FAQs

SSDI or SSI

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security Disability, or SSDI, is paid out of your past earnings and you must have enough credits to qualify for benefits under SSDI. To earn credits, you must work and pay Social Security taxes. In the year 2021, you must earn at least $1,470 in gross wages to get one Social Security work credit. To receive a maximum four(4) credits for the year you need to earn at least $5,880. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the 10 years before you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. The average monthly disability benefit amount for all workers in 2021 is $1,280.42.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a benefit provided to those who have limited income and resources and who have not earned enough credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some examples are disabled children or adults who have not earned enough credits. Self-employed individuals who have not paid Social Security taxes on their income would not have earned credits and so would only qualify for SSI. SSI does not generally pay out as much as someone can earn with SSDI, but for many it is the only option for benefits. The maximum benefit amount a person can receive under SSI in 2021 is $794 per month.

APPLICATION

When should I apply for Social Security Disability?

Social Security disability claims often take a long time to process. It’s wise to apply as early as possible to avoid any delay in getting benefits. Therefore, as soon as you learn that will no longer be able to work due to your medical or psychological conditions you should submit an application for benefits.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability?

You can apply for Social Security Disability in person at your local Social Security office. You can find your local office by typing your zip code into the Social Security Office Locator at: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp.

The Knoxville office is located at:
9031 Cross Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37923
Phone: 866-331-9091.

You may also use the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov to apply online.

If you would like assistance, please call our office at 865-609-5280 and we can help you with the initial application as well as any necessary appeals.

Do I need an attorney to apply for Social Security Disability?

It is not a requirement to hire a lawyer to file an application for disability. However, the vast majority of disability applications are denied. An attorney cannot guarantee that you will be approved, however an experienced attorney can make sure that your claim is properly developed prior to your hearing. Our office has successfully represented numerous claimants throughout Tennessee, as well as other states. It is extremely beneficial to have an attorney who is experienced with Social Security Disability claims to guide you through the process.

Can I apply for Partial Disability with the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration does not pay partial disability benefits. You need to be considered totally disabled in order to obtain benefits from the Social Security Administration.

REQUIREMENTS

Do I qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Most people qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a combination of medical and psychological conditions rather than just one condition. Some questions to consider are as follows: Do you have a severe impairment from any of your conditions that will last at least twelve months or longer? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you may qualify for benefits.

If you are currently working and earn more than $1,310 per month in gross wages (before taxes and withholding), you will not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. It would be helpful for you to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer to discuss whether or not you will qualify. If you are unable to perform the type of work that you have in the past, you may be disabled. However, if you are able to do other generally available jobs that you have not done in the past, you may not qualify for benefits. Again, it would be helpful to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer to discuss whether or not you qualify.

Are there any conditions that will automatically qualify me for Social Security Disability Benefits?

There are some conditions that may automatically qualify a person to receive Social Security Disability benefits. However, they must meet the criteria as given by the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. This is a list of medical and psychological conditions that are considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity. They are usually permanent or expected to result in death. The Listing of Impairments can be found here.

If you have any questions about the Listing please call our office with your specific condition.

May I work and receive disability benefits?
I am often asked this question by people who want to apply for disability benefits. The answer is based on whether the person working is engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity. Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA is the term the Social Security Administration uses for work that disqualifies you for disability benefits. SGA is defined as employment for which a worker receives at least $1,310 per month in gross wages. Gross wages means income before taxes and withholding. Generally therefore you may earn up to $1,310 per month in gross wages and remain eligible. However, if you are self-employed or own a business the rules require a more complicated analysis to determine whether or not someone is engaged in SGA. Net profits are not the same as gross wages. For any number of reasons a self-employed may work many hours and show little or no profit.

HEARING

How long does it take to get a Social Security hearing?

This is a very frequently asked question. The answer depends on where you are in the disability application process. If you have just recently applied then it may take over 18 months to get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you have received a denial on the initial application the waiting time for a hearing may be 12 months or longer. The backlog for pending disability claims is quite long. There simply aren’t enough judges to hear all the claims that are waiting to be heard. This is true in every part of the country.

Will I have to appear at a hearing in order to obtain benefits?

Generally speaking, when someone applies for Social Security Disability benefits, they must go through the appeals process and then are required to appear at a hearing for a decision rendered by an Administrative Law Judge. The Social Security Administration has now started to offer video teleconferences in lieu of face-to-face hearings. However, we generally encourage people not to have their hearing done by video since we think it is better for the claimant to have a face-to-face hearing with the judge.