Frequently Asked Questions

I just got a denial letter in my claim. What do I do next?

If you want to disagree with the decision you must appeal within the required time limit. Look at the denial letter. It should tell you exactly how many days you have to appeal. Generally you have 60 days (plus 5 days mailing time) from the date of the letter to take the next step. (There are some exceptions to this rule, so be sure to check your document carefully.) The letter should tell you what the next step of appeal is in your situation.

My disability is obvious. Why do I need a lawyer?

If your case has been denied then even though it seems obvious to you, there is some problem with the evidence that has been presented or there is some technical reason you have been denied. If you are going to appeal your case, you should consult an attorney who understands Social Security law and can advise you as to why your claim to be denied how to proceed. There are many pitfalls in this area of the law and unfortunately what seems like “common sense” sometimes doesn’t apply in winning a Social Security claim!


My neighbor/friend/relative is on disability benefits and doesn’t seem disabled to me. I have more problems than he does. Why was I denied?

Every case is different, every person is different. The analysis of whether someone is “disabled” as defined in the Social Security Act involves a review of past work activity, medical evidence, medically established limitations in a workplace, and vocational factors such as age, education, and past work experience. It is not a purely medical decision and there are many other factors taken into account. Keep in mind that your neighbor/friend/relative may have medical problems that are not physically obvious to you, and he or she may be uncomfortable discussing those problems with you. He or she may also fit into some specialized categories of disability in the regulations that do not apply to you.


I am on disability benefits but I want to try to go back to work. How much can I earn and keep my disability benefits?

Please remember that you have been awarded Social Security disability benefits because Social Security found that you cannot work. Therefore, if you return to work, there will be questions raised about whether you are still disabled. There is a popular misconception that there is a certain amount you can still earn and safely keep your benefits. You will even hear this from Social Security employees! However, the rules about returning to work if you are on disability benefits are very tricky and there is no “safe” amount of money you can earn from work and be sure of keeping your benefits. There are programs that help you work yourself off of disability benefits without losing them all at once, and those are explained at Social Security’s website at Can I return to work while getting Social Security disability benefits?

However, keep in mind that those programs are there so that you can work yourself off of disability benefits. You should not consider them a way to supplement your disability income for the long term.


Social Security says I have been overpaid and wants their money back. What should I do?

First, you should determine if you were, in fact, overpaid and why. If you believe you were not overpaid, you should file a Request for Reconsideration Form SSA-561-U2 (Request for Reconsideration). If you agree you were, in fact, overpaid, you should consider asking for a Waiver of the overpayment. To get a waiver, you have to prove both that you were “without fault” in causing the overpayment, and that to repay the money would affect your ability to provide for your food, clothing, or shelter. You can also use the waiver process to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan. The form is available at Form SSA-632. Obtaining attorney representation for these proceedings can be difficult because there is no past due benefit from which an attorney can take a contingent fee. If you wish to hire an attorney to handle these overpayment issues, you should be prepared to pay the attorney an hourly fee for his or her time.


If I get disability benefits will Social Security review my case again?

You should maintain an ongoing relationship with your doctors and continue receiving treatment, because when Social Security reviews your case in the future, they will want to know that you have been continuing to do whatever you can to improve your condition. Generally Social Security reviews the cases of those who are receiving disability benefits every 3-5 years. When they do this, they generally send you a form asking for updated information. When you get this, you should respond to it right away. Usually, you hear nothing more and that is the end of it until the next review. However, if you receive anything after that indicating that they do not consider you disabled anymore, you need to contact an attorney to discuss your options.


What happens to my disability benefits when I reach full retirement age?

First, remember that “full retirement age” is increasing. Consult Social Security’s website for a chart showing these increasing ages: Full Retirement Age

Once you reach full retirement age you are no longer entitled to disability benefits, but your payments should convert automatically to retirement benefits. Call Social Security about this if you have any questions, at 1-800-772-1213.