Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Last Updated On: 2/5/2018 6:30:28 PM

This information is general; it cannot address every circumstance. If you have questions about your own situation, you should talk to a lawyer.

If I am disabled, what benefits can I apply for from the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration administers 2 programs for people who have disabilities- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  People who have a disability may be able to qualify for benefits under either program.

SSDI pays benefits to people who have physical and mental conditions that prevent people from working if you worked long enough and paid social security taxes. The condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to end in death.  Learn more about SSDI here.

SSI pays benefits to help disabled adults and children who have very limited income and assets. Learn more about SSI here.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me?

You do not need a lawyer to represent you in your appeals, but it’s better if you can have a lawyer. There are many complicated issues and regulations to be dealt with. Statistics show that there is a better rate of success if you have someone assisting you. Unlike many attorneys, disability lawyers do not charge up-front fees or require a retainer to work on a Social Security disability case. Most disability attorneys and advocates will be paid a fee only if they win the case (this is called a contingency fee.) 

Your representative does not have to be a lawyer. Paralegals and other non-lawyers are allowed to represent you in an appeal, but be careful who you have as a representative. Make sure they are qualified and experienced.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) 

Am I eligible to receive SSDI benefits?

SSDI pays monthly benefits to workers who can no longer work because of a significant illness or condition that is expected to last at least a year or to result in death within a year. Payments begin after you have been disabled for at least five full months. Payments usually start in your sixth month of disability.

How do I apply for SSDI?

You can file an application on the Social Security website here.

You will need to provide a lot of information when you file an application for SSDI.  Here is a helpful checklist that will help you get together the information you will need to provide when you apply.

I was turned down for SSDI benefits. Is there anything I can do?

You have to the right to ask SSA to reconsider its decision. Many applications are approved on appeal. If you ask SSA to reconsider, it will review its decision. You must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form. You can get the form at your local office, by calling their toll-free phone number, or by going on their website. SSA must receive the form within 60 days plus five days for mailing of the date you received the notice of denial, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late.

My SSDI benefits are being stopped. What can I do?

If SSA believes your medical condition has improved, they will send you a written notice saying your benefits will end. You may fight that decision by asking for "reconsideration". You will keep getting your benefits after the proposed stopping date in the notice if you request reconsideration in time. You must make the request within ten days of the date on the notice if you want to keep getting benefits. SSA will give you a form to ask for the benefits to be continued.

What are my appeal types in a request for reconsideration?

The request for reconsideration form has three options:

1. Case review - a representative will review your file and anything else you submit.

2. Informal conference - you can review your file, submit evidence, and give testimony in a casual casual meeting.

3. Formal conference - you will be able to present your case before a SSA representative.

My request for reconsideration was denied. Is there anything I can do?

If your request for reconsideration was denied, you may ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must ask for this hearing within 60 days of the date on the denial notice. To keep getting benefits during this time, you must ask for an ALJ Hearing within ten days of the date on the disability hearing officer's decision.

You may file the request at your local Social Security office, or you may mail it to them. Get a hearing request form here. (Form Number HA-501).

I received a notice that Social Security wants some of the SSDI money back that it paid to me. What should I do?

If Social Security thinks that you got benefits when you were not supposed to get them, they must tell you in writing before they may take any money out of your check. You may appeal their decision.

You may appeal by filing SSA Form 561, "Request for Reconsideration."  You have 60 days from the date of the overpayment notice to make the request. If you do that within ten days of getting your notice, Social Security will not take any money out of your check until it makes a decision on your request.

You may also ask Social Security to waive the overpaid amount by filing SSA Form 632, "Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery or Change in Repayment." You may ask this at any time, even after Social Security starts collecting the overpayment from you.

Can other members of my family get benefits under my SSDI?

If you die, the money that you were receiving can go can go to your husband or wife, children, and even elderly dependent parents. These benefits are known as survivors benefits. They are not available to the relatives of people receiving SSI benefits.) Divorced husbands and wives may be able to collect a benefit based on their dead ex-spouses earnings, but the rules are different for that.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

How do I apply for SSI?

You can schedule an appointment with a local Social Security office to file an application for SSI. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.  Or for more information, go here.  

You will need to provide a lot of information when you file an application for SSI.  Here is a helpful checklist that will help you get together the information you will need to provide when you apply.

I was turned down for SSI benefits. Is there anything I can do?

If you were turned down for SSI, you have to the right to ask SSA to reconsider its decision. Many SSI applications are approved on appeal. If you ask SSA to reconsider, it will review its decision. You must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form which you can get at your local office, by calling their toll-free phone number or here. SSA must receive the form within 60 days plus five days for mailing of the date you received the notice of denial, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late.

My SSI benefits are being reduced or stopped. What can I do?

Social Security must notify you in writing before they lower or stop your benefits. You may fight this by asking them to reconsider the decision. Fill out a Request for Reconsideration form from your local office or get one here. You must make the request within 60 days of the date on the notice, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late. In order to keep getting the same benefits while the appeal is decided, you must request reconsideration within ten days of the date on the notice.

What are my appeal types in a request for reconsideration?

The request for reconsideration form has three options:

1. Case review - a representative will review your file and anything else you submit.

2. Informal conference - you can review your file, submit evidence, and give testimony in a casual meeting.

3. Formal conference - you will be able to present your case before a SSA representative.

Can I do anything if my request for reconsideration is turned down?

You may ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  You must ask for a hearing within 60 days of the date you got notice of being turned down.  If you want to continue to get benefits, you must request an ALJ Hearing within ten days from the date of the reconsideration decision. You can file the hearing request at your local office or you can fill it out and send it by certified mail it to your local SSA office.  The form number is HA-501. You can download a blank form here.

SSA wants some of the SSI money back that it paid to me. What should I do?

If SSA believes that you got benefits when you were not supposed to get them, they must tell you in writing before they take any money from your check.

You may appeal the decision by filing SSA Form 561, "Request for Reconsideration."  You have 60 days from the date of the overpayment notice to make the request. If you do that within ten days of getting the notice, SSA will not take any money out of your check until they make a decision on your request.

You may also ask SSA to forgive or "waive" the overpaid amount by filing SSA Form 632, "Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery or Change in Repayment." You may ask this at any time, even after Social Security starts collecting the overpayment from you.

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.