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.
- Page 1
Can the Social Security Administration spy on me if I file a Social Security disability claim?
In most cases, the Social Security Administration will not spy on you. Instead, your initial Social Security disability eligibility will depend on your application and supporting evidence. After you begin receiving Social Security disability, the agency may rely on continuing disability reviews to determine if you remain disabled and eligible for benefits.
However, if the Social Security Administration notices any red flags with your application, then the agency may decide to look into whether you are really disabled through online and in-person surveillance.
How the Social Security Administration May and May Not Investigate You
If the Social Security Administration decides that there is any reason to doubt your claim, then it may have investigators:
- Look at your social media accounts. If the Social Security Administration thinks that you are exaggerating or lying about your medical condition, investigators may check your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media accounts to see what you are posting. If you are doing things that are inconsistent with your injury or illness, then the Social Security Administration may doubt your claim. What is posted on social media can be taken out of context or misinterpreted. Therefore, it is often a good idea to avoid posting on social media and regularly check your accounts to see what you are tagged in that could be misconstrued and interfere with your disability claim.
- Follow you. In some cases, the Social Security Administration may send investigators to take photographs or video footage of you in public places. The goal is to catch you doing something that you should not be able to do because of your medical condition. For example, depending on your specific conditions, you may or may not be able to go out for a run or run errands and video of you doing either of things could damage your disability application.
Even if the Social Security Administration suspects you are lying about your disability, the agency cannot take photos or video surveillance of you inside your home where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Be Prepared but Not Scared for a Social Security Investigation
If you, your doctor, and your Social Security disability lawyer are honest, then you don’t need to worry. The Social Security Administration rarely uses surveillance. However, even if the Social Security Administration decides to spy on your social media accounts or follow you in person, the investigators won’t find anything inconsistent with your disability application. Therefore, the best way to prepare for a possible Social Security investigation is to tell the truth about your health and to always act consistently with the limitations your doctors suggest.
You won’t be notified in advance of Social Security surveillance. The agency doesn’t want to warn you of its actions because it doesn’t want you to change your behavior. Instead, the Social Security Administration is looking for a reason to deny your disability claim. Surveillance is just one way for the agency to meet this goal.
Our experienced Social Security lawyers have a different goal. We want to help you get the disability benefits that you’ve earned through your years of hard work and that you need because of your permanent illness or injury.
Keefe Disability Law represents people applying for initial disability benefits or appealing Social Security disability denials in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. We answer the phone when people call our office, we believe in educating our clients and letting them know what to expect, and we fight hard to get them the benefits that they deserve.
We encourage you to learn more about your rights and the Social Security disability benefits process by contacting our Massachusetts disability lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We are happy to meet with you in our conveniently located Natick office or by phone. We look forward to sharing more information about how to get the disability benefits you might deserve.
Can I do volunteer work and qualify for Social Security disability?
You ask an important question that’s essential to answer before you start volunteering. You may be looking for something to do with your time, or you may want to continue supporting a favorite cause, but before you volunteer, you need to know whether your unpaid work could impact your Social Security disability eligibility.
What Type of Volunteer Work Will You Do?
The Social Security Administration is only concerned with one thing when it comes to your philanthropic activities. The agency wants to know if the work that you are doing would be considered substantial gainful activity if you were paid for it.
Since you aren’t paid, the Social Security Administration must consider factors other than your income when deciding if the work rises to the level of substantial gainful activity. Some of the things the agency will consider when making this determination include:
- How often you volunteer. If you volunteer more than a few hours a week, then the Social Security Administration may assume that you can get a paying job.
- The value of your volunteer work. If you were paid a fair wage for volunteering and that wage would exceed the substantial gainful activity level, then the Social Security Administration may decide that you can work.
- The physical requirements of your volunteer work. If the job requires a lot of lifting, walking, or other strenuous activity, then you may be able to work at a paying job.
- Whether the work you do is typically paid work or volunteer work. Suppose you volunteer for a for-profit business or for a family member’s business and someone else would be paid for the work. In that case, the Social Security Administration may conclude that your lack of pay is only so that you can keep receiving disability benefits. However, if your work is typically done on a volunteer basis, then the Social Security Administration may come to a different conclusion.
Is Your Volunteer Work Exempt?
Certain types of volunteer work will not trigger a review by the Social Security Administration and may not be considered evidence that you can engage in substantial gainful activity.
If you volunteer for a program included in the Domestic Volunteer Service Act, then the Social Security Administration may not consider your volunteer work when deciding whether you are disabled. Some of these exempt volunteer opportunities include:
- Volunteers in Service to America
- University Year for Action
- Special Volunteer Program
- Retired Senior Volunteer Program
- Foster Grandparent Program
- Service Corps of Retired Executives
- Active Corps of Executives
Similarly, if you serve on a board, advisory committee, or commission for a group created by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, then the Social Security Administration will not consider your volunteer work unless you are volunteering as part of a paid job.
Generally, if you are volunteering for one of the groups described above or a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit group in a way that is consistent with your disabilities and that does not indicate to the Social Security Administration that you can work, then volunteering can be a great thing. You may be happier and less anxious if you are doing volunteer work that you enjoy.
Do You Have Other Questions About Social Security Disability Eligibility?
Your disability has changed so much about your life. Social Security disability provides important financial benefits if you have a permanent or life-ending disability, and you can’t work. Initial and continued Social Security disability eligibility is often confusing, and a simple mistake or miscommunication could put a stop to your benefits.
Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers don’t want this to happen to you. Instead, we want to make sure that you continue to do your volunteer work while getting the Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned.
If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for benefits or if you need to appeal the Social Security Administration’s denial of your benefits, please contact our Boston-area Social Security disability attorneys today for a free consultation.
Can Social Security disability benefits be garnished?
There are different Social Security disability garnishment rules for various types of debt. If you owe money and a court has issued a garnishment order, then it is essential to understand which debts may be garnished and how garnishment is calculated. Then, you can estimate your monthly Social Security disability benefits.
No Social Security Disability Garnishment for Private Debts
Only the federal government can garnish your Social Security disability benefits. Therefore, even if you are behind on other significant debts and a legal garnishment order is in place, your Social Security disability benefits may not be garnished. Privately owned debts include:
- Credit card debt
- Auto loans
- Bank loans
- Private student loans
While private lenders cannot garnish Social Security disability benefits, you should regularly check your bank account to make sure that no mistakes are made and that private lenders do not wrongfully garnish your disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Garnishment for Other Debts
While the Social Security Administration cannot withhold any portion of your disability payments to pay your private loans, the agency can withhold a portion of your disability payments if there is a legal garnishment order in place for other types of debts. These debts include:
- Child support
- Alimony or spousal support
- Restitution, or payment that is required to be paid to a victim after a criminal conviction
- Overdue federal taxes
- Federal student loans
- Non-tax debts owed to other federal agencies
If you owe debts that may be legally garnished, then the garnishment should be calculated from your monthly benefit after other legal deductions. In most cases, your garnishment will be the weekly garnishment amount multiplied by 52 and then divided by 12 and rounded to the nearest dime. Typically, the garnishment is limited to either the state maximum or the federal maximum allowed under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, whichever is lower.
For child support payments, the federal maximum provides that you owe:
- 50% of eligible benefits if you support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order
- 60% of eligible benefits if you do not support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order
If you are more than 12 weeks late with your child support payments, then the percentage that you must pay rises to 55% if you support another child or spouse or 65% if you do not support another child or spouse.
Make Sure You Get the Social Security Disability Benefits You’ve Earned
Debt is a common part of life. Unfortunately, now that you are disabled and unable to work, it is more challenging than ever to make regular payments on your debts. That doesn’t mean that your disability payments should always go toward paying your debt, however.
The first step in getting the disability benefits that you’ve earned and satisfying your legal garnishments is to apply for Social Security disability benefits. If your application is denied, then you won’t have the money to live on or to pay your garnishments.
Accordingly, our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will work hard to get you the benefits that you’ve earned. We will thoroughly review your medical record and work history so that we can submit a strong and complete Social Security disability application on your behalf. If your application happens to be denied, we will fight hard on appeal to protect your rights.
Don’t let a potential garnishment prevent you from applying for Social Security disability benefits. If you are eligible for benefits, then some of your monthly payments may go toward satisfying your debts, but the rest will be yours to use as you wish.
Learn more about your rights for free. We invite you to contact our Boston area Social Security disability attorneys for a free consultation and to download a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.
Can I make money doing my hobby and continue to qualify for Social Security disability?
Your medical condition prevents you from working. While your daily activities have changed significantly, you still have a hobby that you enjoy. Perhaps you enjoy crafts that you can do from the comfort of your home, maybe you are a gifted graphic designer and you can do a few projects at a time, or maybe you have a knack for fixing broken appliances.
You can’t turn your hobby into a steady income because of your disability, but can you sell your goods or services on the side and earn a little money.
How Much Money You Can Earn While Receiving Social Security Disability
Typically, the Social Security Administration does not consider your hobbies when determining whether you can work. However, if you get paid for what you consider to be a hobby, then your hobby is relevant in the Social Security disability eligibility or continued disability eligibility determination.
The Social Security Administration must find that you are completely disabled and unable to support yourself by working before it begins sending you Social Security disability benefits.
More specifically, the Social Security Administration must find that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.
The amount that you can earn and still qualify for Social Security disability benefits changes annually. For example, in 2020, substantial gainful activity, or the amount that you could earn and still qualify for benefits, was set at $1,260 per month for non-blind Social Security disability recipients and $2,110 per month for blind Social Security disability recipients.
If you want to make money at your hobby, however, it is not enough to make sure that your earnings are below the substantial gainful activity threshold. While you can’t make more than the substantial gainful activity amount, you need to be careful that the Social Security Administration doesn’t think that you are purposefully holding back on earning an income so that you remain eligible for disability benefits.
In making its determination, the Social Security Administration may consider things such as:
- The circumstances under which you did the work. These circumstances could include but aren’t limited to whether you did the work at home and any special accommodations that you had at home to make doing the work easier.
- Your “work” hours. If you work on your hobby during non-traditional work hours or require frequent breaks, then you may not be able to go back to work even if you can make some money with your hobby.
- Special assistance you receive at home. Are you able to complete all of the work that it takes to make money at your hobby independently, or are other people involved in the making, advertising, selling, and managing of the endeavor?
The Social Security Administration should consider all of the information that you provide when determining whether you can work and whether you are disabled.
Is the Benefit of Earning Money Worth Risking SSDI Benefits?
You, like many other Social Security disability recipients, may have trouble making ends meet with just your monthly disability payments and existing assets. Additionally, or alternatively, you may suffer emotionally if you are not working. Part-time self-employment from home doing a hobby that you enjoy may be just the answer for you.
If you choose to pursue earning an income from your hobby and receive Social Security disability benefits, then we encourage you to make sure that all of your rights are protected. Our experienced Metro Boston Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you. We want you to lead the most fulfilling life that you can. If earning money from a hobby is part of your plan, then let’s talk about how you can do that without jeopardizing the fair Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned during your years of work.
Call us or contact us through this website to learn more today. We would be happy to meet with you by phone or in person for a free, no-obligation consultation.
I need to file for bankruptcy protection. What will happen to my Social Security disability payments?
The Social Security disability payments that you receive each month help you financially. Your Social Security disability deposits provide some money to pay for essential things such as food, shelter, heat, and food.
The exact amount of monthly Social Security disability payments depends on your work history and changes slightly from year to year. However, in January 2020, the average monthly Social Security disability payment to a disabled worker was $1,258. Given the high cost of living in the Greater Boston area and throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, Social Security disability benefits are unlikely to pay all of your bills.
You may be in debt. Your next step may be to file for bankruptcy relief so that you can have the fresh start bankruptcy allows. However, you may be worried about what will happen to your Social Security disability benefits if you pursue a bankruptcy case.
Keep Your Social Security Disability Income and File for Bankruptcy
You don’t have to choose between bankruptcy and Social Security disability. In most cases, you can keep your Social Security disability payments and get bankruptcy relief.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcies
Chapter 7 bankruptcies are also known as liquidation bankruptcies. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, your assets that are classified as non-exempt assets are sold and distributed to your creditors to satisfy your debts. Therefore, the question becomes whether Social Security disability payments are exempt assets.
Social Security disability payments may be exempt pursuant to state exemption laws or the federal exemption law. You must decide whether you are going to choose the state exemptions or the federal exemptions when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Therefore, it is important to let your bankruptcy lawyer know that you receive Social Security disability payments so that all relevant factors can be considered when deciding which exemption list to choose.
Even if your Social Security disability payments are exempt from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there is an important factor that can complicate your case. Most people have their Social Security disability payments deposited into a bank account that also has money from other sources. Whether it is money that was gifted to you or that you earned from a hobby, for example, the money is not all from the Social Security Administration.
The comingling of money in one bank account makes it hard for the Chapter 7 Trustee to determine which money is Social Security disability income and which money is from other sources. The Trustee may decide that it is impossible to figure out how much of the money is from Social Security disability and, therefore, the entire bank account may be non-exempt and used to pay your creditors. This problem may be avoided if you keep Social Security disability payments in a separate bank account.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcies
Chapter 13 bankruptcy works differently than Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep all of your assets and pay your creditors through a court-approved monthly repayment plan over a three- to five-year period. Your income and expenses are considered when a repayment plan is created. Your Social Security disability income may be exempt from the income that is considered when determining your ability to repay your creditors.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer to Protect All of Your Rights
Your bankruptcy lawyer will make sure that Social Security disability payments and other exempt assets are protected during bankruptcy. However, you may have other concerns about your Social Security disability payments, such as:
- Can you work and receive Social Security disability payments?
- When will your Social Security disability payments end?
- Are you receiving the right amount in Social Security disability payments?
- Why is the Social Security Administration reviewing my claim, and what do I need to do about it?
Our Boston area Social Security disability lawyers encourage you to contact us as soon as you have a question. Don’t wait for the Social Security Administration to take away your benefits. Instead, let’s work together to make sure that there is no interruption in the benefits you receive.
To learn more, please contact us through this website or by phone at any time. We would be pleased to offer you a free consultation by phone or in person to discuss your legal options.
When will my Social Security disability benefits end?
You qualify for Social Security disability benefits because you have a terminal illness or a medical condition that has resulted in your permanent disability. Some Social Security disability recipients believe that because their condition is terminal or permanent that they will receive Social Security disability benefits for the rest of their life. However, this is not always true.
The Social Security Administration Can Terminate Disability Benefits in Certain Situations
The federal laws and regulations that govern Social Security disability allow the Social Security Administration to end a recipient’s benefits when:
- Your health improves and you are no longer disabled. Sometimes medical conditions improve. Whether that is due to luck, medical advancements, or the natural progression of your condition, you may no longer be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if your health has improved to the point where you no longer qualify.
- You are able to go back to work. Even if your health condition is permanent, there may come a time when you are able to go back to work. You may find a medication that allows you to work, there could be a breakthrough in treatment for your condition, or you may find that you can work with certain accommodations. If this happens, and you are able to earn enough to engage in substantial gainful activity, then your benefits will stop. If you are unsure about whether you can earn enough to stay in the workforce or to earn enough money to qualify as engaging in substantial gainful activity then you may be able to go back to work on a trial basis until you know for sure. The exact amount that is considered substantial gainful activity is subject to change annually. In 2017, substantial gainful activity was defined as $1,170 a month for non-blind individuals and $1,950 a month for blind individuals.
- You reach retirement age. You cannot receive both Social Security disability and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. Thus, the Social Security Administration will stop your disability benefits when you reach retirement age and you begin receiving retirement benefits.
Before the Social Security Administration can take away your benefits, however, the agency must be aware that one of the conditions described above has occurred.
How Will the Social Security Administration Know?
The Social Security Administration may know that your benefits will be terminated because of:
- Your report to the agency. You may need to proactively report changes of your medical condition or your work status to the Social Security Administration.
- The agency’s periodic review of your claim. The Social Security Administration periodically reviews all disability cases. During these reviews, the agency may decide whether or not you continue to qualify for benefits. Periodic reviews may happen as frequently as every few months or as infrequently as every seven years, depending on the unique disability that you suffer. The Social Security Administration should let you know when a periodic review is occurring and the status of the agency’s findings.
However, the Social Security Administration does not always come to the right conclusion based on the information that it collects when you self-report or it conducts a periodic review.
Sometimes the Agency Wrongfully Decides That Your Benefits Should Be Terminated
If you receive a notice of termination then it is important to take action quickly to avoid an unnecessary disruption in your disability benefit payments. While it may seem like a hassle now, it is actually easier to stop benefits from ending than to go through the entire process of applying for Social Security disability benefits again.
For this reason, we encourage you to contact an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as you think that your benefits may be in jeopardy. We will investigate your claim and work hard to convince the Social Security Administration of your continued eligibility if you remain disabled.
Contact an Experienced Boston, MA Disability Attorney
Whether you've already applied, need to apply, or were denied and need to appeal, an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer can help. Keefe Disability Law serves clients in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Contact us at 888-904-6847 today.
What Happens When an Applicant Dies While Waiting for Claim Approval?
Unfortunately, with approval for Social Security disability applications taking anywhere from a few months to a few years, it's not uncommon for applicants to die while their application is still under review by the Social Security Administration (SSA). When this happens, a family member of the deceased—such as their spouse, children, or parents—can continue the claim on their behalf. However, it's important to note that continuing a Social Security disability claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is determined by the applicant's work history, is easier than continuing a claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a need-based program determined by income.
SSDI applicants who are eventually approved for benefits must endure a five-month waiting period following the onset of their disability before they actually begin receiving payments. In the case of deceased applicants, the benefits would begin accumulating at the end of that waiting period and end the month of their death.
Additionally, the spouse, children, or parents of disabled individuals can also start a new application for Social Security disability benefits on behalf of their loved one—even if they didn't apply for benefits prior to their death.
Do You Need Help Pursuing Social Security Disability Benefits?
If your loved one died while their SSDI or SSI application was still pending, or you'd like to apply and start a posthumous claim on their behalf, working with a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney gives you the best chance for a successful resolution. The skilled attorneys with Keefe Disability Law know the ins and outs of the SSA's application process and can guide you each and every step of the way, providing you with the compassionate and thoughtful representation you need during what is sure to be a difficult and emotional time. Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation or to request a copy of our free eBook, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.
If I Move Into a Nursing Home, Will I Lose My SSI Benefits?
Changes in your living situation, such as moving into a nursing home, can dramatically affect your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments and, in some cases, may even cause your benefits to be terminated.
If you enter a medical facility such as a nursing home or hospital where Medicaid covers the cost for more than half your care, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may reduce your monthly SSI payment to $30. Additionally, the monthly $30 SSI benefit may be further reduced based on your income. However, some states will supplement the amount you receive from the federal government.
Adults who move into a medical facility not paid for by Medicaid are not eligible for SSI benefits. Likewise, children (age 18 and younger) who move into medical facilities not paid for by Medicaid or private insurance are also ineligible for SSI benefits.
Thanks to a special rule, the SSA generally does not terminate SSI benefits for recipients who will only be residing in a nursing home or other medical facility for 90 days or less. To preserve your SSI benefits during short-term nursing home stays, you must provide the SSA with the following information:
- A written statement from your doctor verifying that you will be in the medical facility in question for no more than 90 consecutive days
- A written statement from you, a family member, or other caregiver stating that you need your current SSI benefits to maintain your permanent home during your short-term stay in the nursing home
This information must be provided to the SSA as soon as possible to avoid forfeiting your SSI benefits. The SSA requires SSI beneficiaries to submit the necessary information before leaving the nursing home.
Is Your Social Security Disability Case Under Review?
If your living situation changes, the SSA may put your case under review. Don't risk losing your SSI benefits. Contact a knowledgeable and experienced disability attorney for help navigating the case review process. The skilled disability attorneys at Keefe Disability Law will work with you to address your questions and concerns. Call our law office, or complete our online contact form.
If my disability worsens, will I receive increased SS benefits?
If you receive Social Security (SS) Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a disabling condition, you may wonder if you're entitled to an increase in benefits if your condition worsens. Unfortunately, a worsening condition doesn't usually entitle an SS beneficiary to receive a larger monthly payment. This is because the amount of SS Disability you receive is related to your previous earning record rather than the severity of your condition.
However, there are a few situations in which a worsening condition may entitle you to additional benefits. For example:
- If you were receiving SS payments for a condition such as low vision, you may be able to receive additional benefits if the condition progresses to legal or full blindness that prevents you from working.
- If you were approved for SS benefits for a kidney disease, you may become eligible for Medicare coverage more quickly if your condition results in complete kidney failure, requiring a kidney transplant or daily dialysis.
- If you develop a new disabling condition, in addition to the condition for which you were approved, you may be eligible for additional benefits through a different assistance program.
Do You Need Help With Your Social Security Disability Claim?
Applying for SS benefits can be a lengthy and complex journey. Failing to provide all the necessary information in the initial application can result in frustrating delays or denials. Additionally, even after you're approved, you may not know the best way to communicate your needs to the SSA. Fortunately, an experienced disability attorney can help. Seasoned disability attorneys can advocate for you every step of the way—from your initial application, to changes in your condition, to a denial. Don't go it alone. Contact the attorneys with Keefe Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your case. We're happy to answer any questions and concerns you may have. You can also request a free copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
I received notice that my disability benefits are about to stop, what should I do?
For many disabled individuals, Social Security disability benefits are a financial lifeline crucial to overall well-being. These benefits can help to make up for the income that the person is unable to earn as a result of his or her condition. For this reason, receiving notice that disability benefits are about to cease can be a terrifying prospect for many people.
What Will Cause Disability Benefits to Stop?
Once you qualify for disability benefits, certain events can trigger these benefits to terminate. Examples of reasons for disability benefits to be cut off include the following:
- Improvement of your medical or psychiatric condition. The Social Security Administration conducts continuing disability reviews, usually in either 3- or 7-year increments. During this process, the Social Security Administration evaluates whether your condition has improved such that you are no longer eligible for disability benefits.
- You returned to work. This is the most common reason for disability benefits to cease. In most cases, you cannot work and continue to receive disability benefits. There are some cases in which this is permitted; however, specific provisions must be complied with. The Social Security Administration will evaluate whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity, and if it is determined that you are, you may have your benefits terminated.
- You reached retirement age. People receiving disability benefits are no longer eligible once they reach full retirement age. This is because you cannot receive both Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. People who were previously receiving disability benefits will instead receive retirement benefits.
- You are incarcerated or institutionalized. If you are in jail, your disability benefits will stop for the period of time during which you are incarcerated. You may also see your benefits terminated if you are convicted of certain types of felonies.
- You receive too much income. This is another common reason for disability benefits to be terminated. To continue to be eligible for benefits, you must fall within the income or asset limits.
- You were a child when you first began receiving disability benefits and have since turned 18. When this happens, you will be reevaluated to see if your condition matches Social Security Administration standards for adults.
- Your living situation has changed. If you enter or leave an institution such as a nursing home or a halfway house, you may see your disability benefits terminated. Similarly, if you leave the country for more than 30 days, benefits can cease.
If your benefits have been terminated or about to terminate, it is crucial to take the proper steps in order to prevent the loss of benefits.
What to Do If Your Disability Benefits Stop
Any person receiving disability benefits will be subjected to periodic reviews to determine if they remain eligible. First, the Social Security Administration will contact you to request updates on your status as well as the treatment you are receiving for your condition. They will also look at your medical records to evaluate whether you are still deemed to be disabled. It is important to be responsive and cooperative with the Social Security Administration during this process.
If the Social Security Administration decides that you are no longer eligible for benefits, you will receive a letter stating that your benefits are being terminated. From this point forward, you have two months to continue receiving benefits. It is important to consider filing an appeal. It is important to begin the appeal process as quickly as possible and with the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
If you decide to file an appeal and you do so within ten days after receiving notice of termination, you can choose whether to continue receiving benefits while the Social Security Administration processes your disability appeal. If the judge overseeing the appeal sides with you, your benefits will continue. If the judge rules against you, however, the Social Security Administration can declare that you have been overpaid. If you file an appeal outside of that 100-day window, your benefits will be suspended until a judge rules on the appeal. In this case, the Social Security Administration must receive notice of your appeal within 60 days of your receipt of the disability benefits termination letter.
The first task on the to-do list for any person whose disability benefits are about to terminate is to contact an attorney. He or she can provide the guidance you need to have your benefits continue. We encourage you to contact us today for a free consultation at 888-904-6847.
Who makes the decision about whether I am eligible for Social Security disability benefits?
Probably not the people you expect.
You may have submitted your initial SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) application online, or perhaps you mailed it in. It’s even possible that you handed it over the counter to the pleasant clerk at your local Social Security office. In any case, you naturally assume that somebody from the Social Security Administration will look at all your work carefully, apply her best judgment, and give you an answer in a day or two. Maybe—you hope—a week at the outside.
Many, Many People Will Look At Your Application
Right now, there are many more applications for Social Security disability benefits than personnel to examine them. The result is a long backlog of cases. You can expect it will take a few weeks before anyone begins evaluation of your application. Delays of several months are not uncommon.
During that time, two different groups of people will examine your application for errors, omissions, and disqualifying details. Each group has the independent power to deny your benefits.
The Social Security Administration
Your file will be examined by one or more account caseworkers at a Social Security Administration field office. This review will look only at whether you qualify under the work rules established for disability benefits. That means your application will be checked to make sure:
- You have documented a work history that extends over many years, so you have contributed to the Social Security trust funds.
- You have shown a recent period of work.
- You have supplied proof that you are no longer earning a substantial amount of money from work.
Failure on any of these points means your application will be rejected.
The Disability Determination Service
Your file will also come under review at by a special office set up by your state government but funded by federal money; most states call these offices the Disability Determination Service (DDS).
Caseworkers at the DDS must follow Social Security Administration rules and procedures in deciding whether the information submitted proves the applicant meets the criteria for disability. Examiners perform disability evaluations for both SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims. They can also request that applicants undergo a medical examination to verify details about the person’s health.
In our region, the following DDS offices process all claims originating in their respective states:
- The Disability Determination Services of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has offices located in Boston and Worcester.
- Rhode Island’s Disability Determination Services has its office in Providence.
- In Vermont, Disability Determination Services is part of the Department for Children and Families, and has its office in Waterbury.
- New Hampshire’s Disability Determination Service is based in Concord.
If your local DDS determines that your medical evidence is not complete or fails to prove you meet the standards for a disability, your application will be rejected.
A Rejected Application Is Not the End
Over two-thirds of all initial SSDI applications are rejected. Many applicants give up at this point; others decide to begin the application process all over again. Most of the time, those decisions are both mistakes. In almost every case, the best answer is to begin the appeals process by requesting your case be reconsidered. You are allowed to supply additional evidence at this point, but your time-frame to respond is very limited.
We’re here to help. We recommend you start by reading our free book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. Then, follow up by using the live chat button on this page to start a conversation with our team to get your specific questions answered. You’ll be glad you did!
I earn some money with a part-time job. How will that affect my SSI payment amount?
When filling out the forms for disability consideration, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to provide a lot of financial information, including details of your earned income (wages) and unearned income (benefits, pensions, interest income, etc.). For non-blind individuals, if your income exceeds $1090 in 2015, you most likely will not be eligible for SSI benefits. If you earn less than $1090, you may be eligible, but the amount you receive will be in direct proportion to your earnings.
Calculating SSI Benefits
When determining how much money you will receive each month, the SSA starts with the total of your current earned and unearned monthly income, but then subtracts a fixed amount as well as certain additional forms of income. Called exclusions, these subtractions can be difficult to figure out on your own. The SSA provides an extensive list of exclusions on its website, but you can get a general idea of how the calculations work with the following example.
If your gross monthly income from a part-time job is $520 you will make deductions as follows:
Step One: Calculating Countable Income
Subtract General Income Exclusion
Subtract Earned Income Exclusion
Countable Earned Income
Divide Countable Income in Half
$435 / 2
Total Countable Income
Once the countable income is determined, it is subtracted from this year’s federal benefit payment standard rate.
Step Two: Using Your Countable Income to Determine Your SSI Pay
Federal Benefit Rate (2015)
Subtract Adjusted Countable Income
Adjusted SSI Payment Amount Total
Therefore, if your working monthly income is $520, your total monthly income with disability should be $1,035.50. Need more information on how your disability is calculated? Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help answer your questions and address your concerns. Remember, it’s our job to help you!
What complications are caused by the four types of Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia? How will different symptoms affect my claim?
Telangiectasia is an unusual dilation of blood vessels near the surface of the skin. This generally causes redness or flushing and can be caused by bruising, sunburns, or as an effect of Rosacea. However, Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) is a disorder that causes abnormalities in the dilation of blood vessels in vital organs, making it a much more serious disorder.
As described by the National Library of Medicine, normal blood flow starts with the heart pumping blood into your arteries at high pressure. This pressure pushes the blood through the arteries to smaller vessels (arterioles and capillaries), which in turn supply oxygen to your body's tissues. By the time blood reaches the capillaries, the pressure is much lower than when it started. The blood then travels from the capillaries into veins and then back to the heart
HHT, however, can cause disastrous disruptions in this normal blood flow. When you suffer from HHT, your arterial vessels bypass the capillaries and push blood directly into your veins at a much higher pressure than normal. Since your veins have thinner walls and are less elastic than your arteries, they can’t sustain the high pressure for very long, and become strained. This added strain can cause serious issues to your veins and can also lead to life-threatening vascular problems.
Types of Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia
Although some forms of HHT are minor and will only result in the occasional nosebleed or flushing (reddening) of the skin where the affected blood vessels dilate, more aggressive forms of the disorder can be life threatening. More specifically:
- Type 1. This disorder can cause pressure-induced hemorrhages in the eyes, lungs, or brain, which can lead to vision problems, pulmonary edema, brain injury, and death.
- Types 2 and 3. In these types, hemorrhages center more in the lungs, heart, and liver causing shortness of breath, pain, and dizziness, potential cardiac arrest and higher risk of liver cirrhosis.
- Ataxia Telangiectasia. A-T occurs when compromised blood flow causes the immune system to break down. When the immune system becomes affected, viruses, bacteria, and illnesses will become more aggressive. In addition, people with A-T are 20% more likely to develop cancer
How This Affects Your Disability Claim
As a result of these risks, the Social Security Administration recognizes severe cases of Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia as sufficient reason for disability qualification. Considering how excessive movement and activity can exacerbate the condition, the SSA concedes that working could potentially be life threatening. Therefore, if you’re diagnosed with this disorder, you should seriously consider speaking to an experienced attorney about filing a claim for disability.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help you prove your disorder is worth disability benefits. Our extensive knowledge with the disability process will not only guarantee that your claim is filed correctly but also be given the attention it deserves. Contact us today for a free consultation and allow us to ease the pressure of filing.
What is Spirometry and how will it affect my respiratory claim for disability?
You had your first asthma attack when you were 12 years old. For a kid that age, it was the scariest thing in the world. It felt like all of the oxygen in your lungs suddenly disappeared, and no matter how hard you tried to gulp for air—you still couldn’t breathe. Since that day, you’ve kept an inhaler on you at all times and a nebulizer breathing machine stowed in your bathroom. Even on your wedding day, you had an inhaler tucked in your dress and the breathing machine in the hotel room. You try to be prepared at all times, but over the past few months the attacks have been getting worse.
On several occasions, your husband has had to puff the medication into your mouth because the attack happened while you were sleeping, and you awoke in a panic. Your boss is getting increasingly annoyed with you because you’ve had to excuse yourself on more than one occasion to catch your breath. The emergency room staff practically knows you by name, and you don’t know what to do. It’s getting worse and you’re scared to leave the house.
Your doctor suggested that you take a leave of absence from work, but your boss told you that if you did, you may not have a job to come back to. You have filed for disability benefits, but the application wanted proof of your ailment through medical documentation and test results. One of the tests it mentioned for respiratory issues was a spirometry test.
What is a spirometry test and how do you get one?
Measuring Your Lung Capacity Through Spirometry
In order for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide whether or not you qualify for disability benefits you must be able to provide medical evidence to support your respiratory claim. One way of accomplishing this is to provide documentation taken from lung tests, specifically a spirometry test. If you’ve suffered from chronic asthma then you’ve probably taken a spirometry test, even if you didn’t know it by name.
The Mayo Clinic defines spirometry as the first and most commonly done lung function test to determine how well your lungs work while inhaling and exhaling. It measures the capacity and time it takes for you to move air in and out of your lungs. The procedure consists of you breathing into a mouthpiece which is attached to a recording device. The device (the actual spirometer) will then record the variations of each breath and measure 10 different lung function values to determine the severity of your respiratory issue. These value functions include:
- Forced vital capacity (FVC) – Measurement of the amount of air you can exhale after you inhale as deeply as possible.
- Forced expiratory volume (FEV) – Measurement of the amount of air you can forcibly exhale in one continuous breath. An average person should be able to exhale between 80 – 100 percent in one second. However, those who suffer respiratory problems could take longer to fully exhale. Depending on how much you exhale, the FEV will be determined at one second (FEV1), two seconds (FEV2), or three seconds (FEV3).
- Forced expiratory flow (FEF) – Measurement of air speed and percent of your FVC—25 percent, 50 percent, or 75 percent—halfway through your exhale.
- Peak expiratory flow (PEF) – Measurement of how much air you can exhale when you try your hardest.
- Maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV) – Measurement of the greatest amount of air you can breathe in and out during the span of one minute.
- Slow vital capacity (SVC) – Measurement of the amount of air you can slowly exhale after you inhale as deep as possible.
- Total lung capacity (TLC) – Measurement of the amount of air in your lungs after you inhale as deeply as possible.
- Functional residual capacity (FRC) – Measurement of the amount of air in your lungs at the end of a normal exhaled breath.
- Residual volume (RV) – Measurement of the amount of air in your lungs after you have exhaled completely. This procedure is generally done by having you breathe in helium or nitrogen gas and then seeing how much is exhaled.
- Expiratory reserve volume (ERV) – Measurement of the difference between the amount of air in your lungs after a normal exhale (FRC) and the amount after you exhale with force (RV).
Get the Test to Get the Approval
In order to improve your odds for approval of your disability claim, ask your doctor to perform a spirometry test and make sure you get a copy of the results. The more information you give to the Social Security board, the better your odds of getting the disability you deserve.
Did you find this article interesting and helpful? Let us know by liking us on Facebook, or by sharing this page with your friends and family. You never know who may benefit from a simple click of your mouse.
I just had spinal fusion surgery. Now I’m worried something might go wrong during recovery. What are the top risks of spinal fusion surgery and how can I avoid them?
Like any major surgery, spinal fusion surgery comes with a few risks. In spite of these risks, this type of surgery can also change your life for the better. Staying vigilant and aware of what could go wrong is the best way to avoid anything from happening following your surgery.
Common Risks of a Spinal Fusion Surgery
Back surgeries come with inherent challenges during recovery. These go beyond the immediate risks you face when going under anesthesia. Here are some of the most common risks associated with spinal fusion surgeries:
- Infection in the incision
- Infection in the vertebrae bone
- Spinal nerve damage
- Instability in other parts of your spine
- Degeneration of the bone below or above the fused vertebrae
Although these risks can happen and cause you further pain after your surgery, they are not common enough to avoid having a spinal fusion surgery. If you are worried about something going wrong, it is important that you talk to your doctor. Attend all of your regular follow-up appointments and follow all treatment plans.
If something does go wrong, you might qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits until you make a full recovery. While this will not remedy the pain you experience, it might help to know that you have a financial backup plan available.
Before you go into surgery, we encourage you to print this article and take it to your doctor. Talk to him or her about these risks and get detailed instructions about what you can do to be on the lookout for them after your surgery.
I suffered a stroke that has left me completely paralyzed on one side. I applied for SSDI, but my claim was deferred. I am obviously not able to work, so why is the Social Security Administration waiting to make the decision?
A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, occurs when there is a blockage of blood flow to an area of the brain. This deprives the brain of oxygen and causes brain damage that may affect other parts of the body. Your paralysis is a result of that type of damage.
Dealing With The Effects of a Stroke
Some of the effects of stroke are permanent; others are temporary. Symptoms are most severe immediately after the stroke. Over the next few months, the brain tries to rewire itself and repair the damage. This usually leads to improvement. Many stroke survivors will completely recover within six months after the stroke. Although you are completely paralyzed now, you may gain significant function in the next few months. Everyone recovers differently, and doctors are not always able to predict the level of improvement.
Receiving SSDI After a Stroke
When a stroke victim is left unable to work he may apply for SSDI, if he meets certain requirements.
One of these requirements is that the disability must last for at least 12 months. You have a serious disability, but you may not be as disabled in six months. The Social Security Administration defers all SSDI applications for stroke for at least three months. This gives your doctors time to assess how much of the damage from the stroke will be permanent.
Contact Keefe Disability Law Today
Do you have more questions about applying for SSDI after a stroke? Our Nashua Social Security disability lawyers have written a book that may help. Request your free copy of Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. If you don’t see the answers you need, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847. We’ll be happy to help.
I applied for Massachusetts Social Security disability benefits over a month ago, but have heard nothing. How long will it take for them to make a decision?
We really do wish we had a simple answer to your question. However, there are so many variables and complexities in the SSA disability determination process, there is no such thing as a simple answer.
According to the SSA disability website, a decision on your claim will take three to five months. The site says a number of variables factor into how long it takes to decide, including:
- The type of disability you suffer.
- The length of time it takes to obtain your medical evidence.
- The possibility of sending you for an independent medical examination.
- Whether your claim is selected randomly for an internal review.
That said, there are many stumbling blocks and obstacles embedded in this seemingly simple list of variables. So, if you have questions about the process or need someone to look into your case, the SSA disability specialists at Keefe Disability Law can help. We offer:
- A free case consultation. Just call us, toll free, at 888-904-6847 or fill in the confidential form on this page to get your questions answered—free.
- Free special reports to help you understand your case, including: The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability, Seven Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim, and Unlocking the Mystery — The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. Order one or all absolutely free today.
Will I lose my Massachusetts Social Security disability benefits if I take a part-time job?
Not necessarily. The Social Security Administration wants you to live as full a life as possible. That said, there are some disabled Americans who will never return to the workforce. But most disability beneficiaries want to work.
First, it is difficult to live on the typically small benefit you may receive. Second, working can bring a sense of self-worth and greater wellbeing than remaining at home all the time.
If you have found a job that suits your abilities and want to pursue it, you will probably be able to do it. You can work for nine months with no questions or interruptions in your benefits. This is plenty of time to see if you are able to continue.
After this, you can continue to work for three more years if you are making less than $1000 per month. And many people do not realize that they can retain their Medicare coverage for up to eight-and-a-half years and still work.
So, if you decide to try going back to work, you can do it. And if you still have questions, please call Keefe Disability Law in Massachusetts for answers. Our toll free number is 888-904-6847 and we serve clients throughout the New England area.