We Have The Answers To Common Questions Regarding Social Security and Veterans' Disability Benefits

Most Texans who are seeking disability benefits come to us with a number of similar questions about the application process, the appeals process, and whether or not they are eligible for support. Our Social Security disability attorneys have compiled the FAQs that we hear most into the list below – and provided our readers with clear, straightforward answers.

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  • I want to do some volunteer work. Will it impact my Social Security disability eligibility if I do unpaid work while receiving benefits?

    SSDI and volunteer workYou ask an important question. You may be unable to work a regular job, but you may still want to contribute to your community or to your family as best you can. Accordingly, you may decide to do some volunteer work or to help family or friends with childcare or eldercare responsibilities. Either arrangement may be much more flexible than a paying job and allow you the time and freedom that you need to take care of your health issues.

    However, before you sign up for volunteer work or offer to take care of a relative or friend, it is important to consider two things:

    1. How much time will you be giving to these volunteer activities? If the time approaches full time work or if you are on a rigid schedule then the only difference between volunteer work and a job may be the lack of pay you receive. However, if you have a lot of flexibility in hours and you only work a few hours a week then your volunteer work may be significantly different than paid employment.
    2. What tasks will you be performing? It is important that your tasks do not conflict with the information that you provided the Social Security Administration.

    Volunteer work has a lot of benefits. It can provide you with a reason to leave the house, with social opportunities, and with a sense of purpose. However, the Social Security Administration is concerned with whether you have the ability to earn an income. If you volunteer many hours a week and perform many of the same tasks that are required in a paying job then it could impact your eligibility.

    It is important to discuss your volunteer activities with your Social Security disability lawyer so that you can have a full understanding of how they could impact your Social Security disability eligibility. To learn more about your specific situation, please contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

  • I suffer from chronic pancreatitis. Am I eligible for Social Security disability?

    SSDI for pancreatitisYou may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, but your eligibility is not automatic. The Social Security Administration does not currently include pancreatitis as a condition in the Listing of Impairments. Therefore, you are going to have to prove that this chronic condition has caused physical limitations that leave you unable to work.

    Complications of Chronic Pancreatitis

    Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas gland is inflamed. When the pancreas is inflamed and not working properly, the body’s production of insulin and digestive enzymes can be impacted. All forms of pancreatitis are extremely painful and may result in short term disability.  However, the symptoms of acute pancreatitis go away once the inflammation of the pancreas goes away. Chronic pancreatitis, however, can continue with symptoms such as:

    • Stomach pain
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Significant weight loss

    Typically, people who suffer from chronic pancreatitis are eligible for Social Security disability in one of two ways:

    • They qualify pursuant to Section 5.08 of the Listing of Impairments. This section allows people who suffer weight loss due to any digestive disorder to be eligible for Social Security disability if certain criteria are met. Specifically, the applicant must have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17.50 on at least two separate occasions at least sixty days apart within six consecutive months.
    • They qualify because their symptoms make them unable to work. The Social Security Administration may look at your residual functional capacity, or your ability to work given your physical limitations. For example, if you are in serious pain and spending lots of time in the bathroom, you may be unable to work effectively and you may be eligible for Social Security disability.

    If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, it is important to have thorough medical records and to work with a board certified lawyer who can help you get the benefits you deserve. To learn more, we encourage you to read our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, and to contact us directly to have your questions answered.

  • Am I eligible for Social Security disability if I have tinnitus?

    SSDI for tinnitusMaybe. Tinnitus is not listed on its own in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. However, that does not prevent all tinnitus sufferers from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

    How You May Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

    Generally, you may qualify for benefits in one of three ways. Your application for Social Security disability benefits may be approved if:

    • Your tinnitus is equal in severity to a listing in the Listing of Impairments. If your tinnitus has the same effect on you as hearing loss or another condition in the Listing of Impairments, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
    • Your tinnitus is part of a condition that qualifies you for benefits pursuant to a specific listing in the Listing of Impairments. According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus is not an independent condition. Rather, tinnitus occurs because you have another condition such as Meniere’s disease, abnormal bone growth, TMJ, a head or neck injury, an acoustic neuroma, or a blood vessel disorder. If you qualify for Social Security disability pursuant to a specific listing in the Listing of Impairments and you have tinnitus, then you would be eligible for benefits.
    • Your condition is permanent and totally disabling. The symptoms of tinnitus can be completely disabling and may last for the rest of your life. Symptoms such as hearing a loud ringing, buzzing, roaring, or other noise can interfere with your ability to hear and your ability to concentrate which may make it impossible for you to work enough to engage in substantial gainful activity.

    Getting the Social Security disability benefits you deserve is not always easy. The medical documentation and other evidence that you provide with your application must be complete. If you cannot prove your eligibility then the Social Security Administration will deny your application which will prevent or delay your receipt of the benefits you’ve earned. It is therefore important to complete your application correctly the first time. You can learn more about protecting your rights before you apply by reading our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, and by contacting us via this website to schedule a confidential consultation.

  • Will my previous part time work impact my Social Security disability eligibility?

    It is your responsibility to complete your work history report honestly, accurately, and completely. However, you do not want to include irrelevant information that could end up giving the Social Security Administration an inaccurate understanding of your work history and unfairly impacting your Social Security disability eligibility.

    How the Social Security Administration Considers Part Time Work

    The Social Security Administration’s own policy statement about the relevance of past work indicates what the agency means by work experience. Specifically, the Social Security Administration states "We consider that your work experience applies [i.e., is relevant] when it was done within the last 15 years, lasted long enough for you to learn to do it, and was substantial gainful activity [SGA]."

    Thus, some part time employment should be included on your work history report. If, for example, you earned enough for the job to be considered substantial gainful activity, it should be included on your report. The specific amount of money that is considered substantial gainful activity changes annually. In 2017, $1,950/month for people who are blind and $1,170 for other people with disabilities was considered substantial gainful employment. In 2018, substantial gainful activity is $1,970/month for people who are blind and $1,180 for people with other disabilities.

    However, if you did not work enough at the job for it to be considered substantial gainful activity, then it is possible that the Social Security Administration will exclude that part time work from consideration when determining what work you can still do and whether you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

    You Don’t Want to Make a Mistake

    The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied. One common reason for these denials is because of inaccurate or incomplete applications. You don’t want this to happen to you. Instead, you want to make sure you get the benefits you deserve by contacting a board certified Social Security disability lawyer before you apply. An attorney can make sure your application is both accurate and complete. Please start a live chat with us or call us directly to learn more.

  • I am on the heart transplant waiting list. Am I eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

    Yes, you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits if your status on the heart transplant waiting list is either 1a or 1b.

    As you already know, there are more people who need heart transplants than there are healthy hearts available for transplanting. Accordingly, people in need of heart transplants are assigned a certain status when they go on the national waiting list maintained by the United Network of Organ Sharing. The status reflects the priority in which they should receive a heart when one becomes available.

    Those Who Are Assigned Status 1 Are Eligible for Social Security Disability

    Currently, there are four potential statuses that you may be given when you are on the heart transplant waiting list. These statuses include:

    1. Status 1a. Patients classified as 1a are the most critically ill. They require hospitalization and life support measures, and they typically have a very limited life expectancy unless they are able to receive a heart.
    2. Status 1b. Patients classified as 1b are dependent on intravenous medication or a mechanical assist device in order to stay alive until a heart is received. They may be in the hospital or at home awaiting news that a heart has become available.
    3. Status 2. Patients in this classification are medically stable with just oral medications and are able to live at home until a heart becomes available.
    4. Status 7. Patients who receive this classification are on the inactive list due to a change in condition, but may get credit for time that they were already on the waiting list should they need to change to status 1a, 1b, or 2 in the future.

    Patients who are assigned status 2 or status 7 are not automatically eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

    However, heart transplant waiting list status 1a and status 1b are included on the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances List. That means that not only will you be eligible for benefits, but that your claim may be fast tracked.

    Once your heart transplant surgery occurs, you may continue to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits pursuant to Section 4.09. Specifically, you may be eligible for benefits for one year post surgery or longer if you meet the requirements for eligibility pursuant to a different listing or because of your inability to work.

    You are doing a lot of waiting right now. As you wait for word that a heart is available for you, please make sure that your right to receive Social Security disability benefits is protected and that your wait for Social Security disability is no longer than it has to be. Please contact a board certified attorney via this website or by phone today to learn more.

  • Am I eligible for Social Security Disability if I have chronic leukemia?

    Chronic leukemia is often treatable when it is diagnosed early. However, once the cancer has reached the blast phase it is often fatal and it is included in the Social Security Administration’s list of compassionate allowances. Inclusion on the list of compassionate allowances will allow your case to proceed through the eligibility process faster than it otherwise would, but it does not change the criteria for Social Security disability eligibility.

    Only Some People With Chronic Leukemia Are Eligible for Social Security Disability

    You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you meet the requirements in the Listing of Impairments or if you are unable to work because of your cancer.

    According to Section 13.06 of the Listing of Impairments, people who suffer from chronic myelogenous leukemia may qualify for benefits in one of two ways. You may be eligible for benefits if one of the following is true:

    • You are in the accelerated or blast phase. This will be considered a disability for at least 24 months from the date of diagnosis or relapse or at least 12 months from the date of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant—whichever is later. After that, you will need to establish eligibility by proving that there is residual impairment to a specific body system.
    • You are in the chronic phase. This will be considered a disability if you have a progressive disease following initial anticancer therapy or for at least 12 months from the date of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant (after that, eligibility may be established if you can prove that there is residual impairment to a specific body system).

    Additionally, you may be eligible for benefits if you can prove that your chronic leukemia is equal in severity to another listing in the Listing of Impairments or if you are unable to work any job because of your medical condition.

    Be Prepared to Fight for the Benefits You Deserve

    You are already fighting every day to manage your chronic leukemia, to comply with your doctors’ orders, and to live out the rest of your life on your terms. The last thing that you need is another fight for the Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned.

    However, it can be difficult to convince the Social Security Administration that you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers can remove this stress from your shoulders and work hard to get you the fair and just benefits you deserve. We will work with you to file a complete application or to appeal a denial of benefits. Please contact us today via this website or by phone to learn more.

  • My spinal fusion surgery didn’t go as planned and now I’m disabled. Could I be eligible for Social Security disability?

    SSDI for spinal fusion surgery mishapsYes, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you underwent spinal fusion surgery and you remain disabled after the surgery. You likely consented to this type of serious spinal surgery with the hope and the expectation that you would feel better and that your quality of life would improve after surgery.

    Unfortunately, spinal fusion surgery has risks and those risks can leave you disabled. Instead of feeling better after spinal fusion surgery, you may experience:

    • Infection
    • Damage to nerves in the spinal column
    • Damage to blood vessels near the fusion site
    • Joint pain on either side of the fusion site

    These risks can result in permanent medical conditions that leave you unable to work.

    Social Security Disability Eligibility

    You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can prove that your disability is included in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (known as the Blue Book) or if you can prove that you are totally and permanently disabled and unable to work.

    You may qualify if you meet the requirements of Section 1.04 of the Listing of Impairments. This section, which covers disorders of the spine, allows you to recover disability benefits if you have a spinal condition that results in the compromise of a nerve root or of the spinal cord and one of the following is also true:

    • You experience nerve compression that results in pain, muscle weakness, sensory and reflex loss, and that impacts your lower back and legs.
    • You suffer inflammation in the membrane around the spine that results in burning and in you having to change position often (or at least once every two hours).
    • You experience a narrowing of the spinal canal that results in pain, weakness, and difficulty walking.

    Finally, you may qualify if you can prove that you meet another section of the Blue Book or if you can prove that your residual functional capacity is so diminished by your condition that you cannot work. For example, if your spinal fusion surgery left you unable to walk, your condition may be equal in severity to Section 1.03 of the Blue Book which applies to the surgery or fusion of weight-bearing joints. While the spine is not a weight-bearing joint, the effect of your spinal fusion surgery may be the same as a fusion surgery on a hip, knee, or other weight-bearing joint.

    Be Prepared Before You File a Social Security Disability Application

    You will need medical evidence and a complete and compelling Social Security disability application in order to get the benefits you deserve. For help submitting a strong application or for a fair review of your claim, please contact a board certified Social Security disability lawyer today via this website or by phone.

  • I have a prosthetic limb. Am I eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

    It depends. Some people with prosthetic limbs are eligible for Social Security disability benefits and others are not eligible for benefits. At first glance, this may seem arbitrary or unfair. However, the Social Security Administration considers specific factors to determine whether a person with a prosthetic limb is eligible for disability benefits.

    How the Social Security Administration Decides

    If you have a prosthetic limb that allows you to walk effectively, your application for Social Security disability benefits may be denied. However, you may be eligible for benefits if you can prove that even with a prosthetic limb:

    • You are limited in the amount of time that you can stand or walk.
    • You have difficulty walking without assistance.
    • You need crutches, a cane, a wheelchair, or another assistive device to walk.
    • You have difficulty managing public transportation on your own or driving.
    • You face other limitations because of your amputation, despite your use of a prosthetic limb.

    Your prosthesis may dramatically improve your quality of life, but you may still be unable to do the work you did prior to your amputation or to perform another job.

    How to Make a Case to the Social Security Administration

    When you submit your Social Security disability application, it is important that you have accurate and complete information to prove that you are unable to work. This includes, but may not be limited to:

    • Medical records. The Social Security Administration will want to know that you are complying with your doctor’s recommendations regarding the prosthesis.
    • Employment history. The Social Security Administration will assess what jobs you may realistically perform and this will depend, in part, on your previous work experience.

    Social Security disability applications can be complicated, but it is important to fill them out fully and correctly so that you can start getting the benefits you deserve as soon as possible. To learn more, please read our free Social Security Disability Fact Sheet and contact us directly for a free consultation.

  • Can I pick my payment date for Social Security disability benefits?

    No. You can’t choose which day of the month you will receive your Social Security disability benefits. Instead, that is a decision that will be made for you by the Social Security Administration (SSA) according to established rules.

    When You Will Be Paid

    Once it is determined that you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the day on which you will be paid will be determined by your birth date. More specifically, you will be paid on:

    • The second Wednesday of the month if your birth date is between the first and tenth of the month. For example, if your birthday is December 4, 1974, you would be paid on the second Wednesday of each month.
    • The third Wednesday of the month if your birth date is between the eleventh and twentieth of the month. For example, if your birthday is February 14, 1968, you would be paid on the third Wednesday of each month.
    • The fourth Wednesday of the month if your birth date is between the twenty-first and thirty-first of the month. For example, if your birthday is July 29, 1981, you would be paid on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

    Each year the SSA publishes a calendar of payment dates so that you can know exactly when to expect your benefits. If the Wednesday on which you should receive payments is a holiday (such as July 4th, Christmas, or New Year’s Day), you should receive your payment on Tuesday of the same week on which you are normally paid.

    What If You Don’t Receive Your Payment When You Should?

    If you receive your Social Security disability benefits through direct deposit and you do not receive your benefits on the expected day, you should contact the Social Security Administration immediately. You can reach out to your local office or you can call 1-800-772-1213.

    The SSA recommends waiting three mailing days beyond your payment date before contacting the SSA about a missed payment if you receive your payment by mail. However, after the three days has passed it is important to follow up with the SSA promptly so that you can get the monthly Social Security disability benefits you qualify for quickly.

    If you have trouble getting the benefits you deserve, please reach out to our experienced Social Security disability lawyers directly via this website or by phone at any time.

  • I just learned that a friend receives a larger Social Security disability benefit check than I do. Why is my check smaller?

    It is difficult to answer your question without knowing all of the facts surrounding both your application for Social Security disability benefits and your friend’s application. However, everybody’s determination of benefits is individualized, and it is unlikely that you would get exactly the same benefits as someone else.

    Here’s Why

    Those who qualify for Social Security disability benefits must be totally disabled, but they will not necessarily receive the same benefits. You and your friend could receive different benefits—even if you both live in the same town and you both suffer from the same disabling condition.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines the value of Social Security disability benefits based on:

    • Your age
    • How much you worked in recent years. The requirements for this depend on your age.
    • How much you’ve worked and contributed to Social Security over your lifetime

    Your age and work history determine how many work credits you have accumulated. If you have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability, the amount of your check will be based on the amount that you have contributed to the Social Security system up to a maximum amount set by law. In 2017, the maximum Social Security disability payment was $2,687 per month and the average payment was $1,171 per month.

    These rules apply equally to everyone, but the amount that each person recovers is individualized as described above.

    Did this article help you understand why benefit payments are different for different people? If so, please share it with your Facebook friends. And if you are totally disabled and ready to apply for Social Security disability benefits, be sure to watch some of our informative, free videos to learn more about the application process. Then, when you are ready to get started, contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our compassionate and experienced attorneys.