Everyday People Matter


| May 14, 2012 | Applying for benefits

If you are wondering whether you are eligible to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, you may want to check out the information contained in the Social Security Administration’s website. You may be eligible for disability benefits if:

  • You are a disabled worker and have earned enough credits to become “insured.” This usually means that you have worked 5 out of the last ten years prior to the onset of your disability. You may be disabled if you have a mental or physical condition that keeps you from working for 12 months or more or will result in death
  • You are a disabled widow or widower and your deceased spouse earned enough credits to become “insured”
  • You became disabled before age 22 and either of your parents is disabled or deceased and earned enough credits to become “insured

The amount of your disability benefit will be based upon your earnings record with SSA. You can determine this at the Social Security administration website. . Once you are approved for disability benefits for two years, then you will be eligible for Medicare coverage.

If you are not “insured” under the requirements of the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI), you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you are disabled and meet the financial need requirements.

For SSDI, you may apply online, over the telephone at 1 800 872 1212, or you may make an appointment at your local Social Security Administration office. Applications for SSI may not yet be made online.

Applicants often get discouraged due to the length of time it takes for applications to be reviewed. Also, approximately fifty percent of applications are denied at the initial stage.

Many disabled applicants want to know if they should hire an attorney. You may always hire representation by an attorney. Attorneys can help you with your application, although the attorney cannot electronically file it without your signature. Attorneys can help you gather medical documents and evidence; may attend a meeting with SSA with you; and may help collect witnesses for you case. Many applicants do not hire an attorney until they receive a denial of benefits. At that point, an attorney may help you file an appeal and represent you before an administrative law judge. An attorney may also help you with further appeals if necessary.

You can expect an attorney to do the following for you:

  • Obtain and update your medical records
  • Obtain and update any other necessary documents such as work history or school


  • Analyze the medical records and work history
  • Prepare you and any witnesses for the hearing before the administrative law judge
  • Write any necessary briefs on the case on your behalf
  • Cross-examine the government’s witnesses such as vocational experts

Attorneys may not charge a fee without the approval of SSA. Contingent attorneys’ fees are set by statute which is twenty-five percent of the back pay benefits awarded, up to a cap of $6000.00. This is contingent upon a recovery. Attorney fees may also be awarded on an hourly basis in an amount approved by SSA.

Finally, do not make these common mistakes:

  • Giving up without exhausting all your appeals
  • Failing to hire an attorney at the hearing level
  • Failing to timely file for an appeal

Finally, if you need help with an application or with a denial, contact Lisa Siegel at 404 255 9838 for a free consultation.