Abbott Law Firm FAQ

Q: What is the definition of disability used by Social Security?
A: Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months."

Q: How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
A: There are several ways that a claimant can file a Social Security disability claim: online at; in person at their local SSA office; with the help of an attorney. We file initial claims on behalf of our clients. SSI claims cannot be filed online yet.

Q: How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for benefits?
A: You can file for Social Security disability benefits the same day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. An individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits. Sometimes my clients say that they waited some period of time to apply because they were told by someone that they had to. Contact us if you have questions about applying for benefits. Re

Q: Can I get both worker's compensation and Social Security disability benefits?
A: Yes, but there is an offset, which reduces Social Security disability benefits because of worker's compensation benefits paid, but in virtually all cases, there is still some Social Security disability benefits to be paid. In a few states the offset works the other way - - worker's compensation benefits are reduced because of Social Security disability benefits.

Q: How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?
A: Social Security is supposed to gather your medical records and carefully consider all of your health problems, as well as your age, education, and work experience. In general, Social Security is supposed to decide whether you are able to do your past work. If Social Security decides that you are unable to do your past work, they are supposed to consider whether there is any other work which you can do considering your health problems and your age, education, and work experience.

Q: What are the steps in a Social Security appeal?
A: If your claim is denied, you must: Request Reconsideration Request a hearing before a Social Security judge Request a review by the Appeals Council File suit in federal court Of course, you could get benefits at any step of the appeal process, BUT if you are denied at one step, you must go to the next step in order to keep your case active. If you fail to appeal at any step within sixty (60) days of a denial, you could have to start your case all over again.

Q: What is Reconsideration?
A: When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the claimant may then request "reconsideration" of that decision. The case is then sent to a different disability examiner for a new decision. Unfortunately, about 80% of the time the reconsideration decision is the same as the initial decision - a denial.

Q: What is a Social Security hearing like?
A: The hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are the judge, a secretary operating a tape recorder, the claimant, the claimant's attorney, and anyone else the claimant has brought with him or her. In some cases, the Administrative Law Judge has a medical doctor or vocational expert present to testify at the hearing. There is no jury nor are there any spectators at the hearing. There is no attorney at the hearing representing Social Security trying to get the judge to deny the disability claim.

Q: If the judge denies my claim, can I appeal?
A: Yes. You can appeal to the Appeals Council which is still within Social Security. If the Appeals Council denies the claim, you can file a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration in federal court. The Appeals Council exists to review Administrative Law Judge decisions. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia, and neither the claimant nor the attorney sees the people at the Appeals Council who are working on the case.

Q: Can I appeal my case to federal court?
A: Yes. After being denied by the Appeals Council, it is possible for a claimant to file a civil action in the United States District Court, requesting review of Social Security's decision. A Social Security disability claim can go all the way to the Supreme Court. Perhaps once every year or two years, the United States Supreme Court actually hears an appeal about a Social Security disability case.