Presenter: Jacquie Brennan.
>> TAJAUNA: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the
webcast SSI and SSDI. I'm Tajauna Dunning, your sponsor for
today's event. I will be moderating today's webcast and
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time does not allow the presenter to answer all the
questions, they will be posted. Additionally, if anyone
has any questions, call 713-520-0232. Today's topic is on
SSI and SSDI and how they differ. It is being presented by
Jacquie Brennan. In her 8 years as an attorney, Ms. Brennan
has focused her practice on disability issues. Ms. Brennan
has successfully handle dozens of differenten kinds of
disabilities. She serves on many disability related boards
and advisory and committees and civil rights issues for
professional and consumer audienceings. Jacquie I turn it
over to you.
>> JACQUIE: Thanks Tajauna. This topic is a hard one to
take in any kind of common sense orders because it is like
a puzzle with all these different pieces that make no sense
until you see how they fit together. Since I can only talk
about one thing at that time, it is hard to decide where to
start. My plan is to cover the basics of each program, SSI
and SSDI. I will talk about what each program is and what
it offers. Eligibility for each program, the benefits and
the procedure or process for applying.
We'll also briefly talk about returning to work while
maintaining benefits. I will take questions along the way.
I may postpone some questions if we have not yet gotten to
that topic, but I know it will be coming up. I have received
a few questions before the webcast started that were
e-mailed in and I have incorporated those answers into the
Okay. So let's get started. SSDI stands for Social
Security Disability Income. When I'm presentlying this to
a group of people I usually ask people to guess about what
that stands for and that is part of the thing that people
get wrong most often. They think it stands for income. But
it is insurance and that is an important part how SSDI works.
It is financed with social securities taxes.
The amount of benefit that you get on social security
disability insurance is based on the employee's report or
what they call the insured record.
So it works like insurance in that you pay into the
system when you pay security taxes. Payroll taxes, you are
paying part of that goes to paying this insurance premium
And we had a question that was e-mailed in about if
you get paid in cash, does that mean that it won't look like
you have worked enough to qualify and that's right. If you
don't pay taxes -- if you are paid in cash and later claim
the taxes on your income tax and you pay that, then you are
all right. If you paid in cash and never paid taxes, that
security was never paid and you won't have insurance from
When you stop paying in, it is a little bit like car
insurance, when you pay your car insurance every month, you
have car insurance and when you stop the premiums and stop
paying, you don't have insurance anymore.
It works that way for SSDI too with an important
exception, when you stop making payments and you are still
insured for five more years. So if you become disabled
under the associate security definition within the five
years after you last worked, you are still covered.
Okay. Now, SSDI requires that you have credit. This
used to be called quarters which was confusing for people
because of how they figure these quarters. But now they are
Most of the time for most people, you have to have 40
credits to qualify for SSDI. How you earn credits is that
you earn money during any different year. The amount
changes from year to year. This year you get one credit for
every $970 you learn. There is a limit of four credits, but
you could earn all four of those credits in the first month
of year if you earned that much money.
So it isn't by quarters of the year that you earn it,
it is by money that you earn. So for every $970 this year,
you earn a credit. So if you work for ten years, there's
a 40 credits. 20 of those credits had to have been earned
in the last ten years. That last ten years ends within the
year that you became disabled. If you are younger than 24
years old when you become disabled -- overrule social
security doesn't expect that you have worked for ten years
when you are 24 so they have a different way of figuring it.
So if you are younger than 24 when you become
disableded you qualify during the 3-year period before your
disability began. If you are between 24 and 31, you may
qualify if you worked half of the time between age 21 and
the date you became disabled.
For example, if you have become disabled at age 27,
you would need 12 credits, which is three years out of the
six years between age 24 and 27.
After age 31, the number of credits you need starts
to income and the social security administration has what
chart on the website. I want to put a plug in for the social
security website. It is a good and very user friendly
website. Very easy to navigate.
It has really good complete information that is
searchable and they have a great section on frequently asked
questions. If you don't find your question in that
question, you can e-mail social security and within a couple
of days they will e-mail you a response. I have done that
several times and I have always gotten responses from them
Although I think all of this I just went through about
numbers of credits that you need is complicated, if you have
questions about that, I encourage you to go to the website
any time and check the numbers on that.
With SSDI, family members may be able to get benefits
on the record of the person with the disability. Each
family member which is a spouse, a minor child or a disabled
adult child maybe able to get up to 50% of the person's
disability rate. Although, there's a maximum of between
150 and 180% of your rate. So if you have 12 children, you
wouldn't get necessarily 6 times your benefits for the kids,
because there's a maximum family limit.
But family members do qualify for benefits based on
their record of the person with the disability.
Benefits, if you get them, they start five whole
months -- actually they start on the six month after five
full months after the onset date. Your onset date is the
date on which the social security administration says you
So in some cases that's a very certain date. You had
an accident that caused your disability, then it is very
clear what date was your onset date. But for many people,
it is not so clear. They have an illness or they have an
injury that gets progressively worse and you find it
impossible to continue working. They consider that their
onset date. Social security may not consider it.
They may change your onset date. So that date can
become very important because after that date, you have to
wait those five full months before your benefits start.
And you also get medicare benefits with SSDI, but they
don't start for two years after the date that you became
disabled according to SSDI. So after your onset date you
have to wait 2 years before medicare benefits kick in.
Of course, in addition to all of that, you have to also
show that you have a disability. The definition of
disability is the same for both SSI and SSDI.
So let me first go over the basics of SSI and then we'll
get to how they determine whether you meet their definition
Do you have any questions about SSDI at this point?
>> TAJAUNA: Actually I do have one -- I have a couple
questions. One question is why is someone -- I'm going to
read it. What happens if you are switched from SSDI to SSI
>> JACQUIE: I'm not quite sure what the question is.
Someone wants to know how they are switched from SSDI to SSI
>> TAJAUNA: Maybe we can get the individual to resubmit the
question. That would be great. Another question is the
insurance you pay for when you work is SSI and SSDI is the
credits you earn?
>> JACQUIE: No. I apparently didn't make that clear.
SSI -- we're getting ready to talk about SSI. The SSDI is
the insurance. The credits you earn are just part of that.
That's part of what you have to have in order to qualify
for SSDI. But SSDI insurance is that you pay for through
social security payroll taxes.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. Next one is what about if you were born
with a disability but never questioned SSDI. Would you be
covered under the circumstances?
>> JACQUIE: Well it depends. Honestly for most legal
questions, the answer is it depends. In this case, what is
going to -- what will matter in terms of whether you qualify
for SSDI is not so much when your disability started as
whether you have been worked. If you were born with a
disability but you were able to work so you paid into the
the system and you had the insurance, then you became unable
to work because of the your disability then you would be
covered under SSDI. Doesn't matter when you disability
started. Did you work enough to pay into the system at that
point so that you qualify for benefits that way.
So it won't matter if you were born with a disability
in terms of when it started versus when you can qualify for
benefits. It matters whether you paid into the system and
then became no longer able to work.
>> TAJAUNA: And can you tell us why they make you wait five
months until after you are disabled before the benefits
>> JACQUIE: Congress in its wisdom, set it up that way.
The reason it is legislative history, they were worried that
people would come on and off of SSDI and that it would be
a nightmare in that way so they didn't want people to go on
and get better and be able to come off right away. The same
way why they set up the two year wait for medicare. They
didn't want people going on and off medicare as they got
better from their disabling condition.
That's the reason social security gives for why they
have that waiting period.
>> TAJAUNA: We have a couple more questions, one is short
and one is pretty long. The next one is do you get medicare
benefits after two years with SSDI or sit medicaid benefits
for a younger person?
>> JACQUIE: No it is medicare with SSDI. Doesn't matter
about your age. If it is SSDI, it's medicare benefits.
We'll talk about SSI in a minute which is where medicaid
>> TAJAUNA: This next question is lengthy. We'll go
forit. My wife recently suffered a brain injury make her
unable to carry out her home making tasks. She had worked
and paid into social security over 30 years. She worked
several years but hasn't paid into social security for many
years. She was a full time mom and homemaker. While
applying for benefits, she was denied because she hasn't
worked for over ten years. Two my income is too high to
qualify for benefits.
The hole or gap here, that while I, her husband was
working and paying for her to stay at home to be the stay
at home mom, there was no recognition for her work. Now I
have to pay someone real money to take her to the grocery
store or actually do the cleaning, et cetera. In other
words, I have to pay someone else over $15 an hour to do the
tasks that she used to do. Shouldn't there be a way for her
to get credit, quote unquote, for the social security I paid.
We file taxes jointly and pay federal income taxes on our
joint income. Why doesn't social security recognize that
she was working while at home. She to replace her costs.
Had she paid into social security for the last ten years,
she would qualify. What are my complaint or appeal options?
Do I have a write my congressman to recognize stay at home
>> JACQUIE: Well, the question of whether she shouldn't be
able to do this is obviously open to different opinions, but
the fact is just as you have laid it out because -- I don't
guess from social security standpoint that its a question
that she values what she is as a stay at home mom and
homemaker, but rather did she pay social security taxes
during that time ask she didn't. You did so you are covered.
She didn't and she isn't covered.
Yes, it would take a change in the law to make that
differently. As far as your appeal process other than going
to the social security appeals process -- we will talk more
about social security appeals process, but they will deny
you because the way the law is written right now, if you
didn't pay in, you are not covered and she didn't.
The other thing you mentioned at the beginning is she
didn't qualify for either program because they count your
income and we will talk about that under the SSI part of this.
>> TAJAUNA: That's all of our questions for now.
>> JACQUIE: Let's go to SSI. SSI stands for not social
security which is what most people think right now, but its
Supplemental Security Income. SSI is a program that is
financed through general revenues. It is not financed
through social security taxes like SSDI is.
It is just administered by the social security
administration but not paid by social security money. With
SSI there is a fixed amount of benefit. It doesn't depends
on your past earnings the way that SSDI does.
It is fixed at a maximum of $603 for a month. That's
in 2006. It goes up with the cost of living adjustment every
year. That is the maximum amount that you can get unless
you are fortunate enough to live in one of the ten states
that supplements the SSI benefit. Those states are
California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, new Jersey, New
York, Pennsylvania, road island, Vermont and last one is not
actually a state but Washington, DC. You can get less than
that, but that's the maximum amount unless you live in one
of those states that supplements it.
They sometimes decrease the amount of the benefit by
what are called countable income and resources, we'll talk
more about that. SSI is a needs based program. Meaning
that you have to have less than $2,000 in countable
Things that do not could want as resources are the home
you live in, your personal belongs, your car, burial plots
that you purchased and insurance policies, do not count as
part of those resources. Basically the things you have
don't count against resources, but money in the bank does.
If you have stocks, those kinds of things will count against
As well as if you had things like a luxury boat or land
other than your homestead, those kinds of things will count
as part of your resources. They can have more than $2,000
in resources. There's no family benefit with SSI. The
benefit is for the person with the disability only.
With SSI that benefits are retroactive to the date
that you apply regardless of when you became disabled under
social security's definition.
With SSI it goes back to the date that you actually
call in and start your application and your benefits will
be retroactive to that date. Unless social security
ultimately find that although you are disabled now, you
weren't when you started the process. You are not supposed
to start is it process unless you are but sometimes they may
find it later on that date and your benefits will be retro
active to that date. With SSI you automatically get
medicaid. There's no waiting period for that. That
becomes retro active to the date youably it.
With SSDI you get medicare. With SSI you get
medicaid. You can get both SSDI and SSI. It's a little
uncommon, but it happens. The way you would get both is you
qualify for SSDI because you worked and you have enough
credits and you go through the process and you qualify for
SSDI. But because of your past earning record, your income
is -- your monthly income from SSDI is very low.
In that case, it might be low enough that you could
also qualify for SSI. And if you do, then you will get both
medicare and medicaid if you qualify under both programs.
Someone submitted a question earlier about whether
you could get retirement benefits and disability benefits
at the same time and whether that was an okay thing or whether
that was legal. Actually what happens is when you reach
full retirement age, nothing changes with your disability
payment except for social security benefits, it will be
called retirement benefits instead of disability benefits.
Starting with the month that you reach full retirement
age, you will get your benefits at that time with no limits
on your earnings because retirement benefits opposed to
Are there any questions at this point Tajauna?
>> TAJAUNA: Jacquie, we have quite a few. Some of them are
still going back to where we were before we started talking
about SSDI. We have one who asks why is an individual who
is switched from one program to another get SSDI to SSI?
>> JACQUIE: It's impossible for me to answer that without
kind of knowing the specific facts of that. It would be
unusual to be switched from SSDI to SSI. It can happen that
a person would be able to get both as I just explained, and
it could also happen to be no longer eligible for SSI because
of income that you get or resources that you have. But to
be switched, I'm not sure. So I would really need to
know -- this maybe something I could talk to later or e-mail
with the person to get more specific facts about that
particular case of what happened.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. The next question is is there a quicker
way to get medicare if you have had a traumatic injury?
>> JACQUIE: Not medicare. They have -- social security
has what they will deem as something that's allows you to
get a presumptive disability to get your payments more
quickly and they have a list of things on their website that
you can read. If you have any of those, they can make a
determination of presum active disability. So they can
start right away. If you qualified for SSI, your medicaid
could start as well. But medicare doesn't start right away
even under the presumptive disability. No.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay, the next question is is there any
movement in either SSI or congress to reduce the 24 month
waiting period for a SSDI recipient to receive medicare?
>> JACQUIE: There could be. Not that I personal know of.
It would be a good idea. That's a really hard thing. The
truth is for a whole lot of recipients, the two year medicare
wait doesn't exist actually, because what happens is, it
takes them two years to go through the process of getting
benefits. By the time they get benefits it has been two
years since their onset date. So they start getting it
immediately when they get their benefit. But for people who
qualify because it is something so traumatic or self-evident
that social security gives them benefits right away, then
that two year wait is devastating because for many people
that don't have insurance, their disability expenses are so
overwhelming. I haven't heard of anything it would be
>> TAJAUNA: If they were disabled when working and then
unable to work would they go back to the original onset of
the disability or the progression of disability to start.
>> JACQUIE: They go to the date on which they decide you
became too disabled to work. Whether you met their
definition of disability. So even if the injury occurred
long before that or the illness, but it feels progressive
so that at first you were able to work but over time you
became unable, they would pick a date -- you get to pick the
date. You tell them when it is. Sometimes they change it
based on medical evidence. But between the two they pick
a date as your onset date and that's the date on which they
deem that you were unable to work.
>> TAJAUNA: The next question, if receive SSI and have
medicare, can I return to work once SSA has aproved by
benefits and will I accumulate more credits toward social
security to get for cash credits at the age of 65 years old.
>> JACQUIE: Yes, and we'll talk more later in the webcast.
But yes you can go back to work and earn more credits.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. Next question. Would I be prohibited
from owning a both worth approximately $4,000 as I use for
a residence under SSI?
>> JACQUIE: I think -- I honestly haven't looked at this
question before. But I this if it is your residence, you
would be okay on that. If you use it as a residence, that
would be the deciding factor. If I were faced with that,
I would call social security and check. But I imagine
that's how you would get around that if it is a residence.
>> TAJAUNA: Next question and this is the last question
that we have, two comments. Going back to the question of
the working husband and stay at home wife became disabled.
What would happen if the wife passed away would they qualify.
Would you have time to explain --
>> JACQUIE: We wouldn't be going into RSDI in this webcast.
Could the wife qualify. She could qualify for survivor
benefits and again that's not really a disability related
benefit, but she could qualify for that. Dependsing on her
income and assets she may qualify for SSI if she had less
than $2,000 in countable resources and didn't have much
income from the survivor benefit.
But qualified for SSDI she wouldn't be able to do that
still because [Inaudible]
>> TAJAUNA: These are comments. It say that is Alaska also
supplements SSI income, that's based on when you remember
naming off states and also states Alaska also supplements
through Alaska public assistance. And then we have one
individual who asks for a website but I'm not quite sure in
regards to what website this person is talking so if they
wouldn't mind resubmitting the question.
>> JACQUIE: The website is -- now we'll talk about the
definition of disability. You may or may not know, there
are a lot of federal laws that deal with disability and state
laws as well. Many of these have different definitions.
It would probably be helpful if there was one
definition for disability that we had to know and that would
be it. Many of the federal laws have different definitions.
And the other big civil rights law for people with
disabilities, of course, is the Americans with disabilities
act. The ADA has a different definition. For the ADA
there's a broad definition that is physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more major life
activities. But for social security they don't use that
definition at all.
Their process for meeting the definition of
disability is they ask five questions. These also, as I
said and probably will continue to say are also on their
website. Five questions are: Are you working? That's a
really important one. Sometimes people will call me and
leave a message saying, they want to apply for social
security disability and they leave me their work number to
call them back. If you are working and you are making more
than $860 a month, you will not be considered disabled under
social security rules.
But if you are not working, they go on to the next
question. Which is: Is your condition severe? This
trips up most people when they get their denial letters, it
will say, you said you have these impairments and the records
show that you do have those impairments, but they are not
severe enough to qualify for social security. Your
condition has to interfere with basic work related activity
in order for your claim to be considered.
If it does not do that, they will find that you are
not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic
work related activities, then they go to the third question,
which is: Is your condition found in the listing of
Social security actually has in contract to say the
Americans with disabilities act that doesn't have a list of
impairments. Social security does. It's called the list
of impairments. People usually call it the blue book or the
listing. It's a listing of medical conditions for each
major body system.
Now the problem is it is not just a list of conditions,
it goes into detail and again, this is on their website, but
it goes into detail about what you have to have. So for
example, diabetes is listed there. But having diabetes is
not enough to qualify you. You also have to meet the
conditions, the symptoms that they list there.
So if you have the condition and it manifests itself
as it does in the listings, then it means that you meet the
definition of disability for social security. If your
condition is not on the list, and of course, no list of
conditions could ever be complete, then they have to decide
if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is
on the list.
And if so, then you are done. If not, then you go to
the fourth question, which is: Can you do the work you did
previously? If your condition is severe, but it is not the
same or equal level of severity of a medical condition in
the listings, then they decide if it interferes with your
ability to do the work before. If it does not, then your
claim is denied. If it does, you go to the fifth question,
and the fifth question is: Can you do any other type of
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, can you
adjust to do other work. So they consider the medical
condition itself, they consider your age, they consider your
education, your past work experience, and any transferable
skills that you have. If you can't adjust to other work,
then you claim will be aproved. If they determine that you
can do other kinds of work, then you claim will be denied.
Very often when I go through these, people get very
upset that they consider things like your age and education
when they are deciding whether you can do other work.
The reason that they do this is because they figure
that the more education you have, the more jobs you would
have available to you. The more kinds of work you can do.
So if someone didn't go past elementary school, then they
will assume is that there are jobs that they would be more
trouble doing than someone who has a graduate degree.
It works a little bit the same with age. The older
you are, the less likely social security, believers, that
you are to be able to transfer your skills to another job.
So they consider those two factors when looking at this
We had a question about disability SSDI application
where on the SSDI application you have to be able to say,
I'm unable to work because that's the claim you are making
with social security. That you are unable to work.
Whether or not you can do that, while at the same time if
you were fired from your previous job, because of your
disability because they wouldn't accommodate your
disability, can you still have an on going law suit over your
ADA claim while saying that you are unable to work. The
problem is that if an ADA claim, you have to be able to say
that I could have done the job. I was doing do job. If they
hasn't fired me because of my disability I would be there
still. At the same time on the social security side you are
saying you can't work. The Supreme Court looked back at
that in 1999 and they decided it wasn't an absolute thing.
Under the ADA, there's a reasonable accommodation standard.
So under the ADA you could be fired from your job
because they are not giving you a reasonable accommodation.
So if that's the reason is the reasonable accommodation, the
lack of that is what supports your ADA claim then you can
continue with that claim even though you are saying under
social security you are unable to work. Because social
security doesn't look at reasonable accommodations in their
list of questions to determine whether you meet their
We're going to go through the procedure and process
in a minute, but that's the definition of disability with
social security. That's how they determine it. Do we have
any questions, Tajauna?
>> TAJAUNA: The first one is asking what is the website for
SSI and that's actually on the same website, it is the SSA
website. The next question is I heard that the federal
government can garnish SSI or SSDI if you are a student in
default from paying federal student loans, is this true and
to what extent?
>> JACQUIE: That's a good question. I know they can
garnish for student loans, but I haven't worked with anybody
going through that. So I'm not sure to what extent. I
could probably find that out. If you got that on e-mail,
I can look into it and we can postthe answer. Because I
don't know to what extent they can do that.
>> TAJAUNA: The next one, to kind sign up for long-term
disability at the place of employment, the pay out is limited
if you become disability disabled and there is a maximum
amount to get from long-term disability and SSDI combined.
Is there anyway how much to sign up when signing up for
long-term disability? Second part, is there a maximum
benefit amount a person can receive from SSDI if I have 40
credits what's the maximum I can get?
>> JACQUIE: There's no maximum amount you can receive on
SSDI. That's determined -- your monthly amount is
determined by your cash -- a complicated formula that I don't
even know. I went to law school not math school. But
there's a formula for that. That doesn't max out at any
point. But long-term disability -- it might be good to do
a webcast on that, the interplay between long-term
disability and SSDI because that's -- they ever an
But with long-term disability, of course it is
impossible for me to advise you on how much you need because
that's going to be different for any person how much income
they want to get and how much insurance they want to buy.
But with long-term disability, -- how that works
depends on what it says in the long-term disability policy.
Typically, when you get it through your employer, the policy
is between the employer and the insurance company.
Your third party beneficiary as the employee, but you
don't really see the policy itself. They will be different
from state to state because insurance laws are largely state
laws. So there will be some differences, but most policies,
what most policies provide for is the long-term disability
carrier, if they decide you meet their definition of
disability, which is in the policy, but not
necessarily -- not the same as social security or the ADA
definition, they have their own definition in the policy of
what it takes to qualify for their benefits to have a
disability under their policy.
Once you qualify for that, they will pay -- again this
will be in the policy but typically, one or two years. Some
fixed amounts of time they will pay before they require that
you apply for social security benefits. Then what happens,
if you are successful and you get SSDI, you will continue
to get the same amount of money as you got under your
long-term policy. If your long-term policy was paying you
$2,000 a month and you get SSDI. SSDI is going to pay you
$1500 a month. You don't get is sum of that.
What happens is, social security sends you the $1500
and your long-term disability carrier only have to send you
$500 to get you up to where they were before. So they only
have to make up the difference once you get social security
benefits. That's why they require that you apply for social
security benefits and give you a provide support for helping
you with the paper work and it isn't just out of kindness
that they do that.
It's once you get social security they reduce the
benefits. So whatever level of income you get it will pay
X amount of dollars if you become disabled under their
policy, that will not be in addition to social security.
That's generally a real big shock for people. It seems
unfair. They pay for their policy. But it is the way the
policy is written.
It's not that social security reducings the benefit,
they pay if full amount, but the insurance carrier gets to
reduce the benefit if you get a public benefit. Long answer
to that question. But an important one because it is a very
>> TAJAUNA: The next question asks under what
circumstances can you get medicare under SSI?
>> JACQUIE: Well SSI is not connected to the medicare
program. Though -- only if you qualified for medicare in
some other way like as a retiree then your benefit is low
enough to qualify for SSI, but it would be a separate program
qualifying for medicare. Because SSI is connected to
>> TAJAUNA: The next one says, hi, my question on social
security is because I'm disabled and I also advocate for
people with disabilities. I see a lot of people that would
like to work, however they like I, would needs a personal
assistant to work. Unfortunately, some of us will always
need the PA service for the rest of our lives. If we work
we lose benefits eventually. By the time we work and pay
for the PA, there's very little money to live on. This is
one reason people don't work, which is not great for our
economy. Would you say the best way to get off SSI or SSDI
and still get help with PA, would self-employment at home
>> JACQUIE: Well, it might. But that's going to be a
really different answer for each person, I think. I
wouldn't hazard a guess to be able to say that's the best
solution for a group of people. But it might be the best
solution for a person.
When we get to the part on going back to work, we'll
talk more about that.
>> TAJAUNA: Upon reaching retirement age you say earnings
don't matter anymore. Is that true for SSI?
>> JACQUIE: Whether they are SSI only or if they are
concurrent recipient do they still look at earned and
unearned income for SSI no matter what age you are? Yes for
SSI is a need based program. Yes. The answer to that is
yes. They still look at that.
>> TAJAUNA: The next one. Is it difficult to qualify if
your disability is chronic fatigue syndrome and you can work
some but not on a regular basis?
>> JACQUIE: Yes. It just is whether or not that's fair is
an entirely different subject. But it is hard to get
benefits with chronic fatigue. It's hard to meet the
requirements that they have and there are social security
administrative law judges who don't even believe those
impairments exist. They will say that in their opinions.
So it can be very hard. Certainly not impossible and
definitely worth pursuing, but yes, it is harder.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. The next question. Could you explain
the qualifications of a disabled child receiving SSI and how
a parent eats income affects this?
>> JACQUIE: Parent's income is deemed to the child until
the child is 18. So it makes it -- I mean it's harder
to -- harder for a child to qualify for SSI benefits. No
matter what the disability is because of the, because the
parent's income is deemed to the child. So they look at the
family income until the child is 18. Once the child is 18
So it is much easier to qualify at that age. Before
that they look at the whole family income and resources.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. Along those lines, next question how is
disabled child receive SSI benefits?
>> JACQUIE: A disabled child doesn't receive SSI benefits
unless they receive it on the record of a parental who has
a disability. As a parent of a disabled child, you become
disabled and you get SSDI benefits, then your child
qualifies for those benefits. For a portion of those
benefits that we talked about at first. Up to a 50% benefit
for the spouse and each minor child and disabled child. A
child with disabled and then reach the age of majority.
That part's confusing to people because they want to say,
well my disabled child should get benefits on my record.
But that only works if you are getting a disability benefit
on your own record. Then your child can. But not unless you
have a disabilities and getting it on your own record.
>> TAJAUNA: The housewife situation. Two questions. It
says, did DDS say that this women had what disability that
meets the listing of disability impairments, if yes, who
would see be considered for SSDI since she did work before
and paid into SSDI?
>> JACQUIE: That's a good question. I didn't address that
parts of the question. You have to have earned half of your
credit within the previous ten years and so she worked. It
had been too long before she paid into the system. Once you
stop paying into the system, you only have five years of
eligible after that. So if she had become disabled four
years after she worked, then yes, she would be able to
qualify on her record. I forget the long time [Inaudible].
>> TAJAUNA: Another question. If you have an individual
that's out of work with no compensation from employer for
five or six months because of a disability, the individual
has worked several years, that go back to work can they get
short-term disability for the five or six months they were
down and unemployed and short-term disability?
>> JACQUIE: Yeah. Short-term disability is -- it's not
part of social security law and so it's really more of a
policy of what each employer offers in terms of short-term
disability. I condition answer without knowing that
>> TAJAUNA: Could you also -- this can you e-mail to the
extent on SSI and SSDI can be garnished and under what
>> JACQUIE: I can do that.
>> TAJAUNA: If you are on SSI since birth do to a disability
and it continued when a person turned 18 how long can it last?
>> JACQUIE: Indefinitely as long as they continue to meet
the eligibility requirement as far as income and resources.
>> TAJAUNA: Two more questions. I was listening into the
webcast of the differences between SSI and SSDI. One
someone asked the question if any action has been made to
change the two year waiting period. I think this is going
to turn into a comment, but representative has what
legislation to end the two year waiting period and then they
provide a link to the legislation and we will postthis link
on our website and individuals can go back. We'll post that
comments along with the link. The question is -- the last
question. Is this child eligible for SSI her father meets
the requirement of less than $800 a month the child is two
years old. She does not talk, she points and claps her hands
>> JACQUIE: I would have to get into the listings to look,
but I would say probably not. Just based on that very brief
description and not really having any medical evidence or
How you really know if she meets the listings is apply.
Short of applying for benefits, you won't know for sure. I
would apply and see what they say.
>> TAJAUNA: That's all the questions for now.
>> JACQUIE: Okay. Now let's talk about the procedure for
what you do to get benefits. First of all, you apply. You
can apply online for SSDI by phone or in person. They don't
currently let you apply for SSI online. By phone but then
they will make an appointment for you to go into a social
security office in those cases.
You need to have when you apply, when you are going
to have your interview about your application, you need to
have medical records if you can. I don't want anybody going
out and spending a lot of money to get their medical records,
but whatever medical records you have kept, pollution just
have names of the physicians you have seen and or hospitals
where you have been treated because these things will help
a lot when they are trying to determine exactly whether you
Letters from doctors are helpful, but only if they
contain the right information. I mention this because this
is one of the things I think in my abstract for this webcast,
I said what a social security judge will want and doesn't
want. This is an example of a thing that a judge doesn't
A judge does not want to look at a letter from your
doctor saying that you are total and permanently disabled.
That's just generally the phrase they use. People think and
understandably, if they get five letters from five doctors
that say they are disabled for sure they will get benefits.
The problem is that disability is not really a medical term.
It is a legal term.
So the judge is not interested in your doctor's legal
opinion about whether you have a disability. The judge, in
fact, is the person who gets to decide that. What they want
in those letters from your doctors, they want a description
of what you can do. What you are able to do in terms of work
So it is helpful to have things in there about how long
you can sit, how long you can stand, how far you can walk
without taking a rest, how often you would need to lie down
during an 8-hour work day. Whether you can handle the
stress of a job. What kinds of medications you are on and
what the side effects of those medications, how they would
impact your ability to work.
So those kinds of things that they want to hear from
a doctor and not just a letter saying this person has a
disability. It is good to have a list of your medications
and the side effects. Very often when cases, essentially
come down to what we call paying cases, where a person is
in a tremendous amount of pain and the pain keeps them from
working, they can take pain medication that help it is pain.
But when they are on the medication they can't maintain
concentration for a sufficient length offer time to do work
and toll directions and those types of things. So it is good
to have your medications and side effectss.
Have everything as organized as you can and keep
copies of everything. Lots of times people have come to me
and said, here is my case. And they just have a lot of papers
and they don't know what they have told social security and
they haven't kept copies. That makes its harder in the long
run not to keep things organized and copies of things that
You are going to feel like through the course of
process that you have already told social security this.
This is the same thing they asked me for three weeks ago.
You are right. They ask for the same things often, you just
end up writing the same thing over and over. But that's
their process. So keeping copies helps.
When you first apply, social security says it takes
about three or four months for the initial
application -- from the initial application to when they
send you their decision.
Most of time, even according to social security
statistics in the 85% range, most of the time you will be
denied benefits when you first apply during initial
Many people, far too many people simply give up at that
points. They get the official long involved letter from
social security that says, you don't have a disability.
They say, well okay. I don't have a disability.
It's very important and in the letter it tells you you
can appeal the decision. You can appeal for
reconsideration and you have 60 days in which to appeal.
Don't let the 6 days lapse. The quicker you appeal the
quicker you will get through the process.
So you appeal for reconsideration. Again most of
time on reconsideration, you will be denied again. Then it
says you can appeal for a hearing before an administrative
law judge ALG. Again you have 60 days to appeal that
So you appeal for a hearing. At this point is when
people often think about whether or not they want to get a
lawyer to help them. A lot of people worry about getting
a lawyer because they don't have any money at this point.
They haven't worked in probably, at least 6 months and so
they don't really have the money to hire a lawyer.
The way a lawyer gets paid in social security cases
is that the lawyer gets a percentage, 25% of the past due
benefit that is you will get. So if you lose, you don't have
to pay the lawyer anything.
If you win, you get benefits. You will get a lump sum
payment that will go back from -- well depends if it is SSDI
or SSI. If it is SSDI it is from the six months after your
onset date, then you will get those back benefits in a lump
For SSI they go back to when you applied and you will
get a lump amount sum. You get 25% of that up to a maximum
of $5,300, which ever is less. That's what the lawyer gets.
If you don't win, you don't owe the lawyer anything.
The reason that it can be a positive thing to have a lawyer
in these situations is kind of the reason that they want
lawyers in other cases as well. It is because a lawyer knows
what they are doing in this particular setting.
So they know what the judge wants to see, what kinds
of evidence won't make a difference, how to ask questions
during the hearing, what to get from witnesses and can also
make things smoother for you when you are with somebody who
knows what they are doing. It is not necessary to have a
lawyer. You absolutely don't need to have a lawyer. You
can take a nonlawyer with you.
You can take a family member or a friend with you into
the hearing so that you don't have to walk in alone, which
can be a little intimidating. Let me explain kind of what
the hearing is like.
I guess the first thing to talk about is the waiting
period because it is very lengthy. It's different in
different parts of the country. So I can't speak to all
waiting periods because some are relatively quick, a few
months. But in some cases from the time you apply, you
appeal for the hearing, until you actually have the hearing,
it can be a year or 18 months even before you have a hearing.
That's a very long time waiting for the hearing to
happen. When you finally do get your notice for the hearing
and you have the hearing, what you want to bring with you
will depend somewhat on whether you have a lawyer who tells
you what to bring. If you don't have a lawyer and go by
yourself, you want to bring things that will make a
difference to the judge. So you want to bring records or
again, letters from your doctor that show what you can and
can not do in terms of work-related activities.
Your demeanor in the hearing is very important. Some
judges depends a lot on that. If a judge thinks that you
are lying about your disability, of course, they are not
going to side with you. It is important not to make things
seem worse or better than they are. But to simply tell the
truth and answer the questions honestly.
When you go into the hearing, they are usually held
in a small room. If you have been to regular courthouses,
these are generally small rooms in a building. They have
a long table and a bench where the judge sits. When you go
into the room the judge will already be sitting there. He's
at one end and generally, called the claimant, the person
making claim is at the other end. The judge will have a
clerk with him or her who is recording the proceeding and
there will also be expert witnesses, generally, not always.
They will have experts sometimes medical experts.
Not your medical doctor. A medical expert. If you are
claiming a psychiatric disability they may have a
psychiatrist as well. They may also have a vocational
experts and what jobs you can do after looking at your
record. It is important that you not get argumentative with
these experts because these are people that the judge knows
and that are simply giving their opinion. It is not
surprising when your opinion would be different from theres.
Some people think -- isn't it try you each and every
never seen me before. The judge doesn't care about that.
You haven't seen the doctor before. He is interested in
Sometimes at the hearing, the judge will let you know
that you are going to get benefits. He'll say or she'll say,
you get benefits. Or sometimes they don't actually say it,
but if you have a lawyer with you, they will know because
the judge didn't ask the vocational expert something. But
you will get a written decision and again, this time period
that it takes to do that varies.
I've seen it done in as quickly as two weeks for a bench
decision and I refer had it take nine months for a decision.
There's a big leeway in there for long it takes a judge to
actually render the decision. If you win, once the decision
is rendered, you will get benefits, usually it takes two or
three months to go through the payment center for your
benefits to actually start and they send you your lump sum
payment and your benefits start.
If you lose, you still have an appeal from there.
Although going before the judge is your best shot at getting
benefits. But there's an appeal to the appeals counsel of
social security. You don't generally have to appear there.
They look at the record, read the transcript and listen to
the actual tapes of the hearing to make their decision.
They can either reverse what the administrative law
judge did or more often, if they do anything that's helpful,
they send it back to the administrative lawyer judge with
Or you can -- if you loose at the appeals counsel or
choose not do go to the appeals counsel you can appeal
directly to federal court. You probably will need a lawyer
to do that. Things get complicated once you get to federal
court. Not impossible and you are not required to have one,
that's for sure.
We're running low on time now and I haven't started
at all on the returning to work piece of this which will need
more than the ten minutes we have left and I'm betting we
have some questions. So we may have to do the returning to
work trial periods at a separate webcast because I know we
won't have time today. Do we have questions?
>> TAJAUNA: We do. Quite a few. The first question is
many years ago residential service providers got the social
security law changed for roommates to be counted as single
heads of house holds. Can a mother on SSI have her adult
daughter live in her home without the daughter's income
count as household income?
>> JACQUIE: Looking at that the other way...if the
daughter. You know, I would have to go to social security
with that and see. I better not hazard a guess on that. I'm
not sure on that. I would have to look at that.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. The next question is can you work under
SSI benefits and then later be converted to SSDI since you
have built up more credits and on the onset you have applied
for SSI but did not meet the credit criteria?
>> JACQUIE: Yes you can do that. There's a lot of detail
that should go into that answer. But the bottom line it can
be done that way.
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. Next question. Can you qualify for
SSDI or SSI if you are an illegal alien but have paid taxes?
>> JACQUIE: Yes, there are special rules about that. You
can -- if you are a noncitizen who meets alien criteria under
legislation in 1996, then you can. You have to meet two
requirements for SSI. The noncitizen has to be in a
qualified alien category and meet a condition that allows
qualified aliens to get SSI and then of course the noncitizen
has to meet all other requirements for SSI eligibility.
There are 8 categories of qualified aliens. One who
is lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United
States. Someone who is granted conditional entry under a
specific section of the immigration nationality act.
Someone paroled. A refugee, someone grantsed asylum.
Deportation being withheld. So they are very specific
about what is a qualified alien, but yes it can be done.
>> TAJAUNA: Next question. Do you have to be considered
disabled for a whole year to qualify for SSDI benefits if
you have worked and earned all your credits?
>> JACQUIE: Read the first part?
>> TAJAUNA: Do you have to be disabled for a whole year to
qualify for SSDI benefits?
>> JACQUIE: Part of what they look at is -- you don't have
to have been disabled for a year. You don't have to have
had the impairment for a year, but it has to be expected to
last at least a year. Or result in death.
So if it's a disease, you can qualify otherwise it has
to be expected to last a year. It doesn't have to have
already lasted a year to qualify, but the medical evidence
has to be such that it is expected to last a year.
So if you break both legs in a skiing accident, you
won't qualify under SSDI because even though you are unable
to am but late right then, presumably that would get better
in a year. That's why they have that one year thing in
>> TAJAUNA: Okay. This one asks, how is it that persons
with disabilities receive SSDI if they have not worked and
why are some people with disabilities able to maintain SSI
eligibility while working and others are not?
>> JACQUIE: Well it -- for the second part of the question,
it depends on how much you work. Like I said we're not going
to be able to get into that today and I'm really disappointed
on that just on the part we were able to cover. But they
have incentive programs and plans for achievering
self-support programs to help people work while maintaining
So it is possible to do that and social security needs
to know that. You can't just strike out on your own and
decide to work and not tell them. They have good programs
to get people back to work. So yes, you can do that. What
was the first part of the question again?
>> TAJAUNA: The first part of the question was, how is that
persons with people with disabilities get SSI --
>> JACQUIE: Right.
>> TAJAUNA: Able to maintain benefits while others are not?
>> JACQUIE: It's because the way social security is set up.
Those programs for getting back to work. It is possible to
work and maintain your benefits. If you don't want to wait
until the next webcast to find out about that, that
information is on the social security website about all the
programs that they ever to get people back to work and allow
you to maintain your benefits while you work.
>> TAJAUNA: Next question. Can a person be granted SSDI
while keeping his part time job. This person can no longer
work enough hours to live on and has to reduce his hours even
more but doesn't want to lose the job.
>> JACQUIE: Yes. What they base this on is whether you are
able to do Substantial Gainful Activity, SGA. It is $860
a month. If you are able to work, but you earn less than
$860 a month, because that's the most you can work because
of your disables condition. You are unable to work more
than whatever given amount it is, as long as as you are not
making more than $860 a month, then you can still qualify
But I should say as a practical matter it is harder
to do that. That's definitely the way it is written, but
it is just harder because social security is more likely to
say, welcome on, if you can work that many hours, you can
work this many hours. So it is harder to get benefits that
way, but it happens all the time. There are a lot of people
that working and not make more than that SGA so they can
continues to get benefits.
>> TAJAUNA: Next one is a comments. Our charges for
attorney fees are less than 5% for center for independent
living. We are in west New York and the current waiting time
is 24 months. The next one, we also tell SSI applicants to
appeal and reapply because it is retroactive. Is this still
a good policy?
>> JACQUIE: To appeal and reapply? I'm not sure what they
mean by that. Doing both things?
>> TAJAUNA: Applicants to appeal reapply?
>> JACQUIE: Social security says you are not to have two
applications at the same time. If you appeal -- from the
tone of the question, we are talking about the reapply part.
Sounds like they are appeal because it is retroactive back
to that date. That's why you want to appeal and not start
other. Reapplying is not as good an idea as appealing that
original decision so that you have further to go back.
We're about out of time.
>> TAJAUNA: We have a couple more questions. We won't get
all of them answered. But the ones that don't goat
answered, we will have to postand or provide to you by the
e-mail address you have given to us. But we'll go ahead with
a couple more questions. One is asking, what is the
definition of an administrative law judge?
>> JACQUIE: I'm not sure what the official definition is.
But for social security purposes, it's a federal judge and
they are appointed like other federal judges and they
serve -- in this case -- administrative law judges can be
all kinds of things and for all kinds of administrative
procedure there is a person could be called administrative
law judge. But for social security, the judges appointed
and they decide social security cases. They don't decide
them until they come up were hearings. They don't have
anything to do with the initial determinations. They only
preside over cases that actually come to hearing.
>> TAJAUNA: These are the last two questions we will be able
to take. One individual asks would it be better to start
off with a lawyer?
>> JACQUIE: The fact is, no. In most cases, a lawyer in
fact, won't take your case early on. There's good reason
not to hire a lawyer. First of all, a lawyer at that initial
stage and reconsideration stage, they are not going to be
able to do a lot in terms of -- you are still going to be
filling out the paperwork and that sort of thing. It's
possible that if you get a lawyer, if you really don't know
what to do and you get a lawyer that takes your case at the
initial stage, a lawyer can help to put together a packet
that would have the things in it to convince social security
to give you benefits.
But even saying that, I would say that most lawyers
won't take if case when you first apply and the reason is
is that they get paid from past due benefits and if you get
the benefits the day you send in your initial application
because they ever done a good job of putting it together,
they are liable to get 0 pay for the work that they do. So
most lawyers won't take at a case until it is ready to go
to hearing. At hearing is where a lawyer can be more
>> TAJAUNA: So if you take a nonlawyer to a hearing can they
help you in presenting your evidence and such?
>> JACQUIE: Yes.
>> TAJAUNA: Nice short answer. And with that thank you
Jacquie so much. You have provided the audience with some
terrific and important information. I hope all of you
listening have learned something. This webcast will be
archived at ILRU website. At firstname.lastname@example.org. You can
also check for upcoming webcasts. The next webcast is
schedule for Wednesday, February 8 at 2:00 central standard
time and will be presented by Allen from the University of
Tennessee. I would say like to thank our presenter Jacquie
Brennan. I would say like to acknowledge the national
institute on Disabilitiy Rehabilitation, NIDRR. The
resource projects. I would say also like to thank the
in-house staff without their efforts. Marj Gordon, Sharon
Finney, Dawn Heinsohn, Vinh Nguyen, Maria del Bosque, as
well as the technical expertise of Rob Dickehuth and our real
time captioner Lauren Kellmann. Please note that the
disability law resource project is not an enforcement
entity. Thank you again for joining us and we hope you will
join us again.