Now that I am disabled, why does Social Security keep asking me questions?

This is the most frequent question I get from my clients after they are found disabled.

The long administrative review process is over.  But there are still more questions.  When you applied for Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) had to decide which disability programs you might be eligible for, if found disabled.  There are two different disability programs.

DIB

For disability insurance, you must have worked and earned sufficient quarters of coverage.

Auxiliary and other benefits based on the finding that you are  “disabled.”

Your dependants may be eligible for a benefit based on your earnings record.  Also, your adult child, or prior spouse (if you are divorced) may qualify for a benefit. So, once again, SSA may ask you these questions:

  1. Do you have any children who became disabled prior to the age of 22?
  2. Do you have any unmarried children under age 18?
  3. Do you have any unmarried children aged 18 to 19 still attending elementary or secondary school (below college level) full-time?
  4. Do you have any prior marriages?
  5. Do you have any prior marriages that lasted at least 10 years?
  6. Do you have any prior marriages that ended due to your spouse’s death?

Deja vu.

“But I answered these questions when I applied.  Don’t they have this information?”

“They should, but….it is possible that something has changed.  If SSA took a long time to finally find you disabled, it is possible that there may be new benefits to consider.

SSI

If you are poor and disabled, you may technically qualify for SSI, as well. A fairly high percentage of my clients do have a change in their financial circumstances from the date they applied to the date they were found disabled. I haven’t had a client who won the lottery (yet). But many have lost their homes and moved in with family members. Some get married or divorced to wage earners. Others have children who are now no longer at home or who may be working and contributing to the household income. All of these changes will affect the amount of the SSI benefit and possibly entitlement. I have had clients who qualified when they applied (lost their job) but did not when they were found disabled (married someone with a lot of money).  It happens.

Because two different parts of the agency determines the amounts of each benefit, it is possible to start getting one benefit that then impacts the other.  If you are entitled to both DIB and SSI, it could take several months for it to all sort out.  It can be a “bizarro” process.  And no two clients ever seem to take the exact same path.

Workers’ Compensation Offset

Remember also that if you received Worker’s Compensation benefits, at the time you applied, Social Security needs verification of the total amounts. For each month you received a Workers Compensation benefit and were also entitled to Social Security Disability, your Social Security Disability benefit will be reduced.

Unemployment Benefits

While unemployment benefits do not have the same “offset” effect, they may reduce the SSI benefit amount as they are “unearned income.”

Hang in there!

Just when I think I understand this process and feel confident I can explain it to my clients, SSA does something new and different.  For some reason, District Offices can vary in their application of the SOP that SSA follows for processing the claim after a favorable determination has been made.  This is a very large bureaucracy with a very large workload.  They have been chronically understaffed for years.  And as SSA transition to an automated system, there will be variations.  I suspect some “take” to automation and some don’t.

So just have patience and go to the appointments they schedule for you. Answer all their questions and provide all the documents they ask for. (We assist our clients with this process by faxing requested documents to SSA). The sooner you give them what they are asking for, the sooner the checks will issue.

Caveat

Don’t forget about the 5 month waiting period on DIB.  Here is an example of how that works.

If the state agency decides your disability began on January 15, your first disability benefit will be paid for the month of July. However, Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due, so you will receive your July benefit in August.

If you need more help with Social Security Disability, call us toll free or visit our website.

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