Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability.

My neighbor received Social Security Disability and is not even disabled. Why was I denied?

When it comes to disability, looks can be very deceiving. There are many people who look healthy, but can meet Social Security's definition of disabled.

If your disability claim was denied, keep in mind that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies the majority of claims, particularly at the application and reconsideration levels. It's possible your medical evidence was not presented properly or your application wasn't handled correctly. At Sackett and Associates we can help you appeal your denial.

Who is eligible for Social Security Disability?

To qualify for benefits, you must have worked in and paid into Social Security. You must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. In general, the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of their disability.

Are mental illnesses eligible for disability benefits?

Yes. Mental illness is a frequently used basis for getting Social Security Disability benefits.

My doctor says I am disabled so why is Social Security denying my disability claim?

It is not up to your doctor to determine whether or not you are disabled. It is up to Social Security to make their own decision regardless of what your doctor thinks. But if we represent you, we will contact your doctor to get the information necessary to win your case.

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

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) is for people who suffer with a disability and can no longer work. You may qualify for this program if you have worked a long time and paid sufficient FICA taxes. But, you may still be denied these benefits if SSA determines you are not medically disabled.

If you have not paid enough money into the Social Security system to qualify for benefits, then you may still be able to receive Supplemental Security Income. The government will look at your income status and review what resources are available to you. This is used in determining your qualification.

How long does it take to obtain my disability benefits once a claim for benefits is filed?

Within six months.

If I win my case, will I receive medical help in addition to cash benefits?

If you win Social Security Disability benefits you will receive cash benefits that you can use to pay for medical care. After receiving disability benefits for 2 years, you automatically become eligible for Medicare. If you win your SSI claim, you become entitled to Medi-Cal.

What can't a lawyer do for me?

No lawyer can push around the federal government, eliminate delays, or change the law to your benefit. Experienced lawyers, like the ones at Sackett and Associates, can make the Social Security system work for you and can make the difference between winning and losing your case.

How much does it cost to hire an attorney for my disability case? What if I cannot afford an attorney for my disability claim?

Federal law regulates attorneys' fees in Social Security Disability cases. So, virtually every disability lawyer works on the same fee basis. The lawyer's fee is 25% of the past due disability benefits you get. There is no fee if you lose.

How can I find out if my medical condition qualifies for disability benefits?

Under the Social Security Act, "disability" is defined as the "inability to take part in any substantial activity by reason of any medical, physical, or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can last for a period of no more than 12 months." If your medical condition falls within this definition, you may qualify for disability benefits.

If I win my case, how much money will I receive?

If you win Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), your benefit amount is calculated by different formulas that use the number of years you have already worked and the amount of taxes you have already paid.

If you win Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your monthly amount is based on a financial need. It is also determined by different formulas that use such factors as total household income and your entitlement to a DIB benefit.

If I need to apply, what should I do?

First, contact us at Sackett and Associates! (800) 913-3000. If we feel we can help you we will ask that you provide information on your medical conditions, treatment, medication and work history. You can also contact Social Security. You can apply online at, or call (800) 772-1213.

If I applied but was denied, what should I do?

Now you file a written request for reconsideration within 60 days of the denial notice. Now is also a good time to contact a disability attorney. Experience attorneys, like the ones at Sackett and Associates, can help you at all four levels of review: Reconsideration, Hearing, Appeals Council and Federal Court.

If I received notice that I will have a hearing, what should I do?

At this point, it's best to contact an attorney to represent you at your hearing. An attorney can gather all the medical evidence and records necessary for you to have the best chance of winning disability benefits. Social Security's own statistics show that you are more likely to win disability benefits when represented by an attorney.

What will happen at my hearing?

A hearing is conducted by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review of the Social Security Administration. An Administrative Law Judge will preside over your case and a testimony is taken under oath.

The hearing is also private. The only people present will be the Judge and the Judge's assistant, you, your attorney, and any witnesses you may want to have present. Often the Judge may ask a vocational expert to testify about your ability to work.

Medical records and a medical expert will be accepted as evidence.  The Judge or your attorney will ask you about your present medical condition, medical history, abilities, education, training, work experience and the limitations in your daily life caused by your disability. You or your attorney may make a closing argument that you are entitled to benefits under Social Security.

What is the difference between a disability lawyer and a non-attorney advocate?

A disability lawyer is someone who has graduated from law school, licensed to practice law, and is held to the highest ethical standards by the Bar Association. A non-attorney advocate, on the other hand, is not required to attend law school and does not report to a higher organization. Only an attorney can represent you if your case needs to go to the federal district court.

No education or license is required to become a Social Security Disability advocate. Anyone, even a friend or family member, could do the same job a Social Security Disability advocate can do.

What questions should I ask someone before hiring them to help me with my disability case?

Ask if the attorney or firm is local to your area.
Ask if your case will be handled by an attorney.
Ask if the attorney will meet with you before the day of your hearing.
If you're unable to visit an attorney's office in person, ask if the attorney is available for phone meetings.

If Social Security tries to cut off my disability benefits, what can I do?

You should appeal immediately. Your appeal period after being notified your disability benefits are being ceased is only 10 days. If you appeal right away, your benefits will continue while you appeal the decision. You should also contact an attorney to represent you during your appeal process.

How do I appeal?

If you want to appeal, you must make your request in writing within 60 days from the date printed on your denial letter. Five days after the date on your letter begins your 60-day period. Appealing your denial is a complicated process that is best handled by a Social Security Disability attorney like the ones at Sackett and Associates.

Sackett & Associates is a Disability Law Firm focusing on Social Security Disability. Our Disability Lawyers service Northern California, including San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

The information on this web site is made available by Sackett and Associates, for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.