How much does it cost to apply?

It costs nothing to apply. You only pay a fee if we win your case, and it is usually only 25% of past due benefits.

How do I apply for disability benefits?

You can apply by contacting the Social Security Administration (SSA). For both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can apply in person or by calling your local SSA office. In-person applicants can schedule an appointment by calling the national phone number or using the office locator.

For first-time SSDI applicants or SSI applicants filing for someone over 18, you can file online.

When possible, we like to get involved in your case before you file at the Social Security office. But no matter where you are in the process, call one of our 3 convenient Oklahoma locations and get the help you need from a qualified attorney.

When should I apply?

It is best to begin the application process as soon as you become disabled.

Can I work and still be found disabled?

You can work some and still be found disabled, but any work may reduce your chances of receiving disability benefits. In most circumstances, if you are able to work, Social Security does not consider you to be disabled.

What Is the cost of hiring and attorney vs. going it alone?

The perception is that good legal help is too expensive, and the average person may feel they can’t afford an attorney. The reality is, it could potentially cost much more to go through the process on your own, especially with the failure rate hovering at 70%. Even the Social Security Administration admits that your chances of winning are much higher when using an attorney. For the most part, getting an attorney involved in your case, at any level, will not cost you anything up front. The attorney collects no money unless and until the disability claim is approved. Ask yourself: How important is it for me to win my case and win it as quickly as possible?

What’s the difference between SSI and SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is strictly income based and is funded by general fund taxes. It has nothing to do with your previous work history, but is based solely on your current financial need. In order to qualify for SSI, you must have very limited income AND less than $2000 in assets ($3000 for a couple).

SSDI requires applicants to have earned enough work credits in the past ten years to qualify. For applicants who do not meet this requirement, SSI offers an alternative program. SSI also permits you to work while receiving SSI, so long as your income does not exceed SSI requirements. Unlike SSDI, children are eligible for SSI, if their parents have significant financial need.

It is more difficult to be approved for SSI than SSDI. SSDI applicants generally have a longer work history, which gives them more credibility in the eyes of disability examiners. They also are more likely to have the proper medical documentation because they can afford to see a doctor more regularly and gather their evidence. It is important to be prepared for your SSI application, so you have the highest chance of being approved.

NOTE: If someone is disabled and they’re eligible under the income requirements to receive SSI, they’re also able to receive Medicaid. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI depends on how much you have paid into Social Security and how recently you last worked. To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, you have to have paid enough into the Social Security system to be insured.4

NOTE: If someone is disabled and they’re eligible to receive SSDI, they’re also able to receive Medicare.

Who can qualify for disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility depends on how much you have paid into Social Security and how recently you last worked. To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, you have to have paid enough into the Social Security system to be insured. All applicants must show that they have worked at least part time for the past ten years. Some work credit exceptions can be made for younger applicants.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) requires only that an individual have a disability or be over the age of 65 and have a demonstrated financial need. The financial qualifications for SSI are strictly income-based. Eligibility has nothing to do with your previous work history. It is based solely on your current financial need. In order to qualify for SSI, you must have very limited income and less than $2000 in assets ($3000 for a couple).

Any individual who can show that he or she is disabled and can meet these financial requirements can qualify for disability benefits. Certain family members can qualify. This may include survivor’s benefits, disabled widow/widowers, and dependents. Disabled children may qualify for benefits through SSI.

How long does it take to become approved?

It can take anywhere from a few months to 2 years to become approved. If you get denied at the application, reconsideration, and hearing levels, you have only 60 days to file an appeal. If your case is appealed to federal court, it could take longer than 2 years.

Do I need current medical evidence explaining my disability?

Yes. When you file, the Social Security Administration will request medical records from all the providers you have given them in your application. Doctors write things down. If you are in pain, say you are in pain. If you can’t do something, tell your doctor. It all goes into your medical records, and that’s the foundation of your case.

What are some common medical conditions that can cause disability?

This is not an all-inclusive list, but here are some common medical conditions that can cause disability: Back problems, cancer & cancer treatments, heart disease & stroke, mental health conditions, nervous system disorders, endocrine disorders, blood disorders, immune system disorders, digestive system disorders, skin conditions, and breathing disorders.

Why is local representation the best representation?

We believe it should be convenient for you to visit with your attorney. That is why we have offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Bartlesville. Because our attorneys are local, we know our local judges. Hire someone who knows the judge assigned to your claim.

Will an attorney meet with me before my hearing?

Yes. Your attorney will always meet with you before your hearing, not a paralegal.

Will my first consultation be with an attorney?

Yes. Your first consultation will always be with an attorney, not a paralegal.

Am I guaranteed to be represented by an attorney at my hearing?

Yes, an attorney is always there to represent you during your hearing.

Am I allowed to work AND receive disability benefits?

Yes, but there are many factors involved. Seek legal help regarding any employment questions. Remember: Any work may reduce your chances of receiving and/or keeping disability benefits. In most circumstances, if you are able to work, Social Security does not consider you to be disabled.

Can substance abuse be considered a disability?

The Social Security Administration will not grant benefits solely for drug and/or alcohol addictions. However, if a medical condition develops from drug and/or alcohol use, and he or she is no longer abusing drugs and/or alcohol, a person may be awarded disability benefits.

Can I receive veteran disability benefits AND Social Security disability benefits?

Yes, it is possible to receive both veteran and Social Security disability benefits.

How long do disability benefits last?

You will receive benefits for as long as your condition continues and you are unable to work. Periodically, the Social Security Administration will review your case to make sure you are still disabled. If you are able to go back to work or your condition improves, you must notify the Social Security Administration.

How much money will I receive for disability benefits?

The 2020 maximum benefits paid in Oklahoma for single SSI recipients is $783. Married couples may receive a maximum of $1,175 per month. SSI benefits may also be increased by state supplements. As of 2020, Oklahoma offers an SSI state supplement of $42 for those who live independently. The amount of benefits you will receive depends on your financial situation.

If you are eligible for SSI benefits, you may also be eligible for Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

What happens if I am denied benefits?

If you are denied benefits, you have the right to appeal but you must appeal within 60 days of the initial decision. Remember, the Social Security Administration denies many of its initial claims so it is in your best interest to seek legal assistance before filing for Social Security benefits.

What are some reasons that cause individuals to be denied benefits?

Roughly 70% of all SSI and SSDI claims are initially denied. The reasons vary, but some reasons individuals are denied include, but are not limited to:

  • an impairment that is not expected to last at least one year,
  • an impairment that is not considered severe,
  • the person is able to perform his or her past work, or any type of work,
  • ongoing drug and alcohol addiction,
  • insufficient medical evidence,
  • failing to follow medically-prescribed treatment,
  • the individual makes inconsistent statements to the Social Security Administration and their own physicians
  • the person fills out the disability paperwork incorrectly
  • waiting too long to file
  • waiting too long to file an appeal
  • self-representation

Can my case be appealed to federal court, if necessary?

Yes. We appeal cases that other attorneys may drop. This means your case stays in-house, and you will never be left to fend for yourself. If the Appeals Council rejects your claim, we are willing to help you take your case to the Federal District Court.

What kind of benefits should I expect?

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your total benefits amount is dependent on your average monthly income prior to the onset of your disability. SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. The more work credits and the higher your paycheck while employed, the higher your benefits will be. SSDI benefits for 2020 are capped at $3,011. A reasonable estimate of monthly benefits is between $800 and $1,800 per month.

Be aware, that your monthly benefits cannot exceed 80% of your previous salary. If prior to your disability, you made $2,000 per month, you would not be able to receive more than $1,600 in benefits each month.

For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), monthly benefits are based on need and income. Single SSI applicants have a maximum monthly allowance of $783. A couple receiving SSI have a maximum monthly allowance of $1,175.

Is applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits difficult?

Applying for benefits is a relatively simple process.  Being approved for benefits is much more complicated.  While filling out the claim, you may be tempted to rush through it, but, attention to detail is key to a successful claim.  Misrepresenting your information, intentionally or not, can result in your claim being denied.  Not including the necessary information can lead to long delays as you send information back and forth.  More importantly, missing information could lead to a denial of benefits by the Social Security Administration.

More than 70% of initial applications for benefits are denied and face a complicated appeals process. The Social Security Administration has strict requirements to ensure that taxpayer funding is saved for those who need it most. If you do not have a complete and convincing application, you may not be able to receive SSDI or SSI.

What is the success rate for disability benefits?

Counting all steps of the application process, roughly 29% of applications end with approval.  36% of  applications were approved at the initial application stage of the process.  9% of claims at the reconsideration stage of the process are approved. 48% of hearing requests result in an approval making it important to continue to appeal until you reach the hearing stage of the process to improve the chances of success.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

No, but, it is strongly recommended that you hire one.  You can represent yourself, but, even the Social Security Administration discourages applying without a legal team to help you. A Social Security disability attorney knows what to expect and how to present your case so you can get approved faster. Involving an attorney from the start will help make your case stronger and prepare you for the appeals process.  If your case requires a hearing or court presence, you will want an attorney to represent you and argue your case.

How much does it cost to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer?

Social Security Disability lawyers work on contingency, which means you only pay a fee if we win your case. If you win, SSA will reimburse you for the time period your application was pending, and in some cases, prior to the filing of the application.  Our fee comes out of this sum. We take 25% of this amount, up to a maximum of $6,000. If your backpay total is $12,000, our fee is $3,000. However, if your backpay is $28,000, we only charge $6,000.

When should I seek legal advice?

When possible, we like to get involved in your case before you file at the Social Security office. But, no matter where you are in the process, call one of our three convenient Oklahoma locations and get the help you need from a qualified attorney.

How long will I have to wait for a decision on my application?

This depends on where you are in the process. The increasing amount of applications for disability benefits have resulted in longer wait times. The Social Security Administration expects that most decisions will take four to six months at each stage of the process.  Wait times for hearings can be as long as twelve months.  Cases before the Appeals Council or the Federal District Court can take more than a year to be decided.

How do I know if my condition is considered disabling?

In determining whether an applicant suffers from a disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) refers to a list of disabling health conditions. If your diagnosis is on this list and you meet the additional requirements listed, then your condition is a disability. If it is not, the SSA sends your case on to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) who review your medical history. If they find that your health consistently impairs your everyday life and prevents you from working, then your condition will be considered a disability even if it is not included on SSA’s listing of impairments.

What are work credits?

Work credits are the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) system for measuring Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility. You can earn four work credits in one year. For every $1,410 you earn in a year, you earn one work credit, to a maximum of four. Depending on your age, the SSA has different minimum credits to be eligible for SSDI. A good rule of thumb is whether you have been working consistently part-time, or if you have worked at least five out of the past 10 years on a full-time basis.

What if I am self-employed?

So long as you have been paying a payroll tax on your income, you should still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. Your Social Security payroll tax should be around 15.3%.

Who pays for disability benefits?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is provided for by general-fund taxes and state taxes. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is funded through federal payroll taxes, known as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act and Self-Employed Contributions Act. In many ways, SSDI is paid for by you through employment, while SSI is paid for by the people.

How long does it take to be approved?

It can take anywhere from a few months to 2 years to be approved. If you get denied at the application, reconsideration, and hearing levels, you have only 60 days to file an appeal. If your case is appealed to federal court, it could take longer than 2 years.

Do I need current medical evidence explaining my disability?

Yes. When you file, the Social Security Administration will request medical records from all the providers you have provided in your application. Regular appointments and checkups with your doctor are very helpful in establishing your medical need.

Can my doctor decide whether I am suffering from a disability?

You may think your doctor decides that you have a disability, but, this is not the case. Your doctor can support your application, and their opinion plays a major role in the decision of the review board, but, ultimately it is the Disability Determination Services that decides whether or not your medical condition is disabling and merits benefits.

What kind of medical evidence should I gather?

The most helpful medical evidence is in your doctor’s files. If you wish to receive disability, it is important that you regularly see your doctor, so that your health is clearly documented. In your appointment, you should not downplay your health problems or exaggerate symptoms. Doctors write things down. If you are in pain, say you are in pain. If you can’t do something, tell your doctor. It all goes into your medical records, and that’s the foundation of your case.

What other evidence should I have?

Your employer may have records of times your health has prevented you from working. If you have incident reports, HR records, accommodations requests, or records of sick leave or excuse notes, these can all help bolster your case.

What information should I be prepared to provide when filing my application?

You may need to bring identifying or personal documents, such as:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968
  • Information about your dependents
  • Your banking information

Employment documents:

  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
  • A list of the jobs you have held in the past fifteen years
  • Your employer’s contact information

Medical documents:

  • Medical records, doctors' reports, or test results
  • Treatment plans and information about prescriptions
  • Contact information for your doctor
  • Proof of workers' compensation-type benefits, such as award letters or settlement papers

If you do not have all of these documents, your lawyer or SSA can help you request them.  Don’t delay your application or contacting a lawyer just because you don’t have all the necessary documents.  We can help you gather your evidence.

Can non-citizens receive social security disability benefits?

Yes, but, to be eligible, you must show that either you have a Social Security Number that was assigned to you on or after January 1, 2004 authorizing you to work in the U.S., or that you have a non-immigrant visa that is a B-1, D-1, or D-2. You must also show that you will be located lawfully in the U.S. at the time of benefits received and that you meet all other Social Security criteria.

If my child was born outside of marriage, can they still receive the appropriate benefits?

Yes, all biological children may qualify to receive benefits under their parents’ record.

How does the process change for applicants over 50?

For applicants over the age of fifty, there are extra factors to consider that may make your application more likely to be approved. You are more likely to receive benefits if your residual functional capacity (RFC) is low. Your RFC is our ability to engage in physical work activity, like lifting boxes, moving, and bending down. You are also more likely to have fewer transferable skills, and your education may have been longer ago than many younger applicants. These factors can all work in your favor as an applicant for Social Security disability benefits.

How does the process change for applicants over 60?

Like applicants over the age of 50, applicants over the age of 60 have certain factors that may work in their favor. Your residual functional capacity (RFC), which governs your ability to engage in physical activity, is likely to be lower than younger applicants. Your education, previous work experience, and transferrable skills may score lower as well, increasing your chances of being approved for benefits. Additionally, your miscellaneous health difficulties may be easier to take into account as part of your RFC.

How does being a disabled veteran Impact my application?

As a veteran, if you have been awarded one hundred percent disability on a permanent and total basis, you qualify for expedited processing of your claim.

Can I receive Workers’ Compensation and Disability Benefits at the same time?

Yes, but, your benefits may be reduced until your worker’s compensation runs out.

Will receiving financial support from friends and family prevent me from receiving Social Security benefits?

If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, financial support from others has no impact on your eligibility.  If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income, any financial assistance you receive from any source will impact your potential benefit amount and, if you receive substantial support, could make you ineligible to receive benefits.

If my family members are working can I still receive disability benefits?

If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, your friends and family’s income will not affect your own eligibility. If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income, if your friends or family are part of your household and you share in their income, your eligibility may be affected.

Am I still eligible for disability benefits if I am homeless?

Yes. Often, Americans with disabilities face serious financial difficulties that may result in temporary or long-term homelessness. This does not mean you don’t qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You may face difficulties in communication, receiving your payments, and filing your initial application. However, by working with friends, family, and a support network, you can still be approved for disability benefits.

Can I apply for unemployment and disability?

Applying for both unemployment and disability can hurt your chances of being approved for Social Security benefits. A primary requirement for Social Security is an inability to maintain employment. A primary requirement for unemployment is an on-going and sincere job search. If you apply for both programs, you may appear to be contradicting yourself or misrepresenting your ability to work to the Social Security Administration.

If I have multiple disabilities, will my benefits total increase?

No, Social Security Disability Insurance is based not on your disability costs, but, on your previous salary and tax contributions to the Social Security trust fund. Supplemental Security Income is based on financial need due to a low income.

What healthcare options are there for me?

If someone is disabled and they’re eligible under the income requirements to receive SSI, they’re also able to receive Medicaid. If someone is disabled and they’re eligible to receive SSDI, they’re also able to receive Medicare. In some cases, you may be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Will my monthly benefit amount change?

For Social Security Disability Insurance, once your benefits are determined, the only changes to the amount you receive will be basic Cost of Living Adjustments. Periodically, the Social Security Administration will consider inflation and price changes to determine if your benefits are sufficient to cover your cost of living. Supplemental Security Income payments may change based on changes to your income, assets, or living situation.

Do disability benefits run out?

No, once you are approved, your benefits will last for as long as you are eligible. Once you reach full retirement age, your benefits will convert to retirement benefits.

Can I lose my benefits?

You will receive benefits for as long as your condition continues and you are unable to work. Periodically, the Social Security Administration will review your case to make sure you are still disabled. If you are able to go back to work or your condition improves, you must notify the Social Security Administration. If you are capable of working, you are no longer eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. If your income or assets rise above the Supplemental Security Income limit, you will no longer be eligible for SSI.

If you engage in misconduct, you can have your benefits taken away as well. Committing a serious crime, engaging in fraud, or attempting to misrepresent yourself to the Social Security Administration can all lead you to lose your benefits.

What happens to my benefits if I go to jail?

If you spend more than 30 days in jail post-conviction, you will lose your benefits. However, if you spent this time in jail prior to being convicted, you will not lose your benefits until you have spent 30 days incarcerated after your conviction.

If you have been in jail for less than 12 months, your benefits will resume the month after you have been released, so long as you still qualify for your program. You will need to contact the Social Security Agency with proof of your release for your benefits to resume.

If you have been in jail for more than 12 months, you will need to re-apply for benefits and go through the process again. It is recommended that you contact a Social Security Disability lawyer in this case so that your benefits will be reinstated as quickly as possible.

What happens when I reach retirement age?

Your disability benefits will swap to retirement benefits and be drawn from a different fund.

What are some reasons that can cause individuals to be denied benefits?

Roughly 70% of all SSI and SSDI claims are initially denied. The reasons vary, but some reasons individuals are denied include, but, are not limited to:

  • an impairment that is not expected to last at least one year,
  • an impairment that is not considered severe,
  • the person is able to perform his or her past work, or any type of work,
  • ongoing drug and alcohol addiction,
  • insufficient medical evidence,
  • failing to follow medically prescribed treatment,
  • the individual makes inconsistent statements to the Social Security Administration and their own physicians
  • the person fills out the disability paperwork incorrectly
  • waiting too long to file
  • waiting too long to file an appeal
  • self-representation

What is a disability advocate?

A disability advocate provides legal aid to applicants, but they are not a licensed attorney.  A disability advocate may be able to provide advice and support, but, they have not attended law school and likely do not have court experience.  When choosing whether to hire an advocate or a licensed attorney, you may believe that advocates will charge less money for their services.  In fact, advocates often charge the same as an attorney for their services.

What if a lawyer asks for money upfront?

Typically, Social Security Disability lawyers only receive payment if your case is successful.  In these situations, asking for money upfront is illegal and a serious warning sign that this lawyer might be scamming you.  The only time a lawyer can charge you prior to a successful outcome is if you are currently receiving benefits and SSA is attempting to terminate your benefits.

Can a lawyer help at steps other than a hearing?

Yes. When filing an initial application, a lawyer can help you arrange your evidence, check for errors, and ensure that your application is comprehensive. Cutting down on corrections or requests for more documents can help you get your case through the system faster.

When filing appeals, your lawyer can help you understand the process and why you were denied. They can help you file the correct type of appeal.

At the hearing, your lawyer will argue your case before the administrative law judge. Your lawyer can help you communicate with expert witnesses, present your evidence, and they can help you present facts that the judge’s questioning might have missed.

If you choose to file with an Appeals Council or the Federal District Court, many of the details of your case will have to do with whether the Judge and the Council gave your case proper consideration.  An attorney knows what the judge’s responsibilities and rules of conduct are.  If the judge behaved inappropriately or unjustly, an attorney can present this information so that your case has the best chance of being approved.

Where is Social Security Law Center located?

Because we believe in the importance of local representation, we have offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Bartlesville.

Who runs Social Security Law Center?

Michael Clay is the founder of the Social Security Law Center, Teresa Grasso-Herlan is the managing attorney in the Tulsa office, and Darcie Laue is the managing attorney in the Oklahoma City office.

How is a Social Security lawyer different from other types of lawyers?

Not all areas of law are the same. For example, criminal law and disability benefits law are two very different fields.  You want an attorney who has specific and specialized knowledge of Social Security benefits programs