Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights

Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.

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  • Can I continue to work if my spouse receives SSD benefits?

    Woman working in office SSDI If your spouse has applied for or is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you can continue to work while your spouse receives SSDI benefits. Your income will not affect their benefits. However, it's important to understand SSDI eligibility and seek the advice of an experienced SSDI lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.

    SSDI Eligibility Requirements

    SSDI is a federal program that provides financial support to people who are unable to work due to a disability. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to earn sufficient credits. You must also have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of a disability, which is a condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and prevents you from doing any substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

    SGA is defined as earning more than a certain amount of money per month from working. In 2023, the substantial gainful activity amount for SSDI is $1,470 per month. This amount is updated annually. If you earn more than the SGA amount, the SSA will consider you to be engaged in substantial gainful activity and will likely find that you are not eligible for SSDI benefits.

    In addition, you will typically need 40 work credits to be eligible for SSDI, but this number can vary based on age. Workers can earn up to four credits per year. The dollar amount changes year-to-year. In 2023, you need to earn $1,640 in income to earn one credit. Thus, $6,560 in 2023 equals four work credits. A lawyer can determine if you have earned enough work credits to qualify. 

    Having more than one condition does not mean you get more benefits. But, the SSA does consider compounding factors. The combined impact of your disabilities may qualify you for SSDI. Past income does not impact eligibility. You will need to provide medical evidence regarding your condition and to prove that you have a qualifying disability that prevents you from working. You must meet all of the required criteria for SSDI to ensure your claim is not denied.

    Household Income and SSDI Eligibility

    It's important to note that household income is not one of the factors considered in SSDI eligibility. This means that your income as a spouse will not affect your spouse's eligibility for SSDI benefits. Your spouse's eligibility is based solely on their own work history and medical condition.

    However, SSDI eligibility can be confusing, and there may be situations where your income could affect your spouse's benefits. For example, if you or your spouse are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the income of both you and your spouse will be taken into consideration. Since SSI is a needs-based program designed for disabled individuals with low income, your spouse's income is crucial in determining the applicant's eligibility. If your spouse is applying for SSI and your income exceeds a specific amount, a portion of that income may be deemed available to the applicant by the SSA.

    In addition, a child under the age of 16 may qualify for auxiliary benefits based on the SSDI eligibility of your spouse. In this case, your income could affect the amount of auxiliary benefits your child receives.

    Contact an Attorney to Find Out More

    If you have any questions or concerns about SSDI eligibility or how your income may affect your spouse's benefits, it's a good idea to consult with an experienced SSDI lawyer. An SSDI lawyer can do the following:

    • Help you understand the eligibility requirements
    • Determine your spouse's benefit amount
    • Answer any questions you may have about working while your spouse receives SSDI benefits

    With the help of an SSDI lawyer, you can ensure that your spouse receives the benefits they are entitled to and that you are able to work and support your family without any negative impact on your spouse's benefits.

  • What respiratory disorders qualify for disability benefits?

    SSDI Benefits for Respiratory ConditionsRespiratory conditions can greatly impact a person's ability to work, and as a result, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to those who meet the eligibility criteria. However, not all respiratory conditions are considered disabling under the Social Security Administration's Blue Book. In order to qualify for benefits, the condition must be so severe that you are unable to work. When applying for Social Security Disability, it is advisable to speak with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the application process.

    Respiratory Conditions That May Qualify for Benefits

    The SSA’s Blue Book lists impairments that may qualify for benefits. In section 3.00, you can find the list of respiratory disorders. These include several lung diseases, plus other conditions. The list describes criteria for what is serious enough to merit approval of your claim. The SSA also considers the combined effect if you have more than one condition.

    It's important to note that having a respiratory condition alone is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. The severity of the condition and its impact on the person's ability to work are taken into consideration.

    Here are some common respiratory conditions listed in the Blue Book that may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits:

    • Asthma. A mild case of asthma likely won’t qualify. You may need to have been under medical observation for at least a year. If, after a year of treatment, you still have severe asthma attacks, you may qualify. This might include at least three hospitalizations or six major attacks in a year. 
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD describes more than one condition. Examples include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This is when you have difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The symptoms must be severe enough to keep you from working full-time. 
    • Cystic fibrosis. To qualify, the SSA looks for at least six episodes of severe symptoms in a year. This includes coughing up blood, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Persistent lung infections may also qualify you for benefits. 
    • Lung transplant. If you receive a lung transplant, SSA will consider you disabled for one year. After that, SSA will reconsider your case to see if you still qualify. 
    • Sleep disorders. If you have a breathing disorder related to sleep, like sleep apnea, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. 
    • Lung cancer. By definition, this affects the respiratory system. Other related cancers can also qualify for SSDI benefits. 

    This list is not meant to be exhaustive. If you have a rare disease not listed in the Blue Book, you may still qualify for disability. An experienced lawyer can help improve your chances of approval. 

    Other respiratory disorders that may qualify include:

    • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
    • Chronic restrictive ventilatory disease
    • Chronic lung infections
    • Chronic pulmonary hypertension
    • Chronic pulmonary insufficiency (CPI)
    • Pneumoconiosis
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB)
    • Respiratory failure
    • Sarcoidosis

    Supporting Evidence You Need to Provide

    When applying for SSDI benefits due to a respiratory condition, you will need to provide medical evidence that supports your claim. This evidence may include:

    • Medical records from your treating physicians, including diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications prescribed.
    • Pulmonary function test results that measure your lung capacity and the severity of your respiratory impairment.
    • Imaging studies, such as chest X-rays or CT scans, that show the extent of your respiratory impairment.
    • Reports from any hospitalizations, surgeries, or other medical procedures related to your respiratory condition.

    It's important to provide thorough and up-to-date medical records, as well as any additional evidence that may support your claim since the main challenge is proving you are disabled. Other evidence that can be used to support your claim may include statements from coworkers or supervisors regarding the impact of your condition on your work performance.

    In addition, you will also need to meet technical requirements. This includes earning enough Social Security work credits. You must also not engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Share what information you have with a disability attorney. They can walk you through what is needed. 

    A Disability Lawyer Can Help With Your Application

    Navigating the SSDI application process can be challenging, especially when it comes to gathering the necessary evidence to support your claim. An experienced SSDI attorney can help ensure that your application is complete and includes all the necessary medical evidence to support your claim. 

    With years of experience, the attorneys at Keefe Disability Law know all about SSDI claims and what it takes to get approved. We can carefully assess your case and see if your respiratory condition meets a Blue Book listing. If it doesn’t, we can seek paths to help you get approved for SSDI

  • Could major life changes affect my disability benefits?

    Loss of spouse may affect SSDI benefitsFor anyone who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, big life changes can raise concerns. This might involve moving to another state, getting married, or going back to work. You’ve already applied for SSDI, but do these changes impact your eligibility? What about benefit payment amounts? The short answer is yes. But, it depends on the life change. Some events can impact benefit payments. Others may not. 

    Seek the advice of an experienced lawyer about the best course of action. They can help to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. 

    What Events Can Impact Disability Benefits?

    You must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of major life changes. You can do this online, by phone, or by mail. You can also visit your nearest SSA field office. 

    Life changes that may impact disability benefits include:

    • Your spouse or ex-spouse passes away. You may be eligible for survivor's benefits. Thus, the SSDI payment amount may increase. This is based on your spouse’s earning record.
    • Your disability improves. Benefit eligibility depends on being able to work. If your condition gets better and you can work, the SSA may stop payments.
    • You start working. This can include both part-time and full-time jobs. Self-employment counts too. If you start earning an income, this may affect SSDI eligibility.
    • You receive other disability benefits. The SSA may look at this other income in deciding SSDI benefit payments.
    • You go to jail or prison. If you are convicted of a crime, you are generally not eligible for SSDI while serving time. Some exceptions may apply. 
    • You reach full retirement age. At this point, the SSA converts your SSDI benefits to retirement payments. These amounts are likely not the same. Your lawyer can help you find out. 
    • You pass away. In the event of your death, SSA will terminate benefits. If you have a surviving spouse or children, they may be eligible for survivor’s benefits. 

    What Changes Will Not Affect SSDI Benefits?

    Other major life changes may not affect eligibility. You still have to notify SSA of these changes. But, you do not need to reapply for SSDI. Examples include:

    • You get married. If you qualified with your own disability and earnings record, you will continue to receive benefits. This is different if you qualified in another way. An example is a child who receives benefits based on their parent’s income record. 
    • You move to another state. Contact SSA before you move. This way, you don’t miss any mail or payments. Moving to another state does not impact eligibility.
    • Your living situation changes. If you move in with someone, like a friend or partner, your SSDI benefits are not impacted. 
    • You receive an inheritance. SSDI eligibility is based on disability and earnings history. An inheritance is unearned income. 
    • Your household income changes. Since SSDI is based on your earned income, your spouse’s income does not impact benefit payments. 

    Why Might Social Security Disability Benefits Stop?

    There are two main reasons why the SSA may stop your SSDI payments. One, you start working. Or, two, your medical condition gets better. These are the two core factors in qualifying for SSDI benefits.

    If you receive SSDI, you can have a trial work period (TWP) of nine months. This lets you test if you are able to work. Earning more than $1,050 in a month triggers the TWP. The nine months of work can span up to a 60-month period. The months do not have to be in a row. After nine months of TWP, earning more than $1,470 per month stops SSDI eligibility. That is the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount as of 2023. 

    If your medical condition improves and you are able to go back to work, SSA may stop your SSDI benefits. This is based on a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). This reviews your current medical condition. They ask about treatment and daily activities. If they decide you are no longer disabled, they may stop your monthly benefit payments. The SSA typically asks for a CDR every three to seven years. 

    How Can You Protect the Benefits You’ve Earned?

    Just because you qualified for SSDI doesn’t mean you will continue to qualify for SSDI. The SSA reviews your case periodically with the CDR. Major life changes can affect disability benefits too. The federal government may also garnish benefit payments to serve outstanding debt.

    A qualified Massachusetts lawyer experienced in Social Security can help. They can review your case and help you prepare for CDRs. They can also advise how to notify SSA of life changes and educate you on the impact these changes can have on your benefits. And, if the SSA stops payments, a lawyer can appeal that decision. 

  • If my Social Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, how will SSA update me on the appeal process?

    SSDI denial appeals processThe Social Security Administration (SSA) has a defined appeals process. It can be frustrating when you submit a request for appeal and you’re not sure when you’ll hear back from them. The timeline can vary depending on many factors. If the SSA is currently facing a higher than normal volume of appeals, this may delay their response. 

    When it comes to the second stage of appeal with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you can expect several updates. Working with an experienced disability lawyer can help with this process. They can stay in touch with the court and SSA to manage your claim and appeal.

    Did SSA Deny Your SSDI Claim?

    You’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies upwards of 70 percent of disability claims. This is based on the initial assessment. The SSA may decide that the medical condition is not severe enough to stop you from working. Or, it may not think that your medical condition qualifies under its Blue Book definitions.

    However, about 45 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are denied for technical or non-medical reasons. That’s about two-thirds of the denials. An experienced attorney can help you appeal a technical SSDI denial. They can put together the strongest case possible and improve your chances of approval. 

    How to Appeal Your SSDI Claim Decision

    If the SSA denies your original SSDI claim application, you have the right to appeal. There are four levels of appeal. 

    1. Reconsideration. Start by requesting SSA to review your initial SSDI application again. They’ll take a look at your claim through a fresh set of eyes. It’s as if you are sending in a brand new application. For this independent review, you can add new evidence you forgot to include the first time around.
    2. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The second step is to file an appeal with an ALJ. This involves a live court hearing. It could be in-person or via phone or video conference. It is considered an official courtroom proceeding with testimony under oath. You and your SSD lawyer will have the chance to present your case before an independent federal judge.
    3. Appeals Council. If your appeals for reconsideration and to the ALJ are unsuccessful, you can bring your case to the Appeals Council. You can request a review. They can then deny or dismiss your request, or bring it back to a judge for further review.
    4. Federal District Court. This is the fourth and highest level of appeal. You can file a federal district court action with the U.S. District Court. A federal judge will hear your case without a jury. If you don’t already have legal representation, you definitely need an experienced lawyer at this stage.

    Examples of Typical Updates and What They Mean

    If you want to appeal the SSA’s decision, it is important to act quickly. Generally, you have 60 days after receiving your Social Security Disability denial letter to appeal. This appeal is a formal, written request. The reconsideration stage often takes many months. So, you may not hear from them in a while. Your lawyer can help follow up for updates.

    If they deny your request for reconsideration, you then have 60 days to request an ALJ hearing. This starts a new process with a few key stages. An attorney can improve your chances of winning your appeal. 

    1. Pending folder assembly. During this stage, the ALJ and your lawyer compile your case file. They collect documents like medical evidence and work history. The information is organized in a folder for the judge to consider.
    2. Pending ALJ assignment. The case file is complete. Now, it must be assigned to an ALJ. This could take several months.
    3. Ready to schedule. The case has been assigned to an ALJ and is now waiting for a court date.
    4. Hearing date. The hearing before an ALJ is scheduled. You and your lawyer appear before the judge to present your case. This could be in person, over the phone, or via video conference.
    5. Post-hearing development. If the ALJ did not receive additional evidence at the hearing, the case can be held in this status. Once the evidence is submitted and reviewed, it can move on to the next phase.
    6. Post-hearing review. The ALJ is reviewing the evidence to make a decision. You cannot submit any more evidence. 
    7. Pending decision writing. It can take about two months before the ALJ begins writing the formal decision on your appeal case. 
    8. Decision writing process. The ALJ has made a decision. You should receive a formal written decision by mail within 60 days. 

    How a Massachusetts SSD Lawyer Can Help

    Navigating the appeals process can be complicated. There can be a lot of paperwork. There can be many steps involved. Technical errors, typos, and missing documents can leave your application hanging for months. 

    An experienced SSD attorney can help you avoid some of the common mistakes in an SSDI appeal. By compiling the most complete and most compelling case possible, a lawyer can improve your chances of winning your appeal. They can keep track of updates and guide you through the whole process. 

    Call to Book a Free Consultation

    Has your Social Security disability claim been denied? We can help. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847. You can also complete our online contact form. During your free consultation, we can assess your case and decide on the best next steps. Let’s make sure your SSDI application is in order for the best chance at approval. Let’s get the benefits and support you need and deserve.

  • What medical conditions automatically qualify for SSDI benefits in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island?

    Medical conditions for disability insuranceAre you thinking about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? Perhaps you’re not really sure if you qualify? Some situations may require a more complicated application process, but several medical conditions automatically qualify for SSDI. Speaking with an experienced disability lawyer can help to clarify any questions you may have.

    The following list of qualifying conditions is not meant to be exhaustive. However, it should give you a good idea of what could qualify for SSDI benefits.

    Musculoskeletal System Problems

    According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), diseases and conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue represent almost one-third of diagnoses among workers receiving disability benefits. This category of diagnoses can impair a person’s ability to move effectively. Their movement may be restricted or they may experience severe pain.

    • Arthritis
    • Chronic joint pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
    • Spine injuries

    Respiratory Illnesses

    Respiratory system disorders can impair or prevent someone from performing their job effectively. They may have trouble breathing or participating in prolonged periods of physical labor. Depending on the severity of the illness, even short bursts of physical activity may be challenging.

    • Asthma
    • Chronic bronchitis
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Emphysema

    Mental Disorders and Conditions

    Physical ailments are not the only health conditions that can automatically qualify for SSDI. In fact, approximately 20 percent of disability benefit recipients report having a qualifying mental disorder. The Social Security Administration states that individuals with these conditions must be severely limited in their ability to function independently to qualify for benefits. 

    • Autism or Asperger’s syndrome
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Dementia
    • Depression
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Schizophrenia

    Cardiovascular Conditions

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most people in the United States. It’s no wonder cardiac and cardiovascular conditions similarly make up a significant portion of SSDI claims. These disorders can affect the heart itself, as well as the flow of blood to and from the heart.

    • Angina
    • Arrhythmia
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Congenital heart disease
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

    Blood Disorders

    In addition, illnesses relating to the heart and the flow of blood are examples of health conditions affecting the blood itself. This can then extend to impairing a worker’s ability to perform their duties.

    • Bone marrow failure
    • Hemophilia
    • Sickle cell anemia

    Nervous System and Neurological Conditions

    Neurological conditions can have a profound impact on an individual’s motor function. Thus, their ability to perform the duties of their job effectively may be impaired. This can have an impact on both gross motor function and fine motor skills, affecting workers across a broad range of industries and work environments.

    • Benign brain tumors
    • Epilepsy
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Traumatic brain injury

    Sensory Organ and Speech Conditions

    The Social Security Administration defines blindness as the inability to correct your vision to at least 20/200 in your better eye. If your vision or other senses, including speech, are otherwise impacted by a health condition, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. 

    • Blindness
    • Hearing loss
    • Impaired speech
    • Vision disorders

    Endocrine Disorders

    The endocrine system relates to the hormones circulating throughout your body. This includes the glands that secrete hormones, plus receptors and organs that respond to or are impacted by hormones. Endocrine dysfunction can lead to fatigue, weakness, unintended weight fluctuations, and mood swings.

    • Diabetes
    • Hyper/hypothyroidism
    • Pituitary gland disorders

    Cancer and Benign Tumors

    Both malignant tumors (cancer) and benign abnormal masses of tissue (non-cancerous) may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, individuals with disorders like these made up nearly 10 percent of benefits awarded in 2011.

    • Breast cancer
    • Leukemia 
    • Lung cancer
    • Mesothelioma
    • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

    Other Disorders and Conditions

    Several other health conditions and medical disorders may qualify for benefits. Some examples include the following:

    • Burns 
    • Chronic skin infections
    • Dermatitis
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
    • Inflammatory arthritis
    • Lupus

    Call Us for a Free Consultation Today

    Before you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, give us a call, and we can help walk you through the whole process. We will evaluate your claim and help put your mind at ease. Call 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847 to schedule an appointment with our legal team. You can also fill out our online contact form to request your free, no-obligation consultation.

  • Does the SSA expedite Social Security disability applications for terminally ill patients?

    Terminal illness for SSDI qualificationYes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has the TERI program. It is for people with terminal illnesses. Applications flagged as TERI cases are expedited. TERI applicants may start to receive Social Security disability (SSD) benefits sooner. Also, SSA treats these files “with special sensitivity.” Letters sent to applicants do not use “terminal” or “terminal illness.”

    You cannot apply directly for TERI. Rather, it is up to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to flag your file. When filling out your SSD application, you can describe your terminal illness. Present your best case to expedite your benefit approval. This can include documentation from your doctor or another health professional. 

    How SSA Defines Terminal Illnesses

    The SSA determines TERI eligibility based on the situation and condition. First, there must be an allegation or diagnosis that the illness is terminal. This includes conditions like ALS or AIDS. Hospice care can justify a TERI-flagged case too. 

    According to the SSA, an illness is terminal if the “impairment is untreatable.” It is “expected to end in death.” Many conditions may qualify as terminal illnesses. Once a claim receives a TERI flag, “each step in the process” is expedited. Only DDS can remove this case flag.

    Examples of Terminal Conditions

    The SSA lists several terminally ill conditions. These may qualify as TERI cases. 

    • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
    • AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
    • Chronic pulmonary or heart failure requiring continuous home oxygen and personal caregivers
    • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device
    • Metastatic cancer
    • Stage IV cancer
    • Inoperable or unresectable cancer
    • Mesothelioma
    • AML (acute myelogenous leukemia)
    • ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia)
    • Coma for at least 30 days
    • Currently receiving hospice care
    • Waiting for a heart, lung, live or bone marrow transplant

    The above list is not exhaustive. This should, though, illustrate what may qualify as a TERI case. Consult with a disability law attorney to best assess your situation.

    How Terminal Illness Affects Your SSD Application

    You cannot apply for the TERI program. The SSA does not tell applicants if they are being considered. They also don’t say whether they’ve flagged it as a TERI case. Inclusion in the TERI program can be opaque.

    Having a terminal illness does not change your SSD eligibility. The SSA can still deny your claim. You might not meet the Blue Book criteria. Or, the SSA may believe you can still work. The only difference with TERI is they expedite processing. You will likely learn sooner whether they’ve approved or denied your application. 

    The five-month waiting period still applies to TERI cases. During this period, applicants do not receive SSDI benefits. As part of the approval process, a medical consultant will review the file. The TERI flag may be added at this time.

    TERI Cases Versus Compassionate Allowances

    The criteria for Compassionate Allowance cases (CAL) are not identical to TERI cases. Not all CAL cases qualify for TERI. The same is true with Quick Disability Determination (QDD). The main feature of TERI cases is terminal illness. QDD and CAL cases may not imply a terminal illness. There is overlap in these programs, though.

    As a result, your SSD claim may qualify for one or more of these programs. If you are eligible for more than one program, your chances of a faster decision improve. The CAL program makes it easier for SSA to identify qualifying cases. These conditions may not be terminal. A faster decision means benefits can begin sooner too.

    The SSA provides a complete list of CAL conditions on its website. Examples include brain disorders, childhood disorders, and cancer. Rare conditions may be eligible too.

    How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

    With a terminal illness, time is of the essence. You can’t wait around for SSA approval. You need the benefits now. When you work with an experienced Social Security lawyer, they can review your application. They can ensure it is complete and accurate. This can reduce delays and denials. 

    Let our experienced Massachusetts law firm take a look at your file. We can look into sourcing the medical forms and statements. These can clearly establish your medical condition. We can help present the most compelling case possible to the SSA. This can help expedite your application as a TERI case. And this means you can start receiving much-needed SSD benefits sooner.  

    Request a Free Consultation Today

    Managing a terminal illness is stressful enough. We can help lift some of the burden of applying for Social Security disability. The system can be complicated and we can help answer any questions you may have. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847 to book a free consultation today. You can also get in touch with us by filling out our online contact form. Let us evaluate your case and help you get the benefits and coverage you need. 

  • My SSDI claim was denied; can I apply again?

    Social Security Denied

    Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) -- the government agency that administers the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program – doesn’t limit how many times you can apply for benefits. If the SSA denied your initial claim, there’s nothing stopping you from applying again. However, don’t start filling out a new application just yet. In most cases, it makes more sense to take advantage of the SSA’s four-level appeals process than to start over with a whole new claim. Here’s what you should know about your options after an SSDI denial, including the benefits of an appeal, when to consider submitting another application, and how Keefe Disability Law’s knowledgeable and experienced Boston disability attorneys can guide you through the appropriate process and increase your chances for success.

    Understanding the Social Security Disability Appeals Process

    If you waited months to find out whether you were approved for SSDI, only to receive a disappointing denial letter, you’re not alone. The SSA denies up to 70 percent of initial claims. Fortunately, you have the right to appeal and have 60 days (from the date you received the denial letter) to inform the SSA of your decision. The Social Security disability appeals process has four levels: 

    • Reconsideration, a new evaluation of your claim by disability determination examiners not involved in the previous decision
    • Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), if Disability Determination Services (DDS) denies your request for reconsideration or you disagree with their decision, you can request a hearing with an ALJ
    • Appeals Council Review, if the ALJ doesn’t rule in your favor, you can ask the Appeals Council to review your claim
    • Federal Court Review, if the Appeals Council denies or dismisses your SSDI claim, you can file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court 

    Appealing a Denied SSDI Claim Can Have Numerous Benefits

    The appeals process can be lengthy and grueling, but there are good reasons for slogging through it. Failing to provide sufficient medical evidence is one of the most common reasons SSDI claims are denied. Thankfully, you can submit additional evidence or documentation to support and strengthen your claim at every level of appeal, save the federal court review.

    You’re also statistically more likely to succeed with an appeal than a new application, which puts you back at square one, where you face the same nearly 70-percent denial rate. On the other hand, if you can make it to the second level of a Social Security disability appeal, or an Administrative Law Judge hearing, you have an almost 50 percent chance of being granted benefits. Your chances of winning your SSDI appeal are even better if you have skilled legal counsel.

    However, the main advantage of an appeal is that you can preserve your original protective filing date, which is the date you let the SSA know you were planning to apply for SSDI. If your claim is ultimately approved, you could be eligible for back pay (or past-due benefits) going all the way back to your protective filing date (and, in some cases, an additional 12 months). Reapplying resets your protective filing date, meaning you’d be eligible for less back pay if granted benefits.

    When to Reapply Rather Than Appeal

    Though appealing a denied SSDI claim is usually the most advantageous option, there are times when starting over with a new application makes sense. Here are some examples:

    • You missed the 60-day deadline to file for an appeal
    • Your condition has worsened in severity (or expected duration)
    • You’re applying for SSDI for a different medical condition

    Denied SSDI Benefits? Let Our Adept Disability Attorneys Handle Your Appeal

    Appealing a denied SSDI claim can be difficult and time-consuming. Skilled representation can improve your chances of being granted benefits. Let Keefe Disability Law handle your SSDI appeal so that you can focus your time and energy elsewhere. 

    Ready to talk to us about your claim? Complete the contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation. 


  • Do I need a letter from my doctor when applying for SSDI?

    Doctor writing letter for SSDI The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process is notoriously difficult, with the Social Security Administration (SSA) denying up to 70 percent of initial claims. Though a doctor’s letter isn’t a required part of the application, providing a well-written one can strengthen your disability claim and improve your chances of being approved for benefits. Before you ask your doctor to write a letter for your SSDI application, here’s what you need to know to ensure it’s as effective as possible, including how the experienced attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you get the evidence and information you need.

    How a Detailed Letter From Your Doctor Can Help Your Social Security Disability Claim 

    The disability examiners evaluating your claim need to see a copious amount of evidence for your disabling medical impairment. Unfortunately, even the most thorough medical records don’t always paint a clear picture of what living with your condition entails. A detailed letter from your doctor – also known as a medical source statement – can help the examiner better understand your disability and how its symptoms affect your everyday life and ability to work and engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

    How to Ensure Your Doctor’s Letter Is as Effective as Possible

    A vague letter that says you’re disabled and shouldn’t work is unlikely to carry much weight with the SSA. Medical source statements are much more effective when they contain in-depth information on your condition and resulting limitations. It should come from your primary care doctor – ideally, with whom you’ve had a long doctor-patient relationship. A thorough doctor’s letter might include the following:

    • The formal diagnosis
    • A detailed description of your condition
    • The disability’s onset date 
    • Diagnostic procedures used to diagnose your condition (and exclude illnesses with similar symptoms)
    • Symptoms you experience, and their effects on your daily life and ability to work 
    • Treatments you’ve tried and whether they were successful in helping mitigate the condition’s negative effects
    • Outlook and prognosis for your disability, including whether it’s expected to improve or worsen over time 
    • An assessment of your reflexes, dexterity, and range of motion
    • Whether – and how well – you're able to complete routine or repetitive tasks; use your hands and arms to reach, grasp, and lift; or stand, crouch, sit, stoop, walk, or kneel
    • An explanation of how the objective medical evidence supports their professional opinion

    Medical Evidence Can Make or Break Your SSDI Claim

    Medical evidence supporting the existence, severity, and expected duration of a disabling injury, illness, or other impairment is the cornerstone of a successful claim for SSDI benefits. Your application should include things like physical examination and treatment notes, bloodwork panel results, mental health records, imaging study reports of MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays, and any other documentation needed to meet or equal an entry in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. Applications without sufficient medical evidence are universally rejected. 

    However, the evidence provided can’t come from just anywhere or anyone. The SSA requires that medical evidence comes from acceptable medical sources (AMS), such as licensed medical or osteopathic doctors, or licensed or certified psychologists at the independent practice level. Additionally, appropriately-licensed or certified optometrists, podiatrists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, physicians' assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (including certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists) are considered AMS for claims related to their field of practice.

    How an Experienced Disability Attorney Can Help You Get a Letter From Your Doctor

    Applying for SSDI isn’t easy. Not only is the application process unfamiliar and intimidating, but gathering all the medical evidence needed to support your claim can be time-consuming. When you’re undergoing treatment for a disabling health condition and feel your worst, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether you can convince your doctor to take time out of their busy schedule to write a detailed medical source statement. Let Keefe Disability Law’s seasoned SSDI attorneys help prepare your application and work with your doctor to get the necessary notes and documentation.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Have questions about how Keefe Disability Law can help you complete your SSDI application or obtain a medical source statement from your doctor? Fill out the contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. 


  • Should my doctor have experience helping people apply for SSDI?

    Doctor with SSDI patientWhen you have a disabling injury or illness that prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide monthly payments that help make ends meet. Unfortunately, applying for SSDI can be a complicated, frustrating, and lengthy nightmare. The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially denies up to 70 percent of applicants. Oftentimes, these denials are due to a lack of sufficient medical evidence for your disabling condition and the work-related restrictions and limitations it causes.

    If you’re applying for SSDI, having a doctor who’s familiar with the application process and has helped other patients complete it successfully isn’t strictly necessary, but it can be extremely beneficial. Here’s what you need to know about applying for SSDI benefits, including how working with an experienced doctor and disability attorney when submitting the application may increase your chances for approval.

    Understanding Your Doctor’s Role in Your SSDI Claim

    To qualify for SSDI, you must have an injury, illness, or other medically determinable impairment that prevents you from working enough to earn above the SGA limit. (Though SGA changes with the national average wage index, in 2023, it was $1,470 per month for most applicants and $2,460 for blind claimants.) Additionally, the condition must be severe enough to last for at least a year or be expected to result in death.

    Proving you’re disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits is no small feat. It requires your doctor (and you) to submit extensive medical evidence to the SSA, including medical records, test results, and notes related to your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Specifically, your application should contain a medical source statement from your doctor that:

    • Includes a list of your diagnosed medical conditions that negatively affect your ability to perform work and SGA
    • Explains whether your condition meets or equals the criteria for a qualifying disability in the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments
    • Describes your residual functional capacity (RFC) -- or the most you can do despite your limitations
    • States whether symptoms or complications of your condition causes you to miss work regularly 
    • Lists any side effects you’ve experienced from your prescribed treatments that had a negative impact on work ability or performance 

    The SSA tends to give greater weight to the opinions of medical specialists than general practitioners. How can you ensure that your medical source statement is as effective as possible? Make sure it includes a plethora of detailed information and comes from an appropriately licensed or certified medical professional.

    The Benefits of Working With a Doctor With SSDI Experience When Applying for Disability 

    The SSA asks a lot of doctors who are already burdened with busy schedules and mountains of paperwork. Healthcare providers who haven’t previously helped patients through the grueling SSDI application process can face a steep learning curve. As a result, there are numerous benefits to having a doctor who’s been around the block, including:

    • Familiarity with SSDI eligibility requirements, the application process, and forms
    • Knows what specialized tests you need to prove the existence and severity of your condition to the SSA
    • Knows how to convey symptoms, limitations, and restrictions, and their effects on your ability to work in a way that the SSA expects and can evaluate

    How a Seasoned Disability Attorney Can Help Your SSDI Claim

    Your doctor isn’t the only professional whose help you may need when applying for SSDI. A skilled disability lawyer can explain the complex application process, help you gather the necessary medical evidence, ensure your application is free of mistakes that could result in a delayed decision or denial of your claim, and much more. There’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Find out how to get the adept legal help you deserve.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered by a member of Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished Boston legal team during a free initial consultation. For more information, request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


  • What if my condition worsened after I submitted my SSDI application?

    Patient on kidney dialysis machineWhen you can’t work because of a disabling medical impairment, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, applying for SSDI and getting approved for the benefits you need and deserve is a long and grueling process that can take months and sometimes even years. Not only does the Social Security Administration (SSA) impose a mandatory five-month waiting period from the onset of your disability until you can start collecting payments, but the wait can actually be much longer due to a backlog of claims.

    If you applied for SSDI, but your disability got worse before you received a decision, keeping the SSA informed of changes in your medical condition is vital, as a particularly severe, worsening, or terminal diagnosis may qualify your claim for an expedited review and determination. Here’s what you need to know, including how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish and help you get approved for much-needed benefits as quickly as possible.

    SSA Programs That Allow for Expediting SSDI Claims 

    The SSA has three main programs or initiatives that can speed up the determinations process for direly ill individuals, helping them get approved for payments faster. These are the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative, Presumptive Disability (PD) payments, and the TERI program for terminal illnesses. Here’s a brief overview of these crucial initiatives, what they do, and examples of conditions that qualify.

    Compassionate Allowances (CAL)

    The Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL initiative, allows the SSA to deliver faster SSDI determinations to individuals with especially severe disabilities. The program uses cutting-edge technology to identify diseases and other medical conditions that clearly meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and make the applicant eligible for benefits. More than 200 conditions qualify for expedited processing under the Compassionate Allowances program, including:

    • Adult-Onset Huntington Disease
    • Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Esophageal Cancer
    • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
    • Lewy Body Dementia
    • Malignant Multiple Sclerosis
    • Nut Carcinoma
    • Small Cell Lung Cancer
    • Stiff Person Syndrome
    • Thyroid Cancer

    Presumptive Disability (PD)

    Presumptive Disability, or PD payments, allow SSDI applicants with easily identifiable, qualifying conditions to collect “presumptive” benefit payments for up to six months while SSA Disability Determination Services (DDS) processes their application. The local Social Security field office, or in some cases DDS, grants Presumptive Disability payments based on the likelihood of your eventual approval for SSDI benefits. However, even if your application is ultimately denied, applicants approved for PD payments are not required to pay them back. Examples of conditions that commonly qualify for Presumptive Disability payments include:

    • Total blindness
    • Total deafness
    • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
    • Amputation of legs at the hip
    • End-stage renal disease requiring dialysis
    • Terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less

    Terminal Illnesses (TERI)

    SSDI applications based on conditions expected to result in imminent death can be flagged by a Social Security field office representative – or a DDS case examiner – and brought into the TERI program for expedited processing. If you’re receiving inpatient or home hospice care, applied for SSDI for ALS or AIDS, or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, your case will likely qualify for TERI.  

    Keeping the SSA Informed of Changes to Your Condition 

    If your condition has changed or worsened after applying for SSDI, it’s critical that you inform the SSA and submit additional supporting medical evidence (from acceptable medical sources) as soon as possible. Mail your medical documentation to your local SSA office or drop it off in person if you haven’t been assigned a DDS claims examiner. However, if your claim has been assigned to an examiner, you can submit the evidence to them directly, using the contact information provided in the notice you received from the SSA.

    Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application

    Applying for SSDI can be complicated – and having your condition worsen before you’ve received a determination certainly doesn’t make matters any simpler. When you’re disabled and counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished SSDI attorneys offer the skilled guidance you need to secure the benefits you deserve.

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered. Want to learn more? Request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


  • What is the Disability Starter Kit?

    Social Security starter kitHave you had to stop working due to a disabling medical impairment? You may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Disability Starter Kit is the informational packet the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends when you request an appointment to file for SSDI benefits. It’s also available for download on the Social Security website. Here’s what you should know about the Disability Starter Kit, including how it can help you prepare for your initial appointment with the SSA and provide a skilled disability lawyer with the information they need to begin working on your SSDI application.

    Your Disability Starter Kit 

    In addition to a letter with the date, time, and location of your upcoming appointment – which can be in-person at your local Social Security office or over the phone – the kit also contains a fact sheet, adult disability checklist, and medical and job worksheet. Here’s a brief overview of each component.

    Social Security Disability Fact Sheet

    This sheet provides all the basic information you should know when applying for SSDI. From suggesting that you set aside at least an hour for your in-person or phone interview to advising that free interpreter services are available with advanced notice, it’s a great place to start. You can also find details on the following:

    • The SSA’s strict definition of disability 
    • Duration of disability requirements
    • How Social Security makes disability decisions
    • How long it can take to receive a decision 
    • Ways to speed up the application process
    • What types of benefits you might receive if approved

    Adult Disability Checklist

    The SSA offers Adult Disability Checklists that can help you get organized and ready for your appointment. There are two versions available that differ slightly, depending on whether you’re applying in person or by phone, or online. The checklists recommend gathering the following information, as applicable:

    • Medical records in your possession (a disability attorney or the SSA can help you get the rest of your records as needed)
    • Workers' compensation information, including date of injury, settlement agreement, and proof of other payments awarded for disability
    • Names and birth dates of your spouse and minor children
    • Marriage and divorce dates
    • Checking or savings account number, including your bank's nine-digit routing number (if you want benefit checks direct deposited)
    • Someone the SSA can contact if they have trouble reaching you
    • A medical release form authorizing your providers to disclose information to the SSA
    • A completed Medical and Job Worksheet (can also be completed online)

    Adult Medical and Job Worksheet

    This worksheet asks you to compile information about your medical conditions, treating physicians, medications, medical tests, and job history. Specifically, you’ll be asked to list:

    • All of the physical, mental, or emotional conditions or learning problems that limit your ability to work 
    • If you've stopped working and, if so, when
    • Your height and weight without shoes
    • Any doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, or emergency rooms you have visited
    • because of your conditions
    • The medicines you take, reasons for taking them, and the name of the prescribing provider
    • Any medical tests you had or are going to have in the future 
    • Up to five jobs you've had in the 15 years before you became disabled (including job title, types of business, state and end dates, hours per day and days per week, and rate of pay)

    Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application 

    Even when you have the Disability Starter Kit to assist you, applying for SSDI can be complicated and confusing. It’s also notoriously challenging – with the vast majority of claims initially denied. When you’re unable to work on counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. At Keefe Disability Lawyers, our knowledgeable and experienced Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish – and help you avoid common mistakes that could result in delays or denials. 

    Schedule a Consultation

    We offer free initial consultations. Complete the online contact form or call us at (508) 283-5500 to have your SSDI applications answered by a member of our highly-skilled legal team. 


  • Can I collect SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time?

    Application for social security benefitsYes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two programs that provide monthly payments to disabled individuals: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In some cases, you may be eligible to collect benefits from both programs at once, something the SSA calls concurrent benefits. Here’s what you should know about the SSDI and SSI disability programs when you might qualify for concurrent benefits and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you navigate the application process.

    SSDI Versus SSI

    Though Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both provide monthly payments to people who qualify, the programs have very different eligibility requirements.


    SSDI is a payroll-tax-funded government program for disabled workers. Eligibility is based on whether the applicant amassed enough work credits by working in jobs that pay into the Social Security trust fund through a dedicated payroll tax with contributions from workers and their employers.


    SSI is a needs-based program for individuals with low incomes and very limited financial resources who are disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old. Unlike SSDI, SSI has nothing to do with your employment or earnings history. In fact, applicants can qualify for SSI even if they’ve never worked.

    Qualifying for Concurrent Benefits 

    It is sometimes possible to get concurrent disability benefits, collecting both SSDI and SSI at the same time. This could happen if you are approved for SSDI but receive a small monthly benefit award based on a history of low-wage earnings or because you haven’t worked much in the past ten years. If your total income, including SSDI, is less than the current SSI monthly payment amount ($841 in 2022), you may qualify for concurrent benefits. However, things like SSI asset limits ($2,000 in countable resources for individuals and $3,000 for couples in 2022), state income limits, income earned during trial work periods, and other factors can affect your eligibility. To understand how your specific circumstances could impact your eligibility for SSDI and SSI benefits, talk to an experienced disability attorney who’s successfully handled concurrent benefit claims.

    Understanding the Benefits of a Concurrent Claim

    The main and most obvious benefit of a concurrent disability claim is that, if approved, it allows you to raise a low monthly SSDI payment to the SSI maximum ($841 per month in 2022), but that’s far from the only benefit. Approval for benefits can take months or years, but with a concurrent claim, you may be eligible for back pay from both SSDI and SSI for some of the time you spent waiting. Other benefits include:

    • Both programs can help you access needed health care (Medicaid for SSI and Medicare for SSDI)
    • SSI benefits start immediately after approval, while SSDI benefits have a five-month waiting period; a concurrent claim lets you collect SSI benefits while you wait for SSDI benefits to begin

    Applying for Concurrent Benefits

    The Social Security disability application process is notoriously frustrating, with up to 70 percent of applicants initially denied benefits. With that in mind, you might expect the process for applying for SSDI and SSI to be twice as complicated. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. When you complete and submit your application for either disability program, the SSA determines which program you qualify for and whether you’re eligible for concurrent benefits.

    Get Experienced Help With Your Social Security Disability Application 

    When you can’t work due to disability and are counting on much-needed SSDI or SSI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Working with a seasoned disability attorney when preparing your application can help you avoid common mistakes that lead to denied claims and increase your chances for approval. Ready to find out how we can assist you?

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of the Keefe Disability Law legal team.


  • What are the benefits of hiring a disability attorney to handle my SSDI appeal?

    Denied social security claimIf you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but were denied benefits, you’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies between 60 and 70 percent of SSDI applications each year, often due to insufficient medical evidence or mistakes in the application paperwork.

    Once you’ve received a denial letter, you have just 60 days (roughly two months) to initiate an appeal. That’s hardly enough time to learn the complexities of the SSDI appeals process, especially when you’re in such poor health. Don’t go at it alone.

    Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced disability appeals lawyer to represent you can save you considerable stress, time, and effort – not to mention improve your chances for a successful outcome. Here’s what you should know about appealing an SSDI denial and how the exceptional Boston disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you.

    Experience That Matters 

    Appealing an SSDI denial can be confusing, frustrating, and more than a little intimidating. At Keefe Disability Law, we know the ins and outs of the complex Social Security disability system – and how to make it work for our clients. Since 1994, our adept attorneys have helped thousands of disabled clients get the financial benefits they need to survive when a severe medical impairment prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

    Understanding the SSDI Appeals Process 

    The SSDI appeals process has four levels. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect – and the benefits of having skilled representation – at each level.

    • Reconsideration. The first level of appeal is a complete reevaluation of your claim by a disability examiner not involved in the initial decision. You can submit new or additional evidence for review. Our attorneys can review your initial applications, correct mistakes or omissions, and assist you in obtaining the evidence needed to convey the severity of your condition to the SSA.
    • Hearing by an administrative law judge. If you received a denial at the reconsideration level, you can request a hearing by an ALJ. This hearing has strict procedural and evidentiary rules that you’re unlikely to know as a layperson. Having a seasoned lawyer at this stage can increase your chances for approval.
    • Review by the Appeals Council. If you disagree with the ALJ’s ruling, the next step is to request an Appeals Council review. From there, the council could dismiss your request and uphold the ALJ ruling, issue a new decision, or return the matter to the ALJ for further action. Our attorneys will advocate for your best interests at every step.
    • Federal Court review. If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision or the council refuses your request for review, you can file a civil lawsuit in a Federal district court. This last level of appeal involves complex litigation, which makes having a skilled disability attorney absolutely imperative. 

    Our Contingency Agreements Mean You CAN Afford a Disability Attorney 

    SSDI applicants are often reluctant to hire a disability attorney because they’re worried they can’t afford the expense. Fortunately, Keefe Disability Law accepts cases on contingency so that you can take advantage of accomplished legal representation without concern for the cost. There are no upfront fees, and you pay nothing unless we win your case. If you’re approved for SSDI, we receive a portion of your back pay. The SSA pays us directly, while you receive a check for the remainder of your back-pay, so you never have to worry about the cost of our services. Have questions? Talk to us about your SSDI claim and our contingency agreements.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of Keefe Disability Law’s legal team. For more information, browse our online FAQs or request a free download of our informative guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


  • Can I get SSDI if I can no longer use my hands?

    Man holding wrist due to painYes. Most jobs – even those that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers unskilled and sedentary – require the use of the hands and fingers. If you’re unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a loss of hand function, such as reduced muscle strength or limited gripping or pinching capability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here’s what you should know about how the SSA evaluates claims involving manipulative limitations of the hands and how Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished attorneys can help you apply and fight for the benefits you deserve.

    Conditions That Can Affect Hand and Finger Function 

    Loss of hand function can be caused by a wide range of injuries and disorders, including:

    • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can affect the hands, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities that make completing everyday activities difficult.
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve is pinched or compressed at the wrist, causing numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand and forearm and, in some cases, permanent hand dysfunction that includes weakness and loss of sensation in the fingers.
    • Neuropathy. Whether caused by a traumatic injury, infection, or complication of a disease like diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the hands can result in debilitating weakness, numbness, and pain.
    • Cervical disc disease with radiculopathy. This condition happens when a cushioning disc in the cervical spine begins breaking down, compressing or irritating a nerve in the neck and causing burning pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the arms and hands.

    Qualifying for SSDI for Loss of Hand Function

    In addition to meeting the SSA’s substantial gainful activity requirements, meaning that you aren’t currently working or earning more than the SGA cap ($1,350 monthly for most applicants or $2,260 per month for blind claimants in 2022), you must have a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that’s severe enough to prevent employment for at least 12 months or result in death. Disability Determination Services (DDS) considers the nature of your injury or illness and the extent of the limitations it causes to decide if you qualify for benefits. When evaluating an SSDI application that includes loss of hand function, the disability examiner needs to know if your condition prevents fine and gross motor movements, such as pinching, picking, fingering, manipulating, handling, grasping, gripping, holding, writing, typing, and reaching. Good use of the hands and fingers isn’t just essential in the workplace; it can also affect your ability to maintain personal hygiene, cook or feed yourself, or perform other vital daily tasks.

    Proving Your Disability 

    Regardless of whether your SSDI application is based on loss of hand function or it’s simply one of the multiple impairments included in your claim, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, electromyography (EMGs), nerve conduction studies, and tests that measure the range of motion and grip and pinch strength can serve as strong supporting evidence. Additionally, because DDS reviews your past relevant work and assesses your ability to adapt to a new job, the opinion or testimony of a vocational expert can help convey the severity and extent of your limitations. Our Boston disability lawyers can connect you with qualified physicians and vocational experts.

    Let Our Exceptional Attorneys Assist You With Your SSDI Application 

    Losing hand functioning can greatly narrow your options for substantial gainful employment. After all, even if you can sit at a desk for a full eight hours, most sedentary jobs involve repetitive hand movements and good use of the hands and fingers. Having trouble using your hands? Let Keefe Disability Law assist with your application. 

    Talk to Us About Your Claim

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Boston legal team. For more information, request a complimentary download of our report, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Process.


  • What are the steps in the SSA's disability determination process?

    Five Step Process BlocksIf you have a disabling medical condition that interferes with your ability to work or engage in substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, getting approved for the benefits you need can be challenging. The five-step disability determination process can be lengthy and complicated, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies nearly 70 percent of people who apply.

    Familiarizing yourself with the process and what happens at each stage may improve your chances for approval, as can working with a knowledgeable and experienced SSDI lawyer when preparing and submitting your application. Here’s what you should know about applying for SSDI, the disability determination process, and how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston attorneys can assist you.

    About the SSDI Evaluation Process

    The SSA’s Evaluation Process for Assessing Disability consists of five steps, which are used to determine whether:

    • You’re working or earning enough to be considered engaged in substantial gainful activity
    • Your condition is sufficiently severe and long-lasting
    • You meet or equal a listing for a qualifying disability
    • You’re capable of performing any past relevant work
    • You can adjust to doing other types of work

    The process is sequential, meaning that the five steps are always performed in the same order. Additionally, the SSA can determine that you’re disabled and award you benefits—or decide you don’t qualify and deny your claim—at any stage. Working with a skilled disability attorney and including robust evidence is essential.

    SSA Disability Assessments

    Here’s a more in-depth look at SSDI application evaluations and vital information you should know at various stages of the process.

    Step One: Employment and Substantial Gainful Activity

    People often incorrectly think that if they’re employed, they can’t collect SSDI. However, that isn’t always the case. When reviewing your application, the SSA will see whether you’re working and, if so, if your earnings indicate substantial gainful activity.

    Substantial gainful activity, or SGA, limits are subject to periodic increases related to changes in the national average wage index. In 2022, most SSDI applicants could earn up to $1,350 per month and still maintain eligibility. For statutorily blind applicants, the monthly SGA cap is $2,260 monthly.

    Step Two: Severity and Duration of Condition

    Next, the disability determination examiner handling your claim will review it to determine whether you meet the severity and duration requirements for SSDI. To qualify, your condition (or a combination of ailments) must be severe enough to interfere with basic work activities and be expected to persist for at least 12 months or result in death.

    Step Three: Meeting or Equaling a Listing

    The SSA Blue Book Listing of Impairments lists conditions considered sufficiently disabling as well as the medical criteria for approval. If you have a listed health condition and can meet the requirements, you may qualify for SSDI. This path to approval is called “meeting a listing.” However, if you don’t meet the criteria for a listed condition, your medical problem isn’t included in the Blue Book, or you’re disabled due to multiple disorders, completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment can help show the SSA that your impairments are as disabling as qualifying disabilities. Regardless of whether you’re trying to meet or equal a listing, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial to the outcome of your claim.

    Step Four: Past Relevant Work Comparison

    The disability examiner will then complete a function-by-function comparison of your RFC to your employment history (also known as past relevant work experience or PRW). This helps the SSA determine whether you have the physical or mental capacity to perform any work you’ve done previously.

    Step Five: Adjusting to Other Work

    When you can’t return to a previous occupation, the disability case examiner will decide whether you’re able to make necessary adjustments to perform any other type of work. If you can’t adjust, the SSA will agree that you’re disabled and award SSDI benefits.

    How Our Boston Disability Lawyers Can Help

    At Keefe Disability Law, our attorneys are adept at helping clients navigate the SSDI application process to secure the benefits they deserve. Don’t risk a denial. Find out how we can assist you.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.


  • What are medically determinable impairments?

    Woman with medical disabilityConsidering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? If you've spent any time looking at the application forms, you've probably come across the term “medically determinable impairment” or MDI and wondered what it meant and how it relates to your claim for benefits. Fortunately, you've come to the right place for answers.

    A medically determinable impairment is a physical or mental disability that can be proved with medical evidence from acceptable medical sources or AMS. Having an MDI is key to qualifying for SSDI. Here's what you need to know about medically determinable impairments and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston attorneys can help you prove your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and collect the benefits you deserve.

    How the SSA Defines Medically Determinable Impairments 

    The SSA has a strict definition of disability. To qualify for SSDI, you must have an MDI – “a physical or mental impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Qualifying conditions and the medical criteria you must meet for approval are found in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The book recognizes 14 categories of disabilities, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders (Section 1.00) to diseases that affect the immune system (Section 14.00). Examples of qualifying MDIs include:

    • Vision or hearing loss
    • Asthma
    • Cystic fibrosis 
    • Thyroid gland disorders
    • Various cancers
    • Symptomatic congenital heart disease
    • Peripheral artery disease
    • Chronic liver disease
    • Chronic kidney disease (with impairment of kidney function)
    • Epilepsy
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
    • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
    • Depressive and bipolar-related disorders
    • Lupus
    • HIV

    Proving Your MDI

    MDIs “must be established by objective medical evidence, such as signs or laboratory findings (or both) from an acceptable medical source, not on an individual's statement of symptoms.” In other words, the SSA won't simply take your word for it that you have a medically determinable impairment severe enough to prevent substantial gainful activity. Examples of objective medical evidence include the results of various chemical tests (such as blood tests), electrophysiological studies (such as electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms), medical imaging (such as X-rays), and psychological tests. Attending regular appointments with your treating physicians and making sure to convey the functional limitation your condition causes – like being unable to sit or stand for long periods or struggling with fine motor control  – is essential to proving your MDI and SSDI eligibility to the SSA.

    How Our Boston SSDI Lawyers Can Help With Your Claim

    Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's exceptional attorneys have helped disabled clients throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island apply for – and obtain – much-needed benefits. Having assisted thousands of clients with their applications and appeals, we know exactly what the SSA is looking for in terms of medical evidence and can help you avoid preventable mistakes in your application paperwork, two of the most common reasons claims are denied.

    If you're suffering from a medically determinable impairment and can no longer work or engage in substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for SSDI, but there's far too much at stake to go it alone. Thankfully, you don't have to. Keefe Disability Law offers adept and aggressive representation for SSDI and SSI claims. Ready to get started on your disability application and want to know exactly how we can help? Talk to us about your claim.

    Schedule a Consultation 

    Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our accomplished Boston legal team. For additional information, request a complimentary download of the guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


  • How often do I have to reapply for Social Security disability benefits?

    Social security benefits applicationSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a payroll tax-funded federal insurance program that pays monthly benefits to workers who can no longer hold a job due to a significant illness or impairment. Once you've applied for SSDI and been approved for benefits, you won't have to reapply. However, you may be subject to periodic Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) to determine whether your eligibility has changed. Here's what you need to know about CDRs and how Keefe Disability Law's exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can help if the Social Security Administration (SSA) tries to end your benefits.

    SSDI Eligibility

    Disabled individuals who have a medically determinable impairment that prevents them from working or participating in substantial gainful employment for 12 months or more may qualify for SSDI, provided that they also have sufficient work credits. (This means that the applicant has worked in jobs that pay into Social Security long enough to amass 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last ten years; younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.)

    Once approved, you can continue to collect benefits for as long as you have a qualifying disability. However, there are several reasons your eligibility could potentially change over time, such as significant improvement in your condition or returning to work and earning more than the substantial gainful activity limit. (What constitutes substantial gainful activity fluctuates with changes in the national average wage index; in 2022, it was $1,350 per month for most individuals and $2,260 per month for statutorily blind applicants.)

    Understanding Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Frequency 

    Anyone who receives SSDI benefits must submit to periodic CDRs. How often the reviews are required depends largely on whether your medical impairment is expected to improve. For example, if the improvement is expected, the SSA will typically initiate a CDR within six to 18 months of your approval for benefits. When improvement is possible, but not necessarily anticipated, CDRs are generally requested every three years. Finally, when improvement isn't expected, the SSA will review your claim for continued eligibility every seven years or so.

    What to Expect During Your CDR 

    You won't be expected to keep track of how often your claim needs review; the SSA will notify you by mail when a CDR is required. The disability review is a short interview at your local Social Security field office, during which you'll need to provide:

    • Information on your medical condition and day-to-day limitations
    • Contact information for your doctors and any medical facilities where you've received treatment 
    • Contact information for your employer if you've worked since being approved for SSDI benefits 

    The above information is sent to the same Disability Determination Services (DDS) office that was responsible for reviewing your initial application. DDS will inform you of its decision in writing by mail. Provided that your medical condition remains severe enough to prevent work (or substantial gainful activity), your monthly SSDI payments should continue. 

    What to Do If Informed Your SSDI Benefits Will End 

    Received a notification that your SSDI benefits will cease and believe the decision was made in error? Contact the knowledgeable and experienced Social Security disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law immediately. Our adept lawyers will review your claim and the information you provided during your CDR for mistakes or omissions that may be to blame and work to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

    Request a Consultation 

    Ready to find out how Keefe Disability Law's accomplished team of Boston attorneys can help you hang on to the SSDI benefits you need and deserve? Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. For additional information, request our complimentary report, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


  • Are there any limits on how I can spend SSDI money?

    Limits on spending money from SSDIManaged by the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that provides medical care and monthly payments to individuals who have disabilities that prevent work or substantial gainful activity (SGA). Unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SSDI isn't needs-based, so if you applied and were approved for benefits, there aren't any official restrictions on how you can spend the money you receive. However, the SSA does suggest prioritizing your current needs, catching up on past-due bills, and saving for reasonably foreseeable future expenses before using the money for discretionary spending. 

    Here's what you need to know about using SSDI back pay or monthly payments; the many spending restrictions you face if you're a representative payee rather than a beneficiary; and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston-based attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can assist you.

    A Word About Back Pay 

    Getting approved for SSDI can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Most applications are initially denied, forcing people who are in serious need of benefits to appeal the unfavorable decision via a four-stage process that can add months to the whole ordeal. When disability applicants are finally approved, they're often eligible for back pay – a lump sum payment of benefits you would have received had the SSA approved your application when you first applied. Because these benefits have accrued for months or even years, when the back pay lands in your account, the amount can be substantial. 

    Spending Your Disability Benefits 

    Whether it's back pay or monthly payments, the SSA recommends covering all of your basic needs before doing anything extravagant.

    Examples of Basic Expenses 

    • Rent or mortgage payments (or other housing costs)
    • Utilities, such as water, electricity, natural gas, sewage and sanitation, and Internet 
    • Food, including daily meals, snacks, and beverages, as well as occasional meals out 
    • Other living expenses, such as transportation costs, laundry services, and more

    Though, if you live with another person who covers such expenses in their entirety – or pays the lion's share – you can essentially spend your SSDI payments however you see fit.

    Understanding the Responsibilities and Spending Limitations of an SSDI Representative Payee 

    The SSA appoints a representative payee when an adult beneficiary is incapable of managing their own SSDI benefits, such as in cases of legal incompetency. A representative payee can be a person, like a family member, close friend, attorney, or an organization, such as social service agencies, banks or other financial institutions, and state or local government agencies. The appointed individual or organization has wide-ranging responsibilities, all of which must be completed with the beneficiary's best interests in mind. Also, unlike an SSDI beneficiary, a representative payee can't spend at their own discretion.

    Representative Payee Duties 

    • Use payments to meet the beneficiary's current and future housing, dietary, and other basic needs.
    • Spend some of the money on personal comfort items and recreational costs for the beneficiary, such as movie tickets, magazine subscriptions, or outings or trips.
    • Provide the beneficiary with discretionary money when possible. (If the disabled person has drug, alcohol, gambling, or other addiction issues, spending money can be given in small amounts and monitored to prevent abuse.)
    • Save any benefits not currently needed to help cover unexpected future expenses.
    • Keep records of the payments received and how they were spent.
    • Provide the SSA with an accounting of how SSDI benefits were saved or used upon request.

    Additionally, the SSA prohibits representative payees from collecting a fee – unless they're a qualified organizational payee and have received approval in writing – or spending SSDI benefits on themselves.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


  • What is a durational denial and what does it mean for my SSDI case?

    durational denial social securityQualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires meeting specific criteria. Not only must you have worked in jobs covered by Social Security long enough to amass sufficient credits to qualify for SSDI, but you must have a disability or medically determinable impairment that's expected to prevent substantial gainful employment for at least 12 months or result in death.

    If you applied for SSDI and received a durational denial from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the disability examiner and medical consultant who reviewed your claim didn't think your condition would last long enough to qualify you for benefits. Here's what you need to know about SSDI's duration-of-disability requirement and how an experienced disability lawyer can help you get your case back on track after a durational denial. 

    Disability Duration and SSDI Eligibility

    The SSA has a very specific definition of disability – and, sadly, getting a disabling diagnosis from your doctor doesn't necessarily mean you'll be eligible for SSDI benefits. To qualify for SSDI, your condition must prevent substantial gainful activity, meaning that you make less than a specified amount each month. (Though updated annually, in 2022, this amount was $1,350 for most people and $2,260 for statutorily blind applicants.) Additionally, you must make less than the specified amount for at least 12 months in a row.

    Ways to Meet the SSDI Duration-of-Disability Requirement 

    • You have a condition that has prevented substantial gainful employment for a minimum of 12 months.
    • Your disability is expected to prevent substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer.
    • Your condition won't improve within the next 12 months.
    • Your disability is terminal and will result in death.

    Providing clear medical evidence of your condition is vital when applying for SSDI. If you received a durational denial, despite having a disability that meets one of the duration requirements, it could mean that:

    • Your doctor wasn't able to state with confidence (or prove with data) that your injury or illness would prevent you from working for 12 months or more; or 
    • Your application didn't include sufficient medical evidence proving the lasting nature of your disability to the SSA claims examiner and medical consultant assigned to your case.

    The Problem With Durational Denials

    Durational denials are somewhat controversial. Not only are they subjective and primarily based on opinion, but these crucial decisions are made by examiners who often have little-to-no medical experience and are signed off on by medical consultants who don't know you or your condition. Even worse, these individuals may rely on personal knowledge or biases when making their decisions, perhaps without even realizing it. 

    What to Do If You Received a Durational Denial

    Receiving a durational denial can be a significant setback, but, fortunately, these decisions aren't etched in stone. Durational denials made by SSA claims examiners are often successfully disputed and reversed on appeal. 

    After receiving the denial, you have 60 days to initiate an appeal and request a reconsideration of the decision. However, at this stage, there's far too much at stake to go it alone. Consult a knowledgeable disability lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights, options, and obligations throughout the SSDI appeals process.

    Need Help Dealing With an SSDI Durational Denial? You've Come to the Right Place

    Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's Boston-based legal team has helped disabled clients throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island fight for the SSDI benefits they need and deserve. We assist clients at all stages of the disability process – from initial application to appeal. Ready to find out what our seasoned attorneys can do for you and your SSDI claim? 

    Request a Free Consultation 

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a free consultation regarding your SSDI durational denial and potential appeal. For additional information, request our complimentary guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


  • What should I do if I was denied SSDI benefits for osteoporosis?

    SSDI denial for osteoporosisBone is made up of living tissues, so even when you're fully grown, your bones are engaged in a constant cycle of breakdown and rebuilding. Unfortunately, this process slows as you age, causing old bone to be lost faster than new bone is created. In turn, this leads to a loss of mass and results in weak, brittle bones that are prone to breaking.

    When you have osteoporosis, this bone fragility can be so extreme that the physical exertion associated with performing basic daily tasks can be sufficient to cause a fracture. Obviously, if you can't cough or even bend over without risking broken bones, holding a job and participating in substantial gainful activity can be difficult, if not impossible. Sadly, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, leaving you wondering what to do next. 

    Here's what you need to know about appealing a denied SSDI claim, qualifying for benefits for osteoporosis, and how Keefe Disability Law's exceptional attorneys can guide you every step of the way. 

    Appealing a Denied SSDI Claim

    After you receive the denial letter from the SSA, you have 60 days to initiate an appeal, either online or by completing forms SSA-561, SSA-827, and SSA-3441 and submitting them to the Social Security office nearest you. There are four stages in the appeals process: reconsideration, hearing before an administrative law judge, Appeals Council review, and federal court review. At each stage, you generally have 60 days to appeal the decision.

    SSA Appeals Process Overview

    • Reconsideration. The first step in the appeals process, reconsideration consists of a thorough review of your claim by an examiner or medical professional who wasn't involved in the first determination. You can request reconsideration for a medical or non-medical denial, and submit new or additional evidence for the SSA to use when making its decision.
    • Hearing by an administrative law judge. If Disability Determination Services (DDS) denies your reconsideration request, you can ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge or ALJ who wasn't involved in the initial or reconsideration stages. During this hearing, the ALJ will review the evidence in your case and listen to testimony from you and other witnesses – including experts – before making a determination.
    • Appeals Council review. If the ALJ rules against you, you can ask the SSA Appeals Council to review the case. A panel of members will review the ALJ's ruling, as well as any new evidence or information, before announcing its determination. The council can affirm, change, or reverse the decision, or order a new hearing.
    • Federal Court review. If the Appeals Council denied your request for a review or you disagree with its determination, you can file a civil lawsuit in Federal district court as a last resort.

    Qualifying for SSDI for Osteoporosis

    Generally speaking, there are two ways to qualify for SSDI: meeting a listing in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments or equaling a listing by showing that your condition is as disabling as one that qualifies for benefits. Because osteoporosis isn't included in the Listing of Impairments, equaling a listing is the only path to approval and requires completing a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. This is a lengthy analysis of your work history and occupational skills, as well as the physical demands of your job and the limitations and impairments caused by your osteoporosis.

    Important Information and Evidence to Include 

    • The presence of advanced symptoms, such as frequent fractures, severe lower back pain, stooped posture, noticeable loss of height, or shortness of breath (caused by reduced lung capacity)
    • The results of a bone density test can offer insight into future bone health 
    • X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs
    • Results of other screening tests, such as peripheral DXA and quantitative ultrasound (QUS)
    • Blood test results 

    Talk to Us About Your Appeal

    Learning that your SSDI claim has been denied can be frustrating. Fortunately, a denial letter isn't the end of the road. Let Keefe Disability Law's knowledgeable and experienced Boston disability attorneys review your case and guide you through the appeals process. Contact us online or call 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. 

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.