Melvin E. Irvin 

Disability Benefits

Disability is something most people do not like to think about. But the chance that you will become disabled is probably greater than you realize. Studies show that a 25-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. This website provides basic information on Social Security disability benefits and is not intended to answer all questions. For specific information about your situation, you should talk with Mr. Irvin.

Who can get Social Security disability benefits?

Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.

Certain family members of disabled workers also can receive money from Social Security.

How do I meet the earnings requirement for disability benefits?

In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:

1.     A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and

2.     A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.

Certain blind workers have to meet only the “duration of work” test.

How do I apply for disability benefits?

Simply contact us and we'll help you get started.

When should I apply and what information do I need?

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take a long time to process an application for disability benefits (five to six months).

To apply for disability benefits, you will need to first complete an application for Social Security Benefits and the Disability Report.  We'll help you with that. Then we will file your application and disability report for you on line.

The information we need includes:

•Your Social Security number;

•Your birth or baptismal certificate;

•Names, addresses and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics that took care of you and dates of your visits;

•Names and dosage of all the medicine you take;

•Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and caseworkers that you already have in your possession

•Laboratory and test results

•A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did

In addition to the basic application for disability benefits, there are other forms you will need to fill out. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Other forms give doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals who have treated you permission to send us information about your medical condition.

Who decides if I am disabled?​

The SSA will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefits. They will check whether you worked enough years to qualify. Also, they will evaluate any current work activities. If you meet these requirements, they will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.

This state agency makes the disability decision. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They will consider all the facts in your case. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics or institutions where you have been treated and all other information. They will usually ask your doctors:

  • What your medical condition is;

  • When your medical condition began;

  • How your medical condition limits your activities;

  • What the medical tests have shown; and

  • What treatment you have received.

They also will ask the doctors for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as standing, walking, sitting, lifting, carrying and remembering instructions. Your doctors are not asked to decide if you are disabled.  Federal rules state that only the Commissioner of Social Security can say whether you are disabled of whether or not you can work—not your doctor. 

The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination.  Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs.

How does the SSA make the decision?

​​The Administration uses a five-step sequential process to decide if you are disabled.

Step 1. Are you working?

If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, we generally will not consider you disabled. The amount allowed changes each year.

If you are not working, or your monthly earnings average less than the current amount, the state agency then looks at your medical condition.

Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?

For the state agency to decide that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities—such as walking, sitting and remembering—for at least one year. If your medical condition is not that severe, the state agency will not consider you disabled. If your condition is that severe, the state agency goes on to step three.

Step 3.  Does your medical condition meet the requirements for an impairment that is on the Social Security List of Impairments?

The state agency has a List of Impairments that describes medical conditions that are considered so severe that if you meet the requirements of any listing, you are disabled as defined by law. If the severity of your medical condition meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment, the state agency will decide that you are disabled.

If your condition (or combination of medical conditions) does not meet the requirements of any of the listed impairments, then the state agency moves on to Step 4, below. 

Step 4.  Can you do the work you did before?

At this step, the state agency decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to do the work you did before. If it does not, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled. If it does, the state agency goes on to step five.

Step 5.  Can you do any other type of work?

If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the state agency looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you cannot do other work, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If you can do other work, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled.

When the state agency reaches a decision on your case, the Administration will send you a letter. If your application is approved, the letter will show the amount of your benefit and when your payments start. If your application is not approved, the letter will explain why and tell you how to appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.

What if I disagree with the decision?

If you disagree with a decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. The steps you can take are explained in The Appeals ProcessPublication No. 05-10041 which is available from Social Security or our office. You have the right to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your choice when you do business with Social Security. 

What happens when my claim is finally approved?

If your application is approved, your first Social Security disability benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.

Here is an example: If the state agency decides your disability began on January 15, your first disability benefit will be paid for the month of July. 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.

You also will receive What You Need to Know When You Get Disability Benefits Publication No. 05-10153, which gives you important information about your benefits and tells you what changes you must report to the Social Security Administration.

How much will my benefits be?

The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. An earnings report from the Social Security Administration displays your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefit. It also includes estimates of retirement and survivors benefits that you or your family may be eligible to receive in the future.  We can explain how to get a copy of the earnings report.

Can my family get benefits?

​​Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work. They include:

  • Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older;

  • Your spouse, at any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled;

  • Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time; and

  • Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. (The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.)

In some situations, a divorced spouse may qualify for benefits based on your earnings if he or she was married to you for at least 10 years, is not currently married and is at least age 62. The money paid to a divorced spouse does not reduce your benefit or any benefits due to your current spouse or children.

How do other payments affect my benefits?

If you are getting other government benefits, such as state disability or workers' compensation, the amount of your Social Security disability benefits may be affected.

When do I get Medicare?

​You will get Medicare coverage automatically after you have received disability benefits for two years.

Can I go back to Work?

After you start receiving disability benefits, you may want to try working again. There are special rules that help you keep your cash benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. We call these rules “work incentives” or “employment support” programs.

The Ticket to Work Program

Under this program, Social Security disability beneficiaries can get help with training and other services they need to go to work at no cost to them. Most beneficiaries will receive a “ticket” that they can take to a provider of their choice who can offer the kind of services they need.