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Social Security Disability Benefits: What You Should Know


What Are Disability Benefits?

If you have a disability, your condition might keep you from working full-time. You might be eligible to receive disability benefits in Utah from the Social Security Administration. These benefits are based on the nature and severity of your disability, as well as your prognosis. You may need to see if your disability is under the umbrella of covered disability benefits. You can go to the Social Security Department’s “List of Impairments.” These impairments apply to applicants who are over the age of 18.

There are two types of benefit programs for disabled workers. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is for low-income families, children, and blind individuals. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is for a broader range of disabilities. It's paid through deductions from active worker’s paychecks.

Most first-time applicants are denied because the applications are so complex. In Utah, only 36.7% of initial disability applications are accepted the first time. You can work with a disability lawyer in Utah to better your chances. Craig McAllister has experience preparing, submitting, and monitoring disability claims.

What constitutes "disabled"?

Your disability status is partly determined by your age. If you're younger than 50, you must be disabled enough that it keeps you from doing any kind of work for a year. If you are disabled enough to complete other kinds of easier work, you may not be eligible for disability benefits. However, if you cannot do any kind of work for at least a year, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits, even though you may be required to return to work after that time. If you are disabled enough that it would hamper your ability to work until retirement age, you may be eligible for disability benefits until you are eligible for social security benefits.

If you are over the age of 50, you can be eligible for disability benefits if you can show that you were not able to do your regular job for at least a year. You are not expected to change to an easier job if you could complete different work.

How does the Social Security Administration determine eligibility?

To decide whether or not a person is disabled enough to receive disability benefits, the Social Security Administration focuses on five different factors. These factors are evaluated step by step, as listed below.

  • Step 1: Your Work Status

    The first thing the SSA evaluates is what your current work status is. If you are working and you make more than $1,170 per month, you will not be eligible to receive disability benefits. However, there are factors that play into this, which we can discuss. For example, if you have to work to pay for medications that you need to work, you may be able to make more and still be eligible for benefits.

    If you are not working, then go to Step 2.

  • Step 2: The Severity of Your Condition

    Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, they will find that you are not disabled. For example, if you have a problem with one of your feet but you work as a typist, you may not be eligible for disability benefits.

    If your condition interferes with basic work-related activities, then go to Step 3

  • Step 3: Whether or Not Your Condition is Considered a "Disabling Condition."

    If your condition is severe, but not as debilitating as the equitable medical condition on the list, they have to determine if it prevents you from doing the same kinds of work you did previously. If it does not prevent you from doing the same kind of work, your claim will be denied.

    If it is not, then move to Step 4

  • Step 4: Your Ability to do the Same Kinds of Work

    If your condition is severe, but not as debilitating as the equitable medical condition on the list, they have to determine if it prevents you from doing the same kinds of work you did previously. If it does not prevent you from doing the same kind of work, your claim will be denied.

    If it does, proceed to Step 5

  • Step 5: Your Ability to do Other Kinds of Work

    If you can’t do the same kinds of work you did in the past, the SSA will try to determine if you would be able to do other kinds of work. They will also consider other factors such as your age, education level, past work experience, and other transferable skills. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can do other work, your claim will be denied.

How do I start my disability application?

You have three options to begin your application for benefits. They are:

  1. Apply online by clicking here.
  2. Apply in person at your local Social Security Office. To find your local Social Security Office, check out this list of offices in your area.
  3. Call me at (866) 520-0222 and let me help you to complete the application. We'll talk about your condition, your ability to work, and your information so that I can fill out your application for benefits quickly and efficiently. Working with a disability attorney in Utah will make the process easier, so that you can focus on your recovery.

How long does the process take?

Typically, applicants wait between 4-5 months to receive a decision on their initial application. If appeals are made, it takes an additional 3-4 months for a new decision. If your case needs to be reviewed in a hearing, it can take between 10-14 months to get to that point. However, if you are eligible for benefits, you will be paid benefits retroactively for the time you were waiting.

What if my application is denied?

Although it can feel very discouraging to have your application denied, the simple truth is that over 70% of first-time applications are rejected. If yours is denied, it doesn’t mean that you are not disabled or entitled to benefits. Instead, it means that we need to appeal the decision, make some adjustments to your paperwork, and wait for the case to be reviewed in a hearing. Learn more about the appeal process here.

Am I still eligible for disability benefits if I continue to work?

Yes, within limits that we can discuss. For more information about working while receiving disability benefits, click here.

How much of a settlement should I expect?

The amount of your settlement depends on which disability program you qualify for, and how much you have earned prior to becoming disabled. As a general rule of thumb, if you have worked full time for 5 of the past 10 years, your benefits will be based on your past income. For example, if you used to make $50,000 per year, you have worked five of the past 10 years, and your disability has made it so that you now earn less than $1,130, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits of up to $1,807 per month. If you are visually impaired, you may be eligible to receive more. To calculate your projected monthly income due to disability, you can use this convenient disability benefits calculator.

If you have not worked five out of the past 10 years, you may still be eligible to receive a flat benefit if you are struggling financially. According to federal guidelines implemented January 1, 2017, “needs based” disability is $735.00 for an individual and $1,103.00 for a couple. For more information about the rules that govern disability settlements, click here.

How much are your fees?

As an attorney that specializes in Disability Law in Utah, I understand that many of my clients may be in financial distress due to the fact that they may be recently disabled and unable to work. For this reason, my attorney’s fees are contingent on winning. In the extremely rare event that we don’t win a settlement, you will not owe any attorney’s fees. If we do win, my fees are 25% of your back benefits up to a maximum of $6,000. I will not receive any percentage of your benefits moving forward.

How often do you win settlements for clients?

As an experienced disability attorney, I am proud to say that I win settlements for my clients about 90% of the time. Your odds of winning a settlement are so much better if you partner with an experienced attorney than if you try to file for benefits on your own. I will do everything in my power to make sure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to. See my recent victories.

What if I am homeless?

Being homeless does not preclude you from being eligible for disability benefits. The SSA has protocols in place to make it easier for a homeless individual to file for disability. If you are homeless and you have questions about filing, please give me a call or see this webpage about Service to the Homeless.

Where can I find more information?

Please see our list of helpful links for more information about disability benefits and attorneys in Utah.