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Congratulations! You’ve Won Your Disability Claim…Now What?

Finally, after all of the paperwork, appointments and waiting you have received your approval for Social Security disability benefits. You know that approval means you will begin to receive a monthly check, but what else does it mean?

#1. Monthly Check.

Of course, the monthly check is the most important part of your disability claim. After you receive a decision letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the next course of action is for your monthly payments to be processed. This is handled by the payment center at SSA, and it usually takes about 1-2 months for your benefits to begin.

In addition to your monthly check and depending on your disability date, you may be eligible for retroactive benefits. If SSA found you disabled in 2011 but approved your case in 2013 you will be eligible to receive back benefits beginning from your disability date. However, there is an exception. You are only eligible to receive retroactive benefits 12 months prior to your filing date. Another thing to keep in mind is there is a 5 month waiting period from your disability date for which you are not eligible to receive benefits. To maximize your retroactive benefits or back pay you want to show you became disabled 17 months prior to your filing date.

Here is a quick example:
SSA has determined your disability date to be April 1, 2011. You filed your initial application on December 1, 2012. This means, based on your filing date, you will be eligible to receive back benefits as of December 1, 2011. Because your disability date is April 1, 2011 you will be eligible to begin receiving benefits September 1, 2011 to account for the 5 month wait period. But since your filing date was December 1, 2012 you will not be paid any retroactive benefits until December 1, 2011 (12 months prior to the filing date). I know this is confusing, but this is just a brief overview of how your payments will be calculated.

#2. Attorney’s fees. 

If you have an attorney or representative assisting you with your case they will be paid out of your retroactive benefits ONLY. The general agreement that SSA will approve limits your representative fee to 25% of back benefits up to a maximum of $6,000. SSA needs to approve the fee agreement between yourself and your representative. If they approve of the agreement, SSA will handle paying your representative.

#3. Are other people eligible to be paid?

If you care for any children under age 18, they are entitled to additional benefits from your account. Depending on the state you live in, if you owe child support your back benefits may automatically be sued to pay that amount first.

#4. Are you eligible for medical benefits?

In most cases, yes, you will be eligible for Medicare. However, Medicare coverage will not begin until you have been disabled for 24 months. In the interim, you could be eligible for Medicaid or medically needy benefits. Call the Department of Children and Families to see what programs you may qualify for until your Medicare kicks in.

#5. Will Social Security Administration review your case again?

If your disability is not permanent, Social Security will review your file every so often to see if you are still disabled. It is important to continue treatment with your medical providers, so you are able to show SSA that your disability continues.

#6. Can you go back to work?

The answer is yes, but to an extent. Social Security has work incentive programs to help individuals who wish to return to work. Contact your local SSA office for information on the programs they offer.

Applying for disability benefits can be confusing no matter what stage of the process you are in. Having a representative will ensure you understand everything that is going on at every step. Call a trusted attorney who can walk you through the process step by step.

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