Click to return to Home Page

frequently asked questions

You are invited to read the following v GUARDIAN ADVOCATES FAQ v in hopes they will help clarify some of the remaining service-related questions you might have. In addition, we also have included some v SSA FAQ v , courtesy of the Social Security Administration.

guardian advocates faq

Q. What can I expect if I employ your disability consulting services?

A. Guardian Advocates is a non-governmental, non-attorney, privately owned SSA disability benefits representation firm. Our services are designed to help the average citizen through the maze of SSA disability benefit application and appeal red tape.

     However, our services go much deeper than that! You can expect your disability consultant to methodically consider and present every disorder or limitation you have to the SSA before a final decision is made. Through this methodical case presentation approach, your chances of winning benefits will be improved by as much as 75%. In addition, the application process time can be reduced resulting in benefits being paid sooner. Our overall goal is to provide complete professional assistance while you experience a stress-free application process and peace of mind.

Q. Can your agency help my case?

A. Our agency will develop, construct and present your case to SSA in such a manner as to enhance your chances of being found disabled. The key to our ability to deliver results is founded in our thorough understanding of the SSA disability screening process. We will use that knowledge to assure you the best possible chance of acquiring benefits.

Q. Can you guarantee I'll win?

A. No. Quite frankly, the disability process is very complex as will be attested to by those who have attempted to go it alone. However, if your case can be won, our Disability Consultant will determine the fastest and most effective way of doing so.

Q. How much will I be paid?

A. The amount of your monthly payments from SSA is determined by how much you have earned over the years and paid into the program. This amount is determined by SSA.

Q. How long will it take to get benefits?

A. It is impossible to predict how long it will take SSA to process your case. However, your Disability Consultant will look for every opportunity to speed it up. If retained on the first case level, the quicker the Consultant acquires the evidence, the faster the decision.

Q. When should I take on a consultant?

A. To assure the best possible chance of success in applying for benefits, you should acquire the services of a trained disability consultant as soon as possible. If you have never applied for benefits, a Guardian Advocates Disability Consultant will structure your complete case before making application to SSA. Early utilization of a disability consultant can result in a favorable decision in record time.

Q. What if I have already been denied?

A. Our service can begin either before or after you have been denied benefits. If you have applied for disability benefits and have received a denial notice, your Disability Consultant can take it from there. The consultant will enter your case on the appropriate appeal level and present the facts that favor an approval of disability. Not only can written arguments be supplied that will be created after thoroughly analyzing those facts, your Disability Consultant also can personally present your case to Social Security. Guardian Advocates provides Disability Consulting services for claimants at the initial, reconsideration and/or ALJ appeal levels.

Q. What if I am physically unable to come to your office?

A. This is not a problem since our service can be handled completely by phone, mail or Internet e-mail.

Q. Is there a fee?

A. Yes. Our Disability Consulting service offers a number of fee approaches, making our service very affordable to anyone who is seeking assistance with a professional alternative to acquiring their disability benefits.

Q. Do I have to pay you if we lose?

A. No! There is no charge for our Disability Consulting services unless we win your case. Upon successful completion of your case, you will be billed for the fee amount agreed upon in our contract.

Q. Are there any additional fees?

A. In most cases, we do require that you deposit with us a nominal processing fee. This fee is placed into an escrow account and is used in developing your case. These funds are used to pay for such items as copies of your medical records and/or any other case-related service required to complete your case.

Q. As my case develops, can I call with questions?

A. Yes. However, you must understand that it is SSA and not your Disability Consulting service that is making the final decision. To keep you informed as your case develops, your Disability Consultant will communicate all important events by mail or by Internet e-mail.

Top of Page

ssa faq

Q.  What are the disability requirements for an adult?

A. The definition of disability in the Social Security law is a strict one. To be eligible for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful work because of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments), which is expected either:

           o  to last at least 12 months, or

           o  to end in death.

     If, because of a medical condition, a person cannot do the work that they performed in the past, then age, education, and past work experience must be considered in determining whether the person can do other work. If the evidence shows that the person can do other work, even if it involves different skills or pays less than their previous work, they cannot be considered disabled for Social Security purposes.

Q. I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, your disability must be expected to last at least a year. Does this mean that you must wait a year after being disabled before you can get benefits?

A. You do not have to wait a year after the onset of the disability before you can get benefits. You should file as soon as you can after becoming disabled and benefits begin after a 5-month waiting period. The waiting period begins with the month Social Security decides your disability began

Q.  Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?

A. Social Security assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers compensation, insurance, savings, and investments. Social Security is designed to provide a continuing income to you and your family when you are unable to do so. Benefits continue as long as you remain disabled.

Q. What is the earliest age that I can receive disability benefits?

A. There is no minimum age. However, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits per year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise.

The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.

However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Specific rules for the younger worker are available by contacting SSA.

Q. Are there any special services or Social Security information available for people who are blind?

A. Yes, there are several services and products that are readily available. Social Security's booklet, IF YOU ARE BLIND OR HAVE LOW VISION - HOW WE CAN HELP, is a good source that explains the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs. The booklet also refers to other special services available for people who are blind, as well as various publications available in Braille.

Q. Can a person with a terminal illness qualify for disability benefits?

A. To be eligible for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful work because of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments), which is expected either to last at least 12 months or to end in death.

Q. What kind of disability benefits does Social Security pay?

A. People who are severely disabled may be eligible for monthly benefits under one or more of the programs administer by SSA. Both the SSDI program and the SSI program provide a monthly income for people with severe disabilities. However, the non-medical eligibility requirements for the two programs are different.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to disabled workers and their families. To be eligible for SSDI, you must be disabled and must have earned a minimum number of credits from work covered under Social Security. (The required number of credits varies depending on your age at the time you became disabled.)

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly income to people who are age 65 or older, or are blind or disabled, and have limited income and financial resources. Effective January 2002, the SSI payment for an eligible individual is $545 per month and $817 per month for an eligible couple. If you are married, and only one person is eligible, a portion of your spouse's income may be counted. In addition, your financial resources (savings and assets you own) cannot exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if married). You can be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked in employment covered under Social Security. No SSI benefits are paid to family members, only to the disabled person.

Generally, to be eligible for SSI, an individual also must be a resident of the United States and must be a citizen or a non-citizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Also, some non-citizens granted a special status by the Immigration and Naturalization Service may be eligible.

Q.  I applied for disability benefits 3 months ago and still haven't received an answer. When should I expect to be notified of the decision?

A.  In the year 2000 the average processing time for a Social Security Disability claim was 104 days. This is an average and the actual time it takes to process your claim may be more or less based on:

            the State you live in;

     Disability determinations are made by a Disability Determination Service in the State where the disability applicant lives. These State agencies are required to comply with federally prescribed policies and procedures, which helps assure that the programs are administered consistently from State to State.

           the nature of your disability;

           o  how quickly we can obtain medical
          evidence from your doctor or other
          medical source; and

           o whether it is necessary to send you for a
          medical examination.

    As further assurance of consistency, samples of the State agencies' determinations undergo an extensive quality assurance process performed by Federal reviewers. Unfortunately, this additional review may cause delays in some cases.

If you have further questions, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. Our representatives will be glad to help you in any way they can.

Q.  I applied for disability benefits and was turned down. I really feel that I can no longer work. What is my next step?

A.  If you think a decision SSA made is wrong, you can have Social Security look at your case again by filing an appeal. SSA wants to be sure that every decision on your claim is correct. You have to request the appeal in writing within 60 days from when you received your letter of denial. A representative at your Social Security office will help you complete the paperwork if you decide to appeal.

Q.  I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. My disabilities have worsened and I have other health problems. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?

A. No. Your benefit is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings prior to your disability and not the degree of your disability.

Q. How do workers' compensation payments affect my disability benefits?

A. Ordinarily, disability payments from other sources do not affect your Social Security disability benefits. But, if the disability payment is workers' compensation or another public disability payment, your and your family's Social Security benefits may be reduced.

Your Social Security disability benefit will be reduced so that the combined amount of the Social Security benefit you and your family receive plus your workers' compensation payment and/or public disability payment does not exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings. (Note that the unreduced benefit amount is counted for income tax purposes.

Q.  What Payments May Affect Your Disability Benefits?

A.  As we said, the kinds of payments that affect your Social Security disability benefits are a workers' compensation payment and/or another type of public disability payment.

A workers' compensation payment is one that is made to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness. It may be paid by federal or state workers' compensation agencies, employers, or insurance companies on behalf of employers.

Public disability payments that may affect your Social Security benefit are those paid under a federal, state, or local government law or plan that pays for conditions that are not job-related. They differ from workers' compensation because the disability that the worker has may not be job-related. Examples are civil service disability benefits, military disability benefits, state temporary disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits which are based on disability.

Q. I have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for the past four years and my condition has not improved. Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?

A. No. You will continue to receive a disability benefit as long as your condition keeps you from working. But, your case will be reviewed periodically to see if there has been any improvement in your condition and whether you are still eligible for benefits. If you are still eligible when you reach 65, your disability benefit will be automatically converted to retirement benefits.

Return To Tour