Frequently Asked Questions

Prepare for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process with this list of frequently asked questions.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. Its purpose is to provide income to people unable to work because of a severe, long-term disability.
You must be insured. That generally means you must have worked and paid into the program (payroll taxes) for five of the last 10 years. You must also have been disabled before reaching full-retirement age (65-67) and you must meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Your full-retirement age varies depending on your birth date.  
We assist adults who have paid FICA taxes and are expected to be out of work for at least a year or longer. You must have doctor support and a condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) requirements.
People seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits must file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can submit an application to the SSA on your own, or you can work with an expert SSDI representative, like Allsup, to submit your application. Our free online tool, empower by Allsup®, puts our SSDI expertise at your fingertips, guiding you through the application process. Take our free SSDI Assessment now to determine your likelihood of qualifying.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you are considered disabled if you cannot work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
It can be. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies 63% of the people filing SSDI applications at the application level. It can also take anywhere from two to four years for a determination as the process for appeals is complex.
Our overall award rate is about 97% for those who complete the process with us.
While you can apply directly with Social Security, having represenation can dramatically improve your chances of receiving SSDI benefits. Representatives like Allsup have decades of experience working with people with disabilities and fully understand the complexities of the SSDI process. It also is advantageous to start the application process with representation rather than waiting to seek help at the hearing or appeals levels.
Allsup will represent you at all levels of the SSDI process, from application through appeals. Our award rate at the initial level is 53% compared to 37% without representation. Allsup has more than 35 years of experience and has helped over 350,000 customers receive SSDI benefits. Our free online tool, empower by Allsup® not only guides you through the application process, but also determines if you are likely to be eligible for benefits. Should you be medically able to return to work, Allsup can also help you do so through Allsup Employment Services.
Our typical fee is 25% of the retroactive award – not to exceed $6,000. However, an SSDI applicant does not pay a fee unless he or she successfully obtains benefits. All fees are set by the Social Security Administration and are the same for all representatives. Typically, the SSA deducts the fee from the claimant’s lump-sum payment and passes it along to Allsup directly. We suggest you ask about any additional costs, such as travel and lodging or collection of medical records.


Unfortunately, it’s not a quick process. Generally, it takes about three to five months for the initial decision. Reconsideration (first appeal) will take another three to five months. The second appeal is before an administrative law judge in Social Security’s Office of Hearing Operations (OHO), and this level may take up to 12-24 months for a decision.
Yes, we offer information and guidance about how to prepare for an appeal at a hearing office or via phone.
The dollar amount is based on a complicated formula largely determined by the amount of your past earnings that have been subjected to FICA taxes. Use this online benefits calculator to get an estimate about how much you can expect to receive.
Dependents who are under the age of 18, or who have not graduated from high school, or are disabled and the disability occurred before they turned 22 years old, are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Generally, dependent children of a disabled parent will receive an additional amount of about 50% of the disabled parent’s own monthly benefit. The 50% is divided equally among all eligible dependents.
Social Security Disability Insurance provides much needed income when you are no longer able to work due to a debilitating illness or mental condition. You’re entitled to it if you are between 21 years and full retirement age, your disability is expected to last at least 12 months or is terminal, and if you paid FICA taxes five out of the last 10 years. SSDI provides important financial incentives to help you return to work, yet maintains ongoing income if your condition does not improve. When you receive SSDI, you qualify for other important programs like Medicare and prescription drug assistance, while protecting your future Social Security retirement benefits.
Visit "What is SSDI?" for our helpful and easy-to-understand review of SSDI. Or call (800) 405-8339 and speak to one of our expert representatives. You may also visit the Social Security Administration's website.
The receipt of unemployment benefits does not necessarily preclude you from receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. It is, however, a factor examiners consider when determining whether or not you qualify for SSDI benefits. Some administrative law judges (ALJs) may not award SSDI benefits if someone is receiving or has applied for unemployment. Disability onset dates may have to be amended to the day after someone received their last unemployment check. (Important: The disability onset date may be the date the disabling condition began, or the date your condition required you to seek SSDI or severely affected your ability to be employed.)

The issue with unemployment versus SSDI benefits is the difference in why someone receives these benefits. When you receive SSDI, you are unable to do your past work or any other work. Unemployment benefits generally indicate you are ready, willing and able to work, but haven’t found employment yet. ALJs typically look at your individual circumstances when determining the significance of your application for unemployment benefits and related efforts to obtain employment when determining if you qualify for SSDI.
No, it is different. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a welfare-based program, with no connection to past employment. Monthly benefits are paid to people who meet requirements for limited income and resources who are disabled, blind or age 65 or older.

Blind or disabled children, as well as adults, can get SSI benefits. If a claimant’s household income exceeds $735 per month for an individual and $1,103 for a couple, or the value of their resources are above $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple, then they are not eligible for SSI.

Our SSDI representation includes screening for SSI eligibility. You may not be eligible for SSI if you are over the financial limits, so Social Security may send a general financial denial. Regardless of SSI outcome, we will still pursue your SSDI claim.
Our VA-accredited Claims Agents only assist with the VA appeals process. However, you can learn more about how to start your VA application.
The VA uses a rating schedule that determines which disabilities you receive benefits for and the percentage to which they are disabling. The range for disability compensation is from 0% to 100%, with higher percentages receiving higher benefit amounts. Our VA-accredited Claims Agents can provide more details on your claim when you contact us for appeal assistance.
Yes, it may be possible to receive both forms of income. Disabled veterans who are unable to work due to permanent disability can collect both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and VA benefits at the same time. We can help you coordinate multiple disability benefits.
There is no cost to you unless we win your appeal, or you receive higher benefits on appeal. When it’s time, our fee is overseen by the VA Office of General Counsel (OGC) and capped at 20% of the retroactive dollar amount of benefits awarded to you.
A non-service connected pension is commonly called “pension.” A service-connected benefit or veterans disability compensation pays you for injuries or illness you experienced while in service.
Yes, you can. However, those with a high rating (like 100%) could encounter issues by working. This is because the VA considers a 100% rating as unable to work, and it may lead to the VA lowering your benefit rating if you work.
That’s a very difficult question to answer. The VA has ambitious goals with its new appeals options and is working toward timeframes of just 4-12 months.

However, the VA appeals backlog historically has produced turnaround times of 24 months or longer. Experience shows, if your case requires a personal hearing and/or multiple appeals, you can expect it to take 36-48 months for a complete resolution. Within that timeframe, multiple decisions may be given by the VA along the way.
It depends on your original decision and the details of your VA disability claim. An Allsup VA-Accredited Claims Agent is available to help determine if a Higher-Level Review is the best path for your appeal, especially if there may have been an error or oversight by the VA.
A Supplemental Claim requires producing new evidence for your claim. An Allsup VA-Accredited Claims Agent can provide specialized help to review evidence and help decide if this is a good choice for your claim.
If veterans file their appeal with the BVA, veterans have three additional options. These include requesting a hearing, seeking expedited review or seeking a review with the option to submit new evidence. An Allsup VA-Accredited Claims Agent will assist you in examining each of these options and choosing the next step for your appeal to meet your specific situation.
The VA website reports that 75% of all first-time applications for VA benefits are denied. Initial applications are often denied because they are incomplete and do not provide the necessary documentation. One of our VA-accredited Claims Agent can help to further develop your claim with the appeal.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manages two disability benefit plans that pay monthly income to qualified veterans:

Non-service connected pension (“pension”)
Service-connected disability compensation (“compensation”)
More than 90% of all monthly VA disability payments are for compensation or service-connected disabilities.
A non-service connected pension is commonly called “pension.” It is an income-based disability benefit that supports veterans who served in wartime. The qualifications are:

a) You served during a period of war, and
b) You are totally disabled or 65 years or older, and
c) You have low to zero monthly income and total assets
Your disability does not have to be related to your military service to receive this benefit. This benefit generally pays $1,000 a month.
A service-connected benefit or veterans disability compensation pays you for injuries or illness you experienced while in service. The qualifications are:

a) You served in the active U.S. military, naval or air services, and
b) You were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and
c) You sustained an original service-connected injury or illness, specific war-time service-connected disability, or substantially aggravated an existing injury during your time served. (See examples.)
Your current condition must be one that:

a) Is supported by a physician’s diagnosis and/or opinion, and
b) You can prove it is due to an event or incident that happened while you were in the service. This may include a duty or medical report that reflects your injury.
Example of original service-connected injury or illness:
“Matt” voluntarily enlisted in the Army and was assigned to an airborne infantry unit that required combat training jumps. During one of these jumps, a gust of wind caught his parachute and he was dragged across rough terrain, hitting his head and suffering whiplash and head trauma. He later developed headaches with constant neck pain. He completed his enlistment and was honorably discharged. Matt continued to suffer headaches, memory loss and increased neck pain. As a civilian, his doctors diagnosed Matt with traumatic brain injury and degenerative arthritis in the neck. The doctors concluded his problems are related to his accident in service. Matt applies for benefits for these injuries and the VA grants his claim.

Example of specific war-time service-connected disability:
“Charles” was drafted by the Marine Corps in 1967. He was sent to Vietnam where he was a truck driver for a transportation unit and was honorably discharged after his tour. The U.S. military used the Agent Orange herbicide in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975 and assumes all Vietnam veterans were exposed to this chemical. Over the years, Charles developed type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and ischemic heart disease – all health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. He filed a claim with the VA, which granted him benefits for these war-time service-related disabilities based on his exposure to Agent Orange.

Example of substantially aggravating an existing injury during time served:
“Angela” broke her ankle while playing high school volleyball. Her injury healed and she later enlisted in the Navy as an intelligence analyst. During her entrance examination, the Navy doctor noted her previously broken ankle, but cleared the injury and said Angela was fit for duty. Angela served six years, but sprained her ankle four times during various activities. She was honorably discharged. Her ankle strength continued to weaken and her doctor diagnosed her with a chronic sprain. Her doctor believed the sprains during her Navy service permanently aggravated her previously broken ankle. Angela applied to the VA for compensation and was awarded based on a permanent aggravated injury.
There are a number of differences. For example:
- With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be permanently disabled, unable to work for 12 months or more or have an illness expected to result in death.
- In the veterans disability system, the VA rates a service-connected disability on a scale of seriousness, from 0 to 100%. If you receive benefits, the rating determines the amount of your benefit. For example, you could be considered 10%, 50% or 100% disabled.
First, if you meet the requirements, you deserve the benefits you earned while protecting your country. Your monthly benefits are based on a percentage rating level of disability. The VA uses a rating schedule that determines which disabilities you receive benefits for and the percentage to which they are disabling. The range for disability compensation is from 0% to 100%.

Veterans with a spouse or dependent children can expect to receive more. If a veteran has multiple disabilities with different ratings, those are combined into a single rating. The amount paid for each rating is set by law.

A higher disability rating means a larger increase in your benefits. Recent studies have shown that veterans who use a paid disability representative see their annual average benefits nearly double when compared to those who apply alone or seek help from Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).
Some veterans with lower disability ratings can continue their military service, but they can’t receive military pay and VA disability payments at the same time. In these cases, VA disability payments are temporarily suspended during periods of military service.
There is no time limit for most initial VA disability claims. However, you should file a claim as soon as possible because the filing date determines when your benefits begin. Disability applications can be more difficult to process if you wait a long time because you must prove that your condition is due to military service. Applying right away will help ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you’re eligible.
They provide:
  1. Regular financial support and monthly income
  2. Increased access to VA healthcare and services between jobs and after retirement
  3. Access to other VA benefits, such as:
  4. Vocational rehabilitation training
  5. VA-guaranteed home loans
  6. Options for long-term care
  7. Possible property tax exemption
  8. Preference in government hiring
  9. Special programs that support business development
  10. Access to VA benefits for survivors
Our VA-accredited Claims Agents only provide assistance during the VA appeal process; but we can help you get started with your disability compensation application. For valuable information about how to file your application for benefits, visit our web page. You’ll also find information on how to gather the type of evidence and documentation you need to submit your claim.

If you’re denied benefits or don’t receive a fully favorable decision, our VA-accredited Claims Agents can help you file an appeal.
Our VA-accredited Claims Agents will provide a free disability appeal review to determine if you’re eligible or have reason to appeal.
- We understand how to review the details of each claim and are experienced in preparing a thorough and accurate appeal so the VA can quickly and efficiently review your case and make a satisfactory decision.
- Our staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, understand the complex ins and outs of the VA system and the appeal process.
- We can save you stress and help you avoid mistakes that could delay or deny your claim and affect your financial situation.

Knowledge and Experience
- We specialize in disability. We’ve been helping people navigate complex government programs for more than 30 years and are the nation’s premier provider of SSDI representation and Medicare plan selection services.
- Our VA-accredited Claims Agents have experience in working with a variety of disabilities and know how the VA process works.
- We understand how to prepare your appeal in a timely and accurate manner, which can avoid needless delays, a lower disability rating or denial of benefits.

Guidance Throughout the Appeal Process
- With Allsup, you can expect caring service from a trained and certified VA-accredited Claims Agent who will assist you throughout the VA decision process.
- You’ll regularly receive status updates about your claim and we’ll communicate with the VA on your behalf.
- We also collect your medical records, correct any errors and develop written briefs to achieve a positive outcome.

High Satisfaction Rating
- People who choose Allsup for assistance consistently report significant satisfaction with the service we provide. In fact, 98% of our customers are satisfied with the disability service they received.
The VA disability program and the SSDI program are significantly different and are administered by two different federal agencies. Another Allsup staff member will handle your SSDI claim, but you’ll have a team that will work together if you have dual claims and help you coordinate all your multiple disability benefits.
There is no cost unless we win your appeal or you receive higher benefits on appeal.

Our fee, which is monitored by the VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), is 20% of the retroactive dollar amount awarded.
Our fee is withheld by the VA from your retroactive benefit payment. This is the typical method used by the VA and VA-accredited Claims Agents.

The VA will grant you benefits and notify you by letter. It will then send you 80% of the retroactive award amount. The award letter will let you know how much (20%) is being withheld from your retro award to pay us. You and your VA-accredited Claims Agent have 60 days to contest the amount. After 60 days, the VA will release the 20% to us. We will bill you for any other costs and expenses at this time, if applicable.
A service-connected disability or compensation benefit is a cash benefit paid to veterans because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. Benefits are also available to certain veterans disabled from VA healthcare.
If you disagree with the VA rating decision, you or your VA-accredited Claims Agent can file a written statement with the VA local regional office to appeal the decision. This statement is called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You must file your NOD within one year of the date your local regional office mailed you its original decision denying your claim.
VA benefit programs are administered at the local level by 58 regional offices (ROs). Because the ROs receive applications for benefits and make the initial decision to award or deny claims, each is referred to as “the agency of original jurisdiction.”
- At least one RO is located in each state, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Manila in the Philippines.
- Larger states (CA, TX) have more than one RO.
The Board is the final decision-maker in the appeal process. It is located in Washington, D.C., and is comprised of veteran law judges and staff attorneys. A judge will be assigned to your case and will conduct the hearing, evaluate your claim(s) and issue a decision.
If the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), or Board, does not allow or deny your claim, it will remand or send your claim back to the VA local regional office. A remand is not a final decision. This may happen if the Board finds that it doesn’t have enough information about your claim to make a decision. In this situation, the Board will either try to get more information itself or send your claim back to the VA local regional office so it can try and get the proper information.
  • Access to our health insurance specialists who will research your options
  • Personalized support: we walk you through the process of deciding on a plan and enrolling in that plan
  • Education on how the different types of health insurance plans work
Allsup Benefits Coordination provides the support and assistance you need. We simplify the process so you can make a clear choice about your healthcare coverage. Here’s how you can benefit: Smooth and seamless coverage transitions - We will help you easily transition to new healthcare insurance when an employer is no longer offering group health plan coverage or when you become eligible for Medicare. Trained healthcare benefit specialists - We have certified and licensed specialists who will personally consult with you and share their expertise and in-depth insights about healthcare benefits. Personal attention to individual needs - We work with and understand all types of healthcare plan options. We also take your lifestyle factors into consideration, which can make a difference in your decision. This includes your age, income, family size, insurability, and disability status.
No. Allsup understands that each type of Medicare plan is different and won’t work the same for everyone. While one person might find that a Medicare Advantage plan most closely meets their stated needs, a spouse or friend might find that a Medigap and a Part D plan works better for them. That’s why when you use Allsup Benefits Coordination, we:
- Educate you on your options
- Highlight those plans that most closely meet your stated needs
- Guide you through the decision-making process to help you make an informed decision
Medicare plan prices and availability change every year. And so might your healthcare needs. While it’s not required that you review all your options every year, we strongly recommend that you do, especially to make sure you’re getting the coverage that’s right for you.
If you experience certain lifestyle changes, you should have your Medicare options re-evaluated. Changes include:
- Moving from one location to another
- Traveling more
- Moving into or out of a long-term-care facility
- Becoming eligible for low-income subsidy
See our terms and conditions.
An Employment Network (EN) is an organization that enters into an agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide services to individuals like you. Allsup Employment Services is an SSA-approved EN and is listed in their national directory.
Allsup Employment Services can help you no matter where you live. We offer assistance in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
Yes, you can receive SSDI benefits and work for a specific time period. Following that time period, you can also receive SSDI benefits for any month where your earnings fall too low.
Through the Ticket to Work program, you can continue to receive both SSDI and earnings from work for about one year, with additional options after this first year.
You can earn much more money from working than you would ever get from SSDI benefits, plus you can work for a certain time and receive both your earnings and SSDI.
Social Security oversees how much you can earn and continue to receive SSDI benefits. During the first year you attempt to work, you may earn as much as you are capable. We can help you understand your options over time, especially if you’re able to work for longer than a year.
You can work with an Employment Network like Allsup Employment Services to help you report your earnings. This can be a confusing process, and it’s important that you keep your records current to ensure your SSDI benefits continue.
It’s important to keep accurate records to make sure you receive the monetary monthly benefits to which you’re entitled.
Ticket to Work is a program offered through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides you with many advantages when you go back to work, including continuing to receive SSDI income and Medicare coverage while working.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees Ticket to Work and relies on Employment Networks like Allsup Employment Services to provide free services to individuals like you as you return to work.
No, but many people make mistakes when they go back to work without the help of an Employment Network. You can miss out on important financial benefits, incentives that support your work attempt, and long-term protection for your SSDI benefits. Allsup Employment Services can help you navigate the program and ensure you get the full incentives you’re entitled to receive.
Waiting on your hearing is usually a long process because of the current disability backlog in the SSA. It’s important not to lose patience or give up
If a hearing is scheduled, you should plan on attending. You have the right to appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at a hearing. An SSDI representative’s goal should be to get your claim awarded as early as possible with the least amount of stress. Your Allsup representative may try to work with the ALJ and staff to get your case reviewed and awarded on-the-record before a hearing is held. If the judge is unable to award your case on-the-record, a hearing is scheduled and your Allsup representative will represent you at the hearing.
This is a question that you should ask when choosing disability representation. For example, we specialize in Social Security disability issues. Our representatives have extensive experience with the disability process and some have attended hundreds of hearings in your local area. By routinely tracking and reviewing ALJ decisions, they get a better understanding of how the ALJ approaches various types of cases.
An ALJ can postpone a hearing for good cause. Examples may be a serious illness, death in the family, inclement weather or a key witness not being available to attend the hearing.
You should dress neat and comfortable. Don’t under or over dress, and remember your attire should indicate you have respect for the court.
It looks much like a conference room with the judge sitting at one end of the table/room and you, the claimant, facing the judge. The location of the hearing room varies from a courtroom to a hotel room to a rented space in a public building. Or, you may have your hearing via video conference, which includes the judge at his/her physical office and you and your Allsup representative at a satellite location.
Yes, family members may accompany you to the hearing site. However, it will be at the judge’s discretion whether observers are allowed in the hearing room.
You may bring witnesses to help validate the legitimacy of your claim. A spouse or family member may serve as a witness, but this is not common. Some judges choose to have witnesses wait outside the hearing room until after you have testified.
Yes, the hearing will be audio recorded by an assistant. You are encouraged to speak loudly and clearly and vocalize any movements you are making. For example, you will want to reply “Yes” or “No” instead of nodding your head.
Other people in the courtroom with you will be the ALJ, the hearing assistant who records the proceedings, your Allsup representative and any approved witnesses whom you invite to the hearing.
The ALJ is expected to treat you with respect and dignity. The hearing is not intended to be an adversarial situation. All ALJs differ in their styles, but your Allsup representative is aware of this and will prepare you in advance.
The medical expert is a physician the judge calls to review the records of your treating physicians and to provide opinions on the testimony. The medical expert doesn’t perform an examination and may ask some questions of you related to your condition, with permission from the judge and your Allsup representative.
The vocational expert responds to hypothetical questions from the judge about limitations related to your ability to work that may apply in your case, usually based on your file and the testimony.
Absolutely not, but you do need to be thorough and represent yourself accurately. Don’t overstate the nature of your disability, but don’t understate it either. Give the judge all the facts, and trust the ALJ to make a fair decision.
By the time your claim reaches the ALJ level, your Allsup representative has already done a lot of work. This includes reviewing your case to ensure that all medical records have been updated and that the judge and witnesses have the information they need to make an informed decision. During the hearing your Allsup representative will help clarify any questions asked by the ALJ and cross-examine witnesses, if necessary.
Although questions are usually directed to you, the ALJ may ask your Allsup representative questions about certain details in your medical records. Your Allsup representative may also give opening and closing arguments.
The judge may ask questions about your disability, the amount of pain you suffer and how your disability affects your daily life. Normally, however, ALJs will not ask you technical medical questions about your condition.
It varies depending on the number of witnesses and complexity of the claim, but you are usually in and out of the hearing in about an hour.
As a rule, ALJs do not release a decision immediately following the hearing, but they are required to inform you of the decision in writing. Unfortunately, this may take a while; typically 60-90 days.
Don’t give up. If your claim is denied at the hearing level, you may appeal that decision to the Appeals Council for further review.
The next step of the appeal process is to take your case to Federal District Court. An SSDI representative can review your case to determine if an appeal to the court is warranted and will discuss this with you at the appropriate time.