Have Questions About the Disability Claims Process for Social Security or Veterans Benefits? Check Out Our FAQs

Dealing with the disability application or appeals process always comes with plenty of questions. Whether your questions are about Social Security or VA Disability, here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.

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  • What are the different types of disability programs?

    The most commonly referred to disability programs are Social Security Disability Insurance benefits ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Generally, SSDI requires the disability applicant to have worked and paid Social Security taxes 5 out of the last 10 years. SSI requires the disability applicant to have limited assets of $2,000 or less or $3,000 or less if the applicant is married. The medical disability standard is the same for both programs. The monthly payment for an individual receiving SSDI depends on how much the person paid in Social Security taxes while they worked. Social Security''s exact formula can be found here http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/cola/piaformula.html. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly SSDI payment is $1,129.51 as of May 2013. A disabled person that is only eligible for SSI will receive $710 a month in 2013. The monthly amount under both DIB and SSI are subject to a Cost of Living Adjustment every year that Social Security sets.


    Other disability programs include Disabled Adult Child benefits, and Disabled Widow or Widower's benefits. For more information regarding Disabled Adult Child benefits, see this FAQ . For more information about Widow/Widower's benefits, click here .

  • Will my worker's compensation benefits affect by Social Security disability check?

    Possibly-it depends on a number of factors. Social Security may reduce your monthly check if you are receiving too much money from your worker's compensation case. Receiving too much worker's compensation money is determined by applying the following formula:

    Your monthly disability check + Your monthly worker's compensation payments +  Certain public disability benefits

    >(cannot exceed or be greater than)

    80% of your monthly average current earnings OR The family's total Social Security benefits.

    If after computing these number the top calculation is greater than either of the bottom values, Social Security will reduce the disability check dollar for dollar to bring the total within the limit of the bottom line value. In some situations, a person found disabled by Social Security may be ineligible for a SSA check because of their large worker's compensation check. In 15 states (not Nebraska or Iowa), the worker's compensation insurance carrier, not Social Security, reduces the payment.

    If you currently have a worker's compensation claim and also feel that you are unable to return to any type of work, please contact our Lincoln disability lawyers at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your claim. You can fill out the contact form on this page or pick up the phone and call 402-933-5405

  • If Social Security finds I am disabled, do I need to stay on disability for the rest of my life or can I return to work?

    Absolutely not.  In fact, some people return work.  However to satisfy the durational requirement for disability, your impairment must last 12 months.

    Special rules allow you to work temporarily without losing your monthly Social Security disability benefits.  For example, our trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months without losing benefits.  As long as you remain disabled, you can get full Social Security disability benefits during those nine monthly no matter how much you earn.

    After your nine-month trial work period, we still provide a safety net that allows you to work another three years risk free.  During those three years, you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which your earnings do not exceed these limits:

    $1,690 for blind individuals; or
    $1,010 a month if you are not blind

    However, if you receive benefits and decide to return to work, make sure to contact Social Security and inform them of your earnings. We recommend that you furnish copies of your pay stubs, communicate in writing with SSA, and keep records or copies  of your correspondence with SSA. and  For information about the trial work period call our office and ask to speak to one of the attorneys, Nebraska Disability Attorney at (402) 933-5405 or [email protected]  Whatever you do report your earnings to Social Security.

  • I married my same-sex partner in another state and live in Nebraska. Can I receive Social Security benefits based on my spouse’s earnings?

    Probably not.  In order to determine whether a person is married, Social Security looks at the laws of the state where you reside.  Thirty-seven states, including Nebraska, currently do not recognize same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court recently held it was unconstitutional for the federal government to deny benefits to married same sex couples in states that recognized same-sex marriage.  This decision did not, however, go so far as to require federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to provide those benefits to individuals living in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized.  Right now it appears that Social Security could continue to look at the state law where married couple reside, and would not be required to recognize the same-sex marriage of a couple living in Nebraska. For more information, contact Omaha disability lawyer  (402) 933-5405 or contact [email protected]

  • If I need to have an impairment that will last at least 12 months, does that mean I need to wait a year before I apply?

    No.  If you believe you will be unable to work for a year or more, it is a good idea to apply as soon as you can.  Currently, an average case in Nebraska already takes about 18 months from the date you file your initial application until you get your hearing in front of a judge.  Delaying your application could not only cut into your retroactive benefits, but it will cause you to go longer without income and make it more difficult to afford medical treatment.

  • Will my benefits ever expire or run out?

    No.  You will continue to receive your benefits as long as you remain disabled.  However, your case will likely be reviewed every couple of years to determine whether you remain disabled.  That is why it is a good idea to continue to seek medical treatment even after receiving benefits.  If you are still eligible for disability benefits when you reach your retirement age, the Social Security Administration will automatically transfer your disability benefits to retirement benefits.

  • I live in Iowa and married my same-sex partner. Can I receive Social Security benefits based on my spouse’s earnings?

    Yes.  The Supreme Court recently struck down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.  As a result of this ruling, federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, cannot deny benefits to same-sex couples that reside in states that recognize their marriage.  Iowa is one of thirteen states that currently recognize same-sex marriage, so a married same-sex couple living in Iowa should be entitled to social security spousal or survivor benefits.

  • What Happens at Social Security Disability hearing or trial?

    A hearing will usually last about an hour.  Generally only you, your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), a court reporter, and a vocational expert are present at this hearing. The vocational expert often testifies by phone. Occasionally a medical expert may be called to testify as well.  Depending on the judge, your attorney may be asked to give a brief opening and or closing statement to explain the reason you are disabled. The majority of the time will be your testimony, meaning your attorney and the judge will ask you questions about your condition and how it prevents you from working. 

    Following your testimony, the ALJ will consider your impairments and determine what you are physically and mentally capable of doing based on your medical records and testimony.  The ALJ will then ask the vocational expert whether a hypothetical individual with your same age, education, work experience, and a set of work restrictions determined by the judge could perform any competitive employment in the economy. It is quite possible that the ALJ will ask the vocational expert a few hypothetical questions with different work restrictions. Depending on the severity of the work restrictions, the vocational expert may testify that the hypothetical individual may be able to work or may be unable to work. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine the vocational expert and ask their own hypothetical questions.

    Following the hearing, the ALJ will mail a written decision to you with the decision about your disability. In the written decision, the ALJ will explain which set of work restrictions you have and what evidence the ALJ relied on when determining your work restrictions.

    Contact Cuddigan law for a free evaluation of your claim. Call (402) 933-5405.

  • Is it ok if I try to work if I am applying for Social Security Disability?

    Going a year or more without working can be very financially difficult for anybody. Your bills don’t stop coming even if you are unable to work. You don't think you can work but you are not ready to throw in the towel. So you wonder should I try to work while I wait for a decision because you need some money coming to pay the bills. Most people would rather work than file for disability for a number of reasons but most importantly they would rather not think of themselves as disabled. If you are able to work 8 hours a day, five days a week you are not disabled. If you want to try to work while applying for disability you should be aware how SSA views your work activity.

    When you apply for disability the first thing that is evaluated even before your medical records are evaluated is whether you are working and engaging in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity is defined as work in an amount over $1180 per month gross earnings. This amount is for employees, there are a different set of rules for self-employed. If you try working and are able to work and earn more than $1180 then you will probably not qualify for disability. However if you have to stop working because of your impairments then you are able to honestly tell the Judge you tried but had to stop because of your impairments. The rules in this area are tricky and you should be entirely candid with your attorney about your work activity. It is also required that you notify Social Security about your work activity, The best way to do this is.to provide SSA and your attorney a copy of your paycheck stubs. This is an area of disability law where the arithmetic is crucial to your case. Sometimes someone becomes too clever, but they quickly find themselves making too much money either unintentionally or due to the demands of an unsympathetic employer.

    Second, while Social Security says that you can make up to $1,180 per month, working might still reduce your credibility. If you are making only a little less than $1,180 per month, a judge may wonder why you can’t work just a bit more.

    Finally, depending on the type of work you are doing it could be difficult to prove you can’t do other types of work. To determine whether you are disabled, Social Security considers whether there is some other type of work you can perform. We always urge our clients to talk to us if they are considering working. These work rules apply to working during the first twelve months after onset of disability, a different set of rules apply after the initial twelve months after onset of disability.

  • What does a vocational expert do at a Social Security hearing?

    A vocational expert (VE) assists the Administrative Law Judge  (ALJ) by identifying your past work and describing the exertional and skill level. The exertional level is a description of the physical demands of the job. The skill level is a description of the length of time for an individual to learn  to do the job.After the VE identifies your past work, the ALJ will ask the VE  questions about whether a person with a certain physical capacity and mental capacity similiar to yours could perform your past work or any other work. The ALJ often begins questioning the VE by asking about the limitations that the State agency found when they denied your claim. In response to that question, the VE will often identify many jobs that the applicant could perform. Sometimes the ALJ stops there and asks your attorney if there any questions.Your attorney should be prepared to ask questions based on your doctors' report of your limitations, if any and your testimony. In this part of the hearing, it is crucial to have an experienced lawyer who knows what questions to ask; that should elicit an answer by the VE that there are no jobs that you could perform. For more information order our free pamphlet Give Yourself Your Best Chance of  Winning Your Disability Case.  For a free evaluation call us at 402(933-5400) or you can also email [email protected]