law judge. You and your attorney will have another chance to present new evidence and submit a persuasive legal brief. Witnesses, such as doctors or vocational experts, will also have the opportunity to testify to the credibility and severity of your disability. Your lawyer can ask them questions and answer questions from the judge on your behalf. Should your claim be denied again, a disability benefits lawyer will be essential in the appeals that follow, including appearing before the Appeals Council or even the Federal District Court. 


#5: They’ll Always Be Thinking One Step Ahead

There’s no sugar coating the fact that getting approved for SSDI benefits can take months or years to accomplish. Being successful requires legal knowledge, attention to detail, patience, and tenacity. Despite qualifying for disability being a sometimes lengthy process, it’s very easy to lose track of important deadlines throughout your application, reconsideration, and the rest of the appeals process. 

Missing one of these deadlines—or not being prepared for the next step in your case—can destroy a valid claim all too easily. With an accomplished disability benefits lawyer in your corner, you can rest assured that your claim will be taken care of without unexpected pitfalls.


Talk to a Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

To get help with applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial, contact a Social Security disability lawyer today. Social Security Disability Advocates USA offers free consultations to help you sort out fact from fiction when it comes to qualifying for and maximizing your monthly SSDI benefits. There’s no hidden fee and no obligation to utilize our legal services—just quality legal advice from a compassionate and dedicated law firm.

To get in touch with a member of our team, give us a call 24/7 at 602-952-3200. Representatives are also standing by via LiveChat to answer your questions. To request your free case review online now, simply fill out this form

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.
Does a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect Social Security Disability?

Does a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect Social Security Disability?

workers' comp and disability

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there were 4.64 million work-related medically consulted injuries in 2019. In addition, 4,572 workers died on the job from a preventable injury. In spite of increased awareness surrounding workplace safety, 2019 was the second consecutive year that preventable workplace deaths increased by 2%. 

For many workers, getting injured at work is an unfortunate setback, but many go on to make a full recovery and get back to their livelihoods. For others, though, suffering a workplace injury may mean a long-term rehabilitation process or even permanent disability. Filing for disability benefits along with payments from a workers’ compensation settlement may help you stay afloat, but there may be limitations as to how much cash assistance you can receive from these programs. Find out more about workers’ comp and disability from the legal team at Social Security Disability Advocates USA.

Can I Get Workers’ Comp and Disability at the Same Time?

Workers may be able to receive a workers’ compensation settlement (either as regular payments or as a lump sum) and also collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits concurrently. Both of these are public programs, but they are run by different entities and have different requirements to qualify for benefits. 

Workers’ compensation is overseen by individual U.S. states, while Social Security disability is run by the Social Security Administration, a federal program. Depending on the state you live in, you could qualify for assistance from one, both, or neither program. In addition, you may also receive disability benefits from other private and public sources, such as a private pension, Veterans Administration benefits, state and local government benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Will a Workers’ Comp Settlement Decrease My Disability Benefits?

A workers’ compensation settlement does carry the possibility of reducing the amount of monthly disability benefits you can qualify for from the SSA. Whether or not this will affect you depends on several factors, including how much your workers’ comp settlement is worth and the amount of your average monthly earnings prior to being injured on the job. 

To figure out if and by how much your SSDI benefits may be reduced, add the amount of your monthly disability benefits from the SSA, your workers’ compensation payment, and other public disability payments you receive. (Private disability insurance and certain public sources like Supplemental Security Income or VA benefits don’t count towards this total.)

If the total amount of your monthly disability payments exceeds 80% of your average current earnings before you became disabled, your SSDI benefits will be reduced accordingly. 

What if I Received a Lump Sum Workers’ Comp Settlement?

Not everyone who receives workers’ comp benefits collects them in installment payments. In some cases, it may be more beneficial for you to accept a one-time lump sum payment for your workers’ compensation claim. If this is the case, then how does workers’ comp and disability affect your monthly allowance?

Most of the time, the SSA will convert your lump sum settlement into monthly installment payments for the purpose of figuring out whether or not you’re surpassing the 80% limit of average current earnings. If, for example, you had been receiving $1,100 per month in workers’ compensation and then took a lump sum payment of $22,000, the SSA will likely calculate the equivalent monthly payment of $1,100 for the next 20 months ($22,000 / $1,100 per month = 20 months). 

Will My SSDI Be Permanently Reduced Because of Workers’ Comp?

The offset of SSDI benefits to accommodate either a lump sum payment or monthly payments of a workers’ comp claim may affect your finances for a time, but this reduction in benefits is not permanent. As soon as your workers’ compensation runs out, you can notify the Social Security Administration and your monthly benefit will be increased, so long as nothing else has changed in terms of your disability.

If your workers’ comp does not run out, your benefits will change once you reach full retirement age. At this point, you will begin receiving regular Social Security benefits in lieu of SSDI benefits, and your monthly payments should increase to 100% of your maximum possible benefit.

Need Help with Workers’ Comp and Disability?

Trying to figure out how your workers’ compensation settlement will affect your Social Security disability benefits on your own can be tricky. Both programs are handled by different entities and have different rules for qualifying. In addition, your workers’ compensation settlement agreement may have its own stipulations as far as how your SSDI benefits are offset.

To get help with applying for disability benefits, calculating your average current earnings, and planning for your financial future, contact a Social Security disability lawyer today. Our law firm offers free initial consultations to help you sort out fact from fiction when it comes to qualifying for and maximizing your monthly SSDI benefits. 

Our experienced attorneys will collaborate with your workers’ comp representative to make sure you’re getting fair compensation from both your employer and the Social Security Administration. And, should you also need legal assistance to complete your workers’ comp claim, we can also connect you with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. 

Social Security Disability Advocates USA is available around the clock 24/7 to take your call at 602-952-3200. You can also get in touch with a representative online right now by using our LiveChat service. To request your free, no obligation consultation, call today or fill out this simple request form.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.
How Much Can I Earn on Social Security Disability in 2021?

How Much Can I Earn on Social Security Disability in 2021?

Before you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, one of the many considerations you’ll need to make is whether disability benefits alone will provide you with enough financial support. The maximum disability benefit amount you can receive each month (as of 2021) is $3,148. However, the average beneficiary will receive somewhere closer to $1,277 per month.

disability income limits

Of course, qualifying for SSDI benefits is contingent upon proving that you have a disabling condition which prevents you from making substantial income. But just because you are receiving disability benefits doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to generate any income. Read on to find out about 2021 SSDI income limits and how to maximize your monthly earnings and benefits.

Disability Income Limits in 2021

It is possible to both receive disability benefits and earn income at the same time, provided that you earn under a certain amount and conform to other Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements. As of 2021, the maximum amount of money an individual can earn while receiving SSDI benefits is $1,310 for non-blind disabled workers. (Disabled workers who are blind are subject to SSDI income limits of $2,190 per month.)

If you don’t have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI but are still disabled and low income, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. SSI income limits are based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is currently $794 per month for individuals or $1,191 for couples. Earned income exclusions may make it easier for you to qualify for SSI.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Anything beyond the disability income limit is considered to be Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Disabled workers who engage in SGA are at risk of losing their benefits, so it’s important to keep track of how much you’re earning if you plan to work while on disability or during the application process. You also should know about your other options for earning income and drawing disability or transitioning back into the workforce via the Ticket to Work program.

Trial Work Periods

If you’re receiving benefits but decide you want to test your ability to work, you can enroll in what’s called a trial work period. During this nine-month period, you are allowed to earn as much as you can and still receive monthly payments. As of 2021, any monthly earnings over $940 per month will automatically trigger a trial work period. The nine months of work you engage in may be consecutive or may add up to nine months of work within a 60-month period. 

SSDI income limits 2021

As long as you do not work more than nine months in this time while earning over $940 per month and you remain medically disabled, you can still collect full benefits during the trial work period. However, keep in mind that your overall monthly earnings will be evaluated by the SSA at the end of your trial work period and could lead to a termination of benefits if you’re determined to be capable of engaging in SGA—that is, if you’re consistently earning more than $1,310 per month. 

Extended Period of Eligibility

If you earn more than $940 per month during your nine-month trial work period but less than $1,310, you can qualify for an extended period of eligibility after your trial work period. This extension lasts for an additional 36 months. You’ll remain eligible to receive SSDI benefits every month, but you will not receive a payment for any month in which you earn more than 2021 SSDI income limits (i.e., more than $1,310 per month). 

If, after your 36-month extended period of eligibility, you continue to earn more than $1,310 in one month, your SSDI benefits will lapse. The good news is that, even if you do end up losing your benefits after an extended period of eligibility, you’ll be able to get approved for benefits much more quickly if you’re unable to work again in the next five years. With Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) of benefits, your condition will be reviewed again, but you’ll start receiving monthly payments immediately in the interim.

How to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your SSDI Benefits

If you’re thinking about applying for disability but are still employed, or if you’ve been receiving benefits but are considering part-time work to help make ends meet, it’s crucial that you get all the facts before making any decisions that could put your disability benefits in jeopardy. 

To get help with applying for Social Security programs, appealing a decision, or just to talk about all your legal options, consider contacting an experienced Social Security disability lawyer at Social Security Disability Advocates USA. 

Our friendly legal team will schedule a free consultation to review your case and help you understand the possible impacts of SSDI income limits. Call us today at 602-952-3200, chat with us via LiveChat, or send us a message using our secure contact form

How Does Social Security Disability Affect Retirement Benefits?

How Does Social Security Disability Affect Retirement Benefits?

Whether retirement is only a few years away or you’re a younger disabled worker planning for the future, understanding the impacts of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is important. Find out what you need to know about disability and retirement, plus tips for managing your benefits, from the Social Security disability lawyers at SSDA USA.

What’s The Difference Between Disability and Retirement?

First up, let’s talk about the difference between disability and retirement benefits. Both are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and both are programs designed to provide financial assistance to Americans who can no longer work. Both programs also have specific requirements beneficiaries must meet in order to qualify for benefits.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

disability or retirement

SSDI benefits are awarded to people whose medical condition meets the SSA’s definition of a disability—that is, a physical or mental health condition that prevents someone from working and engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In addition, the qualifying condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one (1) year (or alternatively, to result in that person’s death).

Unlike other Social Security programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), qualifying for disability also requires that you have earned enough work credits. SSDI is funded by Social Security payroll taxes, so in order to be considered insured, you must have worked long enough, recently enough, and you must have paid Social Security taxes on your earnings. Once you qualify for disability, your benefits will continue unless your disability improves or until you reach retirement age.

Qualifying for Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits, like SSI and SSDI, are a type of monthly payment paid to eligible Americans by the SSA. Once you have amassed enough work credits, paid into Social Security through federal taxes, and reached age 62, you can begin collecting retirement benefits. The amount of your monthly benefit depends on how much you worked, how much money you made, and whether you decide to keep working past the age of 62.

If you wait until your full retirement age (for those born after 1960, age 67), your monthly benefit will increase. And, if you are able to and decide to keep working until you are 70 years old, you can maximize your monthly retirement benefits. Once you begin receiving retirement benefits, you will continue to receive them for the rest of your life.

Can I Receive Social Security Disability AND Retirement Benefits?

In most cases, you cannot receive Social Security disability and retirement benefits at the same time, since SSDI benefits are meant for those who cannot work due to injury or illness. If you’re receiving retirement benefits, it is already implicit that you are no longer working. There is one exception to this rule, however. 

If you take an early retirement at age 62 before applying for disability benefits, and are later found to have been eligible for disability during that time, the Social Security Administration will make up the difference between your early retirement benefits and your monthly disability benefits for those months that you received early retirement payments. Of course, you’ll have to submit adequate documentation that you took an early retirement because of your disabling condition.

It’s also worth noting that some individuals can draw monthly benefits from more than one Social Security program. For example, you may be able to qualify for both SSI and SSDI or retirement and SSI.

Is it Better to Retire Early or Go on Disability?

disability and retirement

If you are approaching early retirement age and also have become disabled, you may be unsure whether you should take an early retirement or apply for disability until you reach full retirement age. 

On the one hand, if you already know you have enough work credits to retire, the processing of starting your retirement benefits will be a lot easier than going through the laborious process of applying for disability. 

On the other hand, you may not want to sacrifice the extra monthly benefits (as much as 30% more) you could get if you waited until full retirement or age 70 to begin collecting benefits. If you’re not too concerned about your financial stability, opting for early retirement might not seem like a big deal, especially if you have a pension through your employer or other types of retirement accounts like an IRA or 401K.

However, if you’re like many Americans, you may need all the help you can get from the Social Security Administration. In this case, it’s most likely better to get approved for disability benefits rather than take an early retirement and lose out on your hard-earned benefits. While it can be true that getting approved for SSDI can take time, effort, and patience, disability benefits can offer you a kind of flexibility that retirement can’t—especially if there’s a chance of your disability improving.

What Happens To My Disability Benefits When I Reach Retirement Age?

Once you successfully get approved for disability benefits, your monthly benefits should stay the same unless your disability improves, you start engaging in Substantial Gainful Employment (SGA), or you have a spouse whose income surpasses SSDI threshold levels. You can even continue to work part-time on disability or try out other options like a trial work period to see if you’re able to fully transition back into the workforce.

Making the switch from receiving disability payments to retirement benefits is simple—because for most beneficiaries, their monthly benefit stays exactly the same. This is because the SSA calculates your SSDI benefits as though you have already reached full retirement age, which is equal to 100% of your maximum benefit based on your lifetime earnings.

Get Help Qualifying for Disability Benefits

The truth is, applying for disability can be a long and sometimes frustrating process. Most first-time applicants are denied, and appeals can take months. However, this doesn’t mean you should give up hope. With the help of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer, you can increase your odds of being approved the first time and strengthen your claim should you need to go through the appeals process.

To find out the difference having dedicated representation on your side can make, contact us at Social Security Disability Advocates USA today. We’ll arrange a free, no obligation consultation with our legal team to review your disability claim and help you make the right decision for you and your family. Get in touch 24/7 by calling 602-952-3200, connecting with one of our LiveChat agents, or by filling out this form to request your complimentary case review.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.