Social Security FAQ

Attorney Referrals
About Social Security Disability

Pinnola & Bomstein is ready to address your Social Security claim. We provide skilled and experienced representation in the five-county Philadelphia metropolitan area. Below are answers to common questions we hear from clients. Please feel free to call us at 215-635-3070 with any follow-up questions.

Also see our page about The Social Security Claims Process and our Information for Attorneys who wish to refer a case or consult with disability lawyer Peter Pinnola.

FAQ on Social Security Disability and SSI

Q: Who will handle my Social Security Disability claim at your firm?

Social Security Disability claims and appeals are handled personally by Mr. Pinnola. Peter Pinnola is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has represented disability claimants for over 30 years at all levels of appeal, including Administrative Law Judge hearings, Appeals Council reviews, and appeals in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

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Q: What are your fees and how are they paid?

There is no charge for consultation (by phone or in person.) Representation is provided on a contingent fee basis. There is no fee unless back benefits are secured. If so, the fee is 25% of back benefits. Monthly benefits are not involved in the fee computation.

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Q: What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

The requirement for proving disability under both programs is basically the same. Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (sometimes referred to as SSDI, SSDIB, SSD or just "Social Security") is based on a person's earnings from which contributions are made to the Social Security system. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is based on need. There are income and asset limits for SSI which affect a person's eligibility for these benefits. In 2000, for example, the maximum monthly SSI benefit for an individual in Pennsylvania is approximately $664.

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Q: How do I qualify for benefits?

You may qualify if you meet certain strict medical standards (The Medical Listings), based on your medical records. You may also qualify by showing that you cannot do the work you have done in the past or other kinds of work. The following questions and answers address this topic more specifically.

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Q: To qualify for disability benefits, is it enough to show that I cannot do work that I have done in the past?

No. Showing that you are unable to do your past work is an important part of the disability determination, but not the only requirement. Generally, you must also show that you are unable to do other types of work as well.

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Q: What if there are only a few jobs which I can do?

Depending on your age, education and past work experience, this may be enough to prove disability. This is a complex issue, however. Generally speaking, the more limited your capacity, the greater your chances for success, particularly if you are over age 50. If you are under age 50, it may be necessary to show that your ability to do even sedentary work (work done in a seated position) is significantly limited.

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Q: How much difference does age make in a disability determination?

Age is a very important consideration. The Social Security Commissioner considers the following age categories:

Younger individual : Under age 50

Closely Approaching Advanced Age : 50 to 55

Advanced Age : 55 to 59

Closely Approaching Retirement Age : 60 to 65

The requirements for showing disability are less exacting for each advancing age category.

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Q: If I opt for early retirement, can I still get disability?

Yes. If you meet the standards for disability before age 65, you may qualify for benefits corresponding to your full retirement rate.

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Q: Does it make a difference how I became disabled?

Usually not. Eligibility generally depends on the extent of your limitations, rather than how you became disability.

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Q: I have heard that the standards for disability are very strict yet there are people receiving disability benefits who seem to have less serious problems than I do. Why is that?

The standards are exacting. For example, if you are under age 50, you may have to show that you do not even have the physical capacity to do a desk job. Regarding the outcome of other cases, things are not always what they seem. Some impairments are not apparent to others and some impairments are better documented than others. Once your claim is fully developed and properly presented, your chances for success should improve.

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Q: Can I work and still receive benefits?

Possibly. If you can no longer perform what is called substantial gainful activity, you may qualify even if you have some earnings. Earning limits vary from year to year.

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Q: If I am receiving benefits, but my condition improves, will benefits stop?

This depends on the extent of improvement and whether the improvement permits a return to work. You may be entitled to a trial work period during which benefits continue while you test your ability to work.

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Q: How do you prepare my case for presentation?

Information must be gathered about your work history and medical history. It is very important to have a thorough work history because, in most cases, you will have to show that you cannot do jobs you have done in the past. Likewise, all sources of medical treatment must be accurately identified.

We compare your medical history with the information in the Social Security file to make sure that the record is complete. Once records have been updated, they are arranged in chronological order so that we can review your medical history as it unfolded. We then analyze the records to see what else must be obtained.

We try to anticipate what questions the judge will ask so that we can provide the necessary information. Typically, we submit a brief to the judge describing the background of your case and explaining the reasons why benefits should be paid.

We will arrange a meeting with you, usually about a week prior to the administrative hearing. The purpose is to review your records with you and help you explain — in your own words — why you cannot work. We will meet again at the Hearings office shortly before your hearing for a final review. We may submit additional evidence even after the hearing.

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Q: How long do you continue to represent me?

Representation continues beyond the favorable decision. We want to make sure you (and your family) receive all authorized payments, both monthly and retroactive. If SSI benefits are involved, we help you demonstrate financial eligibility.

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Q: What if the judge has decided against me?

In most cases, Mr. Pinnola will file a Request for Review with the Appeals Council. This is the last appeal in the Social Security System. If this appeal is not successful, a further appeal may be taken in the Federal Court system. Mr. Pinnola is an experienced practitioner with many years of experience in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Pennsylvania and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Many of his clients have been vindicated on appeal and recovered substantial back benefits.

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We understand that you may still have many questions after reading these FAQs. Contact us today to arrange a consultation with Mr. Pinnola to discuss your specific situation.