Frequently Asked Questions

What is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program managed by the Federal government’s Social Security Administration.  The program provides money benefits and MediCare medical insurance eligibility for many disabled people who meet certain rules.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility is based on how long and how much you contributed to the Social Security Retirement and Disability program as you worked, earned money, and paid Social Security and Medicare taxes.  The rules for eligibility can be very complex.  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility usually means early MediCare eligibility.

Also, dependents under 18 may be eligible for benefits under certain conditions.

What Is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for disabled persons who do not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or would get a low amount from that program. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility should also make you eligible for MediCal if you aren’t already. Some retired persons whose retirement benefits are low might also receive a supplemental benefit from SSI.

How are SSI and SSDI different?

There are two main benefit programs you can apply for, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI and SSI have different initial eligibility requirements and different medical insurance benefits.  SSI recipients also have different financial reporting requirements, among other things.

I got a letter about "Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance" - What is that?

“Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance” (RSDI) is the name of the program that provides retirement and disability benefits to those who have earned and paid into the retirement system over a period of time.  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the disability scheme associated with that program.  Often, letters will be titled “Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance” in bold to show the letter refers to the disability insurance program as opposed to Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

How much money will I get every month?

The amount that people might eventually qualify for is widely variable and depends on many factors.  You can create a “My Social Security” account online at SSA.gov to get more official information about your particular circumstances.  If you have a question about benefit amounts, please call Social Security.

What medical insurance do I need?

You do not need to have a specific doctor or insurance to apply or qualify.

Do I need a letter from my doctor?

A letter from your doctor can be very helpful in proving to Social Security that you meet their disability rules.  However, not all doctors will write such letters or be willing to fill out forms for Social Security.

How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability?

The first thing you have to do is apply. Gather your medical and work history information and file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can apply online at SSA.gov or you can also apply in person at a local office. There are several offices in the Kern County area. Apply at the one nearest you.

Social Security Administration, Haley

2575 Haley St, Bakersfield, CA 93305  (866) 366-9558

Social Security Administration, Office Park

5300 Office Park Dr, Bakersfield, CA 93309  (866) 476-1489

Social Security Administration, Delano

2234 Girard St, Delano, CA 93215  (800) 772-1213

Hearing and Appeals Process

Your application will take 6-9 months to process. Most people are denied at the application stage.

If denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal. This appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration. This appeal takes 6-9 months to process.

If you receive a second denial, you must file another appeal. This appeal is called a Request for Hearing. The Request for Hearing is sent to the San Francisco Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). It takes 9 months to 1 year to have a hearing scheduled. You will get at least 20 days’ notice that a hearing has been scheduled for you. Hearings are held in Bakersfield. Judges have 90 days to write their decision, letting you know whether you have been found disabled and will receive benefits.

If the judge decides you are not disabled according to the rules, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can take 18-36 months to review the case. You do not have to appear in person for this appeal. The Appeals Council can approve your claim, deny your claim, or send it back to the ODAR office for another hearing. If you are sent back for another hearing, it will often be scheduled within 6 months.

If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you can file a suit against the Social Security Administration in Federal District Court. This process can take 18-24 months or longer to resolve. Our office does not currently handle appeals at this level.

Do I Need An Attorney?

Not every case needs attorney help to win.  However, an attorney can help you organize your claim and make sure your important medical records and paperwork are found and filed correctly.  An attorney can appear with you at the hearing and make sure that you are treated fairly and your claim properly heard.  An attorney can help relieve some of the stress and confusion of a hearing.

What Disabling Conditions Qualify For SSD?

Some of the most common conditions our clients have include diabetes, hypertension, back problems, neuropathy (numbness in hands or feet), bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, lupus, fibromyalgia, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
For a full list of conditions that can qualify you for Social Security Disability, go to http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm .

How are SSI and SSDI similar?

Both programs provide money benefits and medical insurance eligibility for many disabled people who meet certain rules.  The medical rules (rules establishing whether or not you are disabled) are the same for both programs.  Some people will qualify for only one program while others will qualify for both.

Do you recommend any particular doctor?

No, I don’t.  I don’t refer people to any particular doctor or have a particular physician or practice that I recommend to my clients.

What Makes You Eligible for SSDI Benefits?

Insured Status as of the Date You Became Disabled

As you work, earn money, and pay into Social Security, you earn ``work credits.`` These credits expire after a certain time. If you have enough as of the date you become disabled, you are ``insured.`` If you have too few credits or your credits have expired, you are ``uninsured.`` You must be insured as of the date you became disabled in order to receive SSDI benefits. Some people can also be eligible through their spouses or parents under very specific circumstances.

Disabled for a Year or More

Your medical condition or conditions must be severe for a year or more in order to qualify. Often people will get denied even if their condition is vbery bad because enough time has not passed to prove that the condition will last for the required time.

Medical Condition is Severe

Your medical condition, or combination of conditions, must be severe. That means the condition must impact your ability to do basic job activities.

Not Working

You must have stopped work or have reduced your work activity so much that you are no longer making significant money. SSA has a many rules related to evaluating how much work and how much income is ``significant.``

Tips to Win Your Disability Case

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