Social Security Disability Benefits While Incarcerated and On Release

Can I Still Get Social Security Disability Benefits While I am Incarcerated?

Your SSDI benefit payments are suspended once you are convicted and incarcerated for more than 30 days.  Even though you cannot receive SSDI benefit payments due to incarceration, your spouse and children continue to receive their SSDI payments as long as they are eligible.

Your SSI benefit payments are initially suspended while you are incarcerated, but when your incarceration lasts 12 months or longer, your eligibility for SSI benefits then terminates.

How Do I get my Social Security Benefits Reinstated when I am Released from Incarceration?

You must contact Social Security to inform them that you have been released from incarceration, provide official release documents, and request that your disability benefits be reinstated. Once you have done this, your SSDI benefits can be reinstated the month following the month of your release, and SSI benefits can be reinstated in the month you are released.

If your SSI benefits were terminated, you can file a new application for SSI benefits a few months prior to your release. In fact, the institute where you are incarcerated may have a pre-release agreement with Social Security to help facilitate the application process. If not, you can contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to inform them of your scheduled incarceration release date and ask about applying for SSI. If you are approved for SSI benefits, payments cannot start until after your release from incarceration which must be confirmed by giving Social Security your official release documents.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you need help with your disability claim, contact a lawyer at Cardea Law Group, LLC. We understand that you need Social Security disability payments as soon after your release as possible to help you so you move ahead with your life.  When we represent you, we provide you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  Call us at 334-440-6261.




How Do I Get My Medical and Other Records from Social Security?

This article discusses when you should make a request evidence in your Social Security claim file and how to access your records at Social Security.

When Should You Request Your Social Security Disability Records?

When you apply for Social Security disability, you can submit medical records you have obtained to Social Security so that they can add them to your claim file. You also provide information about your medical history to Social Security so they can obtain other records from your medical sources covering at least 12 months prior to a certain date, such as your protective filing date. See, POMS DI 22505.001.A.3. Social Security may also develop your disability claim by obtaining other evidence, such as information about your functional ability or work history. A Social Security adjudicator has the flexibility to use his or her own judgement to decide whether to develop outside of the 12 month period. See, POMS DI 22505.006.A.2.

While Social Security will help obtain medical and other evidence, it is in your best interest to ensure that all of your medical evidence makes it into your case record. You have the right to access your medical and other records in your claim file so that you can review the sufficiency and relevancy of the evidence. You can submit other evidence to Social Security to add to your file. Having a complete picture of your medical history and functioning is important because Social Security adjudicators evaluate only the evidence that is in the record. If you do not have all of your medical and other evidence submitted, it could adversely affect the decision in your case.

If your initial application for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, then it is critically important for you to review your file and determine if there is any additional evidence not currently in the record that could support your claim. For example, you can ask your treating doctor to provide diagnostic testing or other evidence not currently in the claim file and then personally submit this evidence to Social Security to add to your file. Make sure to keep a copy of any records you have submitted in case they do not reach your file and you need to resubmit them.

Again, it is very important for you to review your file at the time you request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security will have an exhibit list of each item in the file. You will need to know what evidence the prior Social Security adjudicator based their determination. If the determination was made on insufficient evidence, for example, you will have a chance to add critically important information to the record that may likely result in a favorable decision on appeal.

In addition to getting access to your records when you apply for Social Security, you may also want to get your records once you are approved for disability benefits, especially if, for example, your case is selected for a continuing disability review.

How to Request Your Records in Your Social Security Disability File

Requesting access to your medical and other records from Social Security is relatively easy. You can now access your claim documents securely in the Message Center of your my Social Security account. To enable this option, contact the Social Security office where your disability case is pending and request access to the documents in your claim file.

Other options to request your records are to call Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or either call or write to your local office. You will need to provide Social Security with some personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, date of birth and the address to which you want the file mailed.

Once you have requested your records, they will be mailed to you on an encrypted CD. If you do not have access to a CD player, there may be a cost to get printed copies. To access the CD, your “password” is the first 4 letters of your first name (all lowercase), followed by a “#” and then the last 4 numbers of your Social Security Number. For example, John Smith, SSN 123-45-6789 would be, john#6789.

How Long Will It Take to Get My Records From Social Security?

The time it takes to get your records from Social Security depends on the method you chose in your request, Social Security processing time, and, if the records are being mailed, Postal Service delivery time. Usually, you can expect to receive the records within 2 to 4 weeks.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you need help with your disability claim, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Law Group, LLC for a free initial consultation. When we represent you, we will work with you to complete the application for disability and other necessary forms, as well as help you obtain the medical and non-medical evidence you need to prove your claim. We show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  Call us at 334-440-6261.

What is Non-Medical Evidence and How is it Considered in a Social Security Disability Claim?

Social Security considers “evidence” to be anything submitted to your claim file related to your disability claim, including medical and non-medical evidence. Having medical evidence is critical to proving your disability claim and, in fact, you must first have medical evidence from an acceptable medical source to establish you have a medically determinable impairment (MDI). After an MDI is established, Social Security considers all evidence to assess how a person’s impairments affects functioning and determine disability. Non-medical evidence is simply defined as any evidence that is not medical. Submitting non-medical evidence in your disability claim helps present a more complete picture of how your impairments and symptoms affect your daily functioning. In this article, we discuss several types of non-medical evidence and how it can help your disability claim. To read a blog article about medical evidence go here.

Non-Medical Evidence on Disability Checklists

Listed in the Social Security Adult Disability Checklist and Online Adult Disability Checklist is non-medical evidence, including general information about your age, your marital status, and your minor children. Also, listed is information about employment history going as far back as 15 years. Some evidence, such as the credits you have earned to be insured for SSDI, is necessary to prove you meet technical requirements. If you are applying for SSI, your income and resources will determine if you meet the strict requirements of this needs-based program. The Social Security field office is responsible for verifying technical eligibility requirements before they send the claim to the Disability Determination Services for adjudication.

Non-Medical Evidence You Provide

Statements you provide about your impairments and symptoms and how they affect your daily functioning are important non-medical evidence. You may complete a SSA-3373 Adult Function Report to describe your day-to-day functioning. You may also keep a journal or other personal record to describe your physical and mental impairments, related symptoms, and how they affect your ability to do ordinary daily activities. For example, you can record the frequency epileptic seizures that you have. Keeping a personal record helps you build a stronger disability case since it is a real-time description of what you have been experiencing. You can refer to it to help you remember accurately when it is time to testify at a hearing. In fact, this personal record may be submitted to your claim file as non-medical evidence.

Non-Medical Evidence from Third Parties

Third parties who may provide non-medical evidence in your claim include family members, friends, caregivers, neighbors, clergy, social workers, and even former supervisors and co-workers. The best evidence from third party sources comes from those who are close to you and can best describe your limitations due to your impairments. You may ask one or more of these non-medical sources to write a letter or testify on your behalf at your hearing about what they have witnessed regarding your impairments, symptoms and limitations in functioning. Social Security may ask at least one of these sources complete a SSA-3380 Third Party Function Report to obtain this non-medical evidence. Third-party evidence, particularly when it is consistent with the medical and other evidence, supports your claim of disability.

Evidence Relating to Symptoms

Social Security considers all of the evidence in the claim file when evaluating the intensity and persistence of symptoms after finding that the individual has an MDI that could reasonably be expected to produce those symptoms. See Social Security Ruling 16-3p Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims. A person’s own statements about their symptoms is considered along with other non-medical and medical evidence using the following factors:

  1. Daily activities;
  2. Location, duration, frequency, and intensity of pain or other symptoms;
  3. Factors that precipitate and aggravate the symptoms;
  4. Type, dosage, effectiveness, and side-effects of medication(s) taken to alleviate pain or other symptoms;
  5. Treatment, other than medication, a person receives or has received for relief of pain or other symptoms;
  6. Any measures other than treatment a person uses or has used to relieve pain or other symptoms (e.g., lying flat on his or her back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or sleeping on a board); and
  7. Any other factors concerning a person’s functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.

Non-medical statements from you and third parties can be very persuasive in describing the limiting effects of symptoms.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you need help proving you are disabled, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Law Group, LLC for a free initial consultation. When we represent you, we will work with you to complete the application for disability and other necessary forms, as well as help you obtain the medical and non-medical evidence you need to prove your claim. We show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  Call us at 334-440-6261.


What are the Rules about Evaluating Medical Evidence in a Social Security Disability Claim?

Social Security published “Revisions to Rules Regarding the Evaluation of Medical Evidence” in the Federal Register and they became effective on March 27, 2017. (Refer to 82 FR 5844.) For claims filed before March 27, 2017, Social Security continues to use some of the prior policies to evaluate medical evidence. This article discusses at a high level new rules Social Security uses to evaluate medical evidence in claims filed on or after March 27, 2017.

What Medical Evidence do I Need to Prove my Social Security Disability Claim?
To be approved for disability benefits, you must submit medical evidence to prove you have a medically determinable impairment(s), show your impairment(s) have lasted or are expected to last for at least twelve months or will result in death, and prove that your impairments cause limitations that prevent you from working at a substantial gainful activity level. Be aware that Social Security can deny your disability claim due to insufficient medical evidence.

Medical evidence is critical to proving you are disabled. Otherwise, Social Security can deny your disability claim due to insufficient medical evidence. Your medical records should contain enough information that Social Security can make a decision regarding the nature and severity of your impairment(s). Only providing your allegation of an impairment along with your doctor’s diagnosis is not sufficient to prove disability. The medical evidence must show how long you have had your impairment(s) and be detailed enough to show the severity and functional limitations of those impairment(s).

You should provide medical records from at least around the time when you first became disabled to the present. Medical records include all of your hospital, clinic, and doctor visits and medical treatments, such as surgical procedures. Medical records are also blood tests, imaging studies (such as x-ray, MRI, CT scan) or other diagnostic testing or procedures (such as an exercise stress test). Make sure to include medical evidence to support your complaints of pain or other symptoms that affect your ability to function. When you provide complete medical records of your impairment(s), it may eliminate the need for Social Security to take additional time to obtain more medical evidence in your case.

Does Social Security Help Get My Medical Records?
Social Security will give some assistance once you have provided them with the contact information of your medical sources and have signed form SSA-827, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration. Social Security will then request medical records on your behalf.

According to Social Security rules, they will make “every reasonable effort” to obtain a “complete medical history”. Every reasonable effort means Social Security will make an initial request for medical records and will make one follow-up request if they don’t receive the medical records. You may need to follow-up with your medical providers if Social Security has not received the medical evidence.

Social Security defines a “complete medical history” to mean medical records covering at least twelve months prior to a certain date, which is often the protective filing date but may be another important date, such as the date last insured for SSDI claims. However, it is in the discretion of Social Security whether to request medical evidence outside of the twelve-month period based on the facts of the case. Since you are likely to have other medical records that Social Security did not request, you will need to are request that medical evidence and submit it to Social Security yourself. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to submit evidence to Social Security that you are disabled.

When Does Social Security Order a Consultative Examination?
Social Security orders a consultative examination when the medical evidence is insufficient to decide the disability claim. Examples of when Social Security may decide a consultative examination is necessary is when there is no medical evidence or very little medical evidence in the file, or when the evidence does not establish the current severity and functional limitations of the impairment(s), or when a conflict or inconsistency in the case record cannot be resolved by recontacting you or another source of information.

Social Security contracts with licensed physicians and psychiatrists, as well as qualified psychologists to perform consultative examinations. Usually, Social Security will select the doctor who is scheduled to do your consultative examination, but you have the right to request that your regular doctor perform this exam if he is willing to do it.

Who is a Medical Source and Who is an Acceptable Medical Source?
A medical source is a healthcare worker working within the scope of practice permitted under law and includes a certified speech-language pathologist or school psychologist. An acceptable medical source is a certain type of medical practitioner identified in the regulations see Included as an acceptable medical source are licensed physicians, licensed psychologists, physician assistants (PAs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), and licensed audiologists and optometrists.

What Medical Evidence Establishes a Medically Determinable Impairment?
To establish a medically determinable impairment, Social Security rules require objective medical evidence of signs, laboratory findings, or both. The objective medical evidence must be from an acceptable medical source. Once the medically determinable impairment(s) is established, other medical evidence can be considered.

How Does Social Security Evaluate Medical Evidence?
With regard to disability claims filed on or after March 27, 2017, Social Security considers the persuasiveness of the quality of the evidence by taking into account the following factors when evaluating the medical evidence:
Supportability: The explanations by a medical source are supported by the objective medical evidence.
Consistency: A medical opinion or prior medical finding(s) is consistent with the other evidence.
Relationship with the claimant considers:
Length of the treatment relationship
Frequency of examinations
Purpose of the treatment relationship
Extent of the treatment relationship
Examining relationship
Specialization: The medical opinion of a specialist may be more persuasive about medical issues in his area of specialty.
Other factors: Factors that tend to support or contradict a medical opinion or prior medical finding.

Social Security will consider whether you impairment(s) meet or equal the criteria in set out in the Listing of Impairments, and if so, your disability case will be allowed. Otherwise, Social Security will continue to evaluate your claim to determine your residual functional capacity based on all relevant evidence and decide whether you have the ability to perform your past relevant work or any other work. If you cannot perform any work, your disability case will be allowed. However, if you can perform any work, Social Security will deny your claim for disability.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help
If you need help proving you are disabled, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Law Group, LLC. When we represent you, we will work with you to complete the application for disability and other necessary forms, as well as help you obtain the medical and non-medical evidence you need to prove your claim. We show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step. Call us at 334-440-6261.

How Do I Apply For Social Security Disability And What Information Do I Need?

Once you have made the decision to apply for Social Security disability, you will want to complete the application as soon as possible to shorten your wait to receive benefits after you are approved for disability. If you are thinking about filing for disability in the near future (six months for SSDI and two months for SSI), you can let Social Security know that you plan to file and you will have a “protective filing date” that will become the application date.

SSDI pays benefits to disabled people who have worked long enough and recently enough to be insured by paying FICA taxes. For SSDI, you can receive retroactive pay as far back as 12 months from the date you apply for benefits if you are found disabled.  However, you have a five-month waiting period after the date you are approved for disability before you begin receiving SSDI benefits. There is also a 24-month waiting period for Medicare.

SSI pays benefits to disabled people who have limited income and resources. Once your disability is approved, SSI benefit payments become payable to you the month after the month your application is filed. You may be eligible for Medicaid benefits.

Create a my Social Security Account Before Starting the Disability Application

Create your my Social Security account first before you begin your disability application. If try to start the disability application first, Social Security will prompt you to create your account before you work on your disability application.To create your account, you answer a series of identity questions for verification. You must also have a:

  • Social Security number
  • Valid email address
  • S. mailing address

You must also be at least 18 years old to create an account. You can only create an account using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use. With your account, you will be able to review your earnings record to make sure it is accurate, and you will be able to check on the status of your disability claim after you complete your application.

Select Your Alleged Onset Date Before Applying For Disability

Give some consideration as to what date you became disabled or your alleged onset date. Your alleged onset date can affect how much SSDI backpay you get if you are approved. Often a person uses the date he or she became unable to work as the alleged onset date, but if you have had to work reduced hours or had to take extensive leave, you may decide on an earlier date.

Information You Need To Complete The Disability Application

The information you need to complete the disability application is detailed. Gather the documents necessary to help provide information about yourself, your immediate family, your medical condition, and your work. To get an idea of what information you will need, use the Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application You may also want to review information in the Adult Disability Disability Starter Kit provided by Social Security at

Begin by gathering your tax return, W2s, paystubs, marriage license, form DD 214 for military service, and other important documents to refer to as you work through the application. For background, here are a few of the questions you will be asked:

  • Your date and place of birth and Social Security number.
  • Your address, and telephone.
  • The name, Social Security number, and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You will be asked about the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate).
  • Names and dates of birth of your minor children.

You will also be asked for your bank’s routing transit number and your bank account number that you will use for Direct Deposit if you are approved for disability benefits.

Educational information on the application includes the highest grade you completed in school and the name of the last school you attended. You will be asked whether you were in special education at school. You will also be asked if you have completed any vocational or trade school education.

To answer questions about your work, begin by making a list of your employers with the months and years you worked. You can refer to your earnings record found in your my Social Security account, as well as your tax information, pay stubs, or W2s. The application asks for your employment history covering the last 5 jobs you have had in the 15 years prior to the date you stopped working. You will be asked if your impairments are related to work and if you have received workers compensation. If you are self-employed, you will be asked for information pertaining to that work. You will also be asked if you or your spouse have worked outside of the United States.

Also, pull together any medical information you already have at home, such as treatment notes, diagnostic test results, emergency department summaries and hospital records. Use these documents to write a list of all of your diagnosed physical and mental conditions. You can also use these records and your pill bottles to make a list of all your prescribed medications and non-prescription medications you regularly take. Make another list of any laboratory or diagnostic testing you have had along with the place where the testing was performed and the dates.

You will also need to refer to this medical information for a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of treating sources, hospitals and other medical sources where you have had or are continuing to have treatment. For each source, you will need to provide the month and year you began treatment and the month and year of the last time you were treated.

For your SSI application, you will be asked additional questions about you and your immediate family’s income and resources, as well as living arrangements since SSI is a needs-based program. Refer to this list for more information at

Apply for Social Security Disability Online

You can apply online for SSDI or both SSDI and SSI disability benefits. You cannot apply for SSI only disability online. To start your application for disability, go to the Social Security website’s Apply for Benefits page. Read and agree to the Terms of Service and then click “Next”. Review the “Getting Ready” section to once again confirm you have the information you need to apply. Select “Start A New Application” and follow the prompts to enter the application information.

After you provide some basic background information about yourself and if there is anyone who is helping you fill out the application, you can get a “re-entry” number so that you will be able to save and exit and then later on use the re-entry number to re-access the application.

As you work through the application, you answer the questions on each page and select “next”, or you select any of the tabs at the top of the application page to move to another section. A green check mark means you have provided all the necessary information in that section. A yellow triangle means that you still need to provide more information in that section.

Once you complete the online process, a Social Security representative will contact you by mail or phone for additional information.

Actions to Take After Filing Online

Social Security will ask you to complete and sign form SSA-827 Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration once you have submitted your application. The authorization allows Social Security to request medical records for your claim.

If someone else prepares the online application on your behalf, a Social Security representative will contact you by phone to:

  • Verify your intent to file.
  • Confirm the information provided.
  • Obtain any additional information needed for the application(s).
  • Give you the opportunity to provide a verbal signature and other relevant documents.

Other Ways to Apply for Social Security Disability

If you cannot submit your application online, you still can apply by contacting Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). In the past, you could go to the local Social Security office to submit your application in-person, but due to COVID, in-person visits have been significantly restricted.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you need help applying for disability, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Law Group, LLC. We have a free consultation. When we represent you, we will work with you to complete the application for disability and other necessary forms. In addition, we show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  Call us at 334-440-6261.

When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability?

Deciding when to apply for Social Security disability can be a very difficult decision to make for many people. First of all, be honest with yourself about your abilities and limitations. You are the one who knows what your body can handle both physically and mentally. You know whether it is feasible for you to work given your impairments. Secondly, there are some other issues you should be aware of before your make your decision about when to apply for disability. This article discusses several of those issues so that you can consider them as you make your decision.

When Am I Insured For SSDI And How do I Qualify for SSI?

You should be aware of your insured status for SSDI. Generally, you must have worked and earned at least 20 credits in the last 10 years to be insured for SSDI. Exceptions to insured status apply for those who are disabled and under age 31. In those situations, you can be insured for SSDI with fewer than 20 credits. You can check your work history on your My Social Security account.

It is possible that you were insured in the past for SSDI, but are not currently insured. You will need to know what your date last insured (DLI) was because you will have to prove that you became disabled prior to the DLI date. Do not delay in filing for disability in this situation since the longer you wait to file, the harder it is to prove your disability prior to your DLI.

If you are not currently insured for SSDI, you may be able to apply for SSI immediately if you have limited assets.  Insured status does not apply for SSI. Since SSI is a needs-based program, there are income and resource requirements that must be met to qualify.

Can Having A Protective Filing Date Help Me?

If are going to file for disability in the near future (six months for SSDI and two months for SSI), you can let Social Security know that you plan to file and you will have a “protective filing date” that will become the date you applied, even though you filed a few months later. The protective filing date can help you get more back benefits for SSDI if you are approved. For SSI, you can receive retroactive benefits back to the protective filing date, up to two months earlier than the date you filed your application, if you are approved.

What Is A Durational Requirement And Must I Meet It Before I Apply For Disability? 

There is a one-year durational requirement that you must meet in order to be qualified for disability under Social Security rules, but you do not have to meet it at the time you apply for Social Security disability benefits. You must be unable to work at a substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, which in 2020 is presumed to be $1260 a month. You also must have physical or mental impairment(s) that have lasted for at least 12 months, are expected to last 12 months, or can be expected to result in death. 

Therefore, it is reasonable to file a disability application when your earnings drop below the SGA level or the day after you realize that you are disabled and have to stop working. It is also be appropriate to file for disability when you have been diagnosed with impairment(s) that require months of extensive surgeries, therapy, or treatment. If your prognosis is that your impairment(s) will keep you from working for at least one-year, Social Security is not prevented from awarding disability benefits before the one-year duration. With impairment(s) that do not have a clear prognosis, such as a heart attack or stroke, Social Security may wait a few months to see if your condition improves.  During this waiting period, you should apply for disability so that you are in a better position to get the most benefits if your condition prevents your return to work.

Can I File For Disability Before I Submit My Medical Evidence To Social Security?

You are responsible for providing medical evidence showing you have a medically determinable severe impairment(s) that are disabling. While medical evidence is key to proving your disability claim, you do not have to wait until you have submitted your medical records before you apply for disability. You have time to obtain medical evidence after you file for disability. In fact, Social Security will help request and get medical evidence from medical sources who have evaluated, examined, or treated the person for his or her impairment(s). But you may want to have a conversation with your treating doctor to explain that you have decided to apply for disability and to ask for their support. Having a treating doctor’s support is important as you work to prove your claim.

If you do not have a treating medical source or your medical evidence is inadequate,  Social Security may ask you to go to a consultative examination with an independent doctor who will submit a report to Social Security. 

How Long Is The Social Security Appeals Process?

Once you apply for disability, you should be aware that you could be waiting a long time for Social Security to make a disability decision. 

For an initial determination, it may very well take more than the 90-120 days commonly estimated by Social Security. Since a majority of the initial disability claims are denied, you may be facing a long appeals process. It is usual for processing time to be about two years on average to get an Administrative Law Judge decision. So, it would make sense for you to apply as soon as you can to avoid unnecessary delay.

Should My Own Financial Situation And Resources Factor Into My Decision To Apply For Disability? 

You absolutely should consider your current financial situation and think about what resources you now have that may not be available after waiting for an extended period, such as the two years during the appeal process. Having a stable residence where Social Security can mail notices to you, as well as having resources, such as a phone and a computer, will help you stay in contact with Social Security throughout the process. Having transportation so that you can get to your doctor is important as well. Having health insurance and regular medical care makes it much easier to obtain the medical evidence you need for your disability claim.  Some people wait until their financial situation becomes unstable before filing for disability, making the process even more challenging. 

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you need help deciding when to apply for disability, contact one of our disability lawyers at for a free consultation. When we represent you, we show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  We can be reached at 334-440-6261. 

How Do I Handle a Social Security Overpayment?

Take Action to Avoid Being Overpaid

To  avoid being overpaid,  report all changes to your financial, marital, or living situation to Social Security. Also, inform Social Security if your disability has improved to the extent that you are attempting to work.

If you notice a change in the amount of your monthly checks and you did not receive an explanation from Social Security, call Social Security right away to make sure you are receiving the correct amount. 

What Happens When I receive a Notice of Overpayment?

If Social Security has found that you were overpaid, they will mail you a Notice of Overpayment.  The notice will have an explanation of why you have been overpaid, your repayment options, and your appeal and “waiver” rights.

First, check the notice information carefully. Are the dates and payment amounts correct or not? You have 60 days from the date on the notice to act by filing an appeal.  If you request a waiver within 30 days from the date of the notice, Social Security will not start to withhold any part of your benefits. Otherwise, if you do not take action,  Social Security will  take money out of your checks to repay the claimed overpayment amount. 

If you do not believe you have been overpaid or you disagree with the amount of overpayment, you can appeal. The appeal must explain why you believe you have not been overpaid or that the amount of overpayment is wrong.

If you agree that you were overpaid, you can still ask Social Security to waive the overpayment so that you don’t have to pay it back. Ask for a waiver if the overpayment was not your fault, and you cannot afford to pay the money back. Use form   SSA-632-BK to request a waiver. If Social Security denies waiver of the overpayment, you can appeal. 

If you agree that the overpayment was your fault or you can afford to pay it back, you can make a payment arrangement with Social Security to pay the money back a little at a time. That repayment arrangement would be based on how much of your income you need for your basic necessities. 

When you ask for either a waiver of the overpayment or request a payment arrangement, Social Security will require you to complete a financial statement.  You may need to provide some documents to support your financial statement.

Whenever you talk to a Social Security employee, write down their name, the date, and a summary of the conversation. 

How Does COVID-19 Impact My Overpayment?

Beginning on March 17, 2020, due to the COVID-19 emergency, Social Security stopped taking actions that could have resulted in a reduction, suspension, or termination of benefits or payments.  Since corrections to benefit payments were not made during this timeframe due to COVID-19, overpayments resulted.   

In an interim final rule, effective August 27, 2020, Social Security acknowledged that it would be against equity and good conscience to collect overpayments made between March 1 to September 30, 2020, and those who did incur an overpayment during this period are without fault. See  If you receive an overpayment notice during this time period, file a request for waiver since Social Security has already stated that a person who had incurred an overpayment during this timeframe is without fault.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you get an overpayment notice from Social Security and need help, contact a disability lawyer.

When a disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC represents you, we show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step.  For a free consultation, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 and visit our website at

Can My Use of Drugs or Alcohol Affect My Disability Claim?

Use of drugs and alcohol can affect your disability claim if it is a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that meets certain drug addiction and alcohol (DAA) criteria. By law, a person cannot be approved for Social Security disability benefits if DAA exists and is material.

First of all, Social Security must decide whether drug and alcohol use is DAA. To be DAA, the drug and/or alcohol use be an MDI of substance use disorder that rises to the level of maladaptive use as defined in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.  One exception is nicotine use disorder is not DAA under Social Security policy.

Another very important criterion is whether DAA is material. Even if the individual’s drug addiction and/or alcoholism is DAA, a person can still win their claim for Social Security disability if DAA is not material.  If DAA is material, however, then a person would not qualify for disability benefits.

Social Security DAA policy is set out in Social Security ruling, SSR 13-2p Evaluating Cases Involving Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DAA).

Is All Drug and/or Alcohol Use DAA?

Not all drug and alcohol use meet the criteria for DAA.  The important factor in deciding whether drug and/or alcohol use is DAA is whether an individual has a pattern of using drugs and/or alcohol in a dysfunctional way that causes disruption of work, family relationships, social activities, or results in physical damage to the individual.  Since addiction to, or use of, prescription medications taken as prescribed does not involve maladaptive substance use, this is not DAA.

Evidence of occasional or binge use of drugs or alcohol or a history of drug or alcohol use does not establish that the individual as an MDI of substance use disorder. Additional examples of evidence that, by itself, does not establish DAA are:

  • Self-reported drug or alcohol use.
  • Arrest for “driving under the influence” or “public intoxication”.
  • Third-party report of an individual’s drug and alcohol use.

How Does Social Security Determine Whether DAA is Material?

Once Social Security has evaluated a person’s impairments including DAA and found that the person’s condition is disabling, Social Security then conducts a second evaluation to determine whether DAA is material to disability. During the second evaluation, Social Security reviews the evidence again to determine whether the person would continue to be disabled if he or she stopped using drugs or alcohol.

Essentially, material means DAA substance use is contributing to, or worsening a person’s medical impairment(s).  DAA is not material to the determination that the claimant is under a disability if the person would still meet the definition of disability if he or she were not using drugs or alcohol. If an impairment is disabling without considering any limitations caused by drug or alcohol use, then the substance abuse is not material to the claim, since the other impairment is already disabling and any limitation caused by the substance abuse is irrelevant. Irreversible damage from alcohol or drug use, for example, is not material.  If DAA is not material, the claimant is disabled.  If DAA is material, there is evidence that the person’s impairment(s) can improve absent drugs and/or alcohol and the person is denied disability benefits.

When a person has a physical impairment(s), Social Security considers medical opinions from treating or non-treating sources about whether the physical impairment(s) would likely improve absent DAA.  For example, if a person who has drug addiction and a medically determinable physical impairment, such as a seizure disorder, Social Security will rely on medical opinions about whether the seizure disorder would medically improve if the person stopped using drugs.  If improvement is likely, then DAA is material and the disability claim would be denied.  However, if improvement is not likely, the case would be allowed.

Unlike cases involving physical impairment(s), Social Security cannot rely exclusively on medical expertise and the nature of a claimant’s mental disorder.  To support a finding that DAA is material, Social Security must have evidence in the record that establishes that a person with a co-occurring mental disorder(s) would not be disabled in the absence of DAA.  If the record is fully developed and there is no evidence that the person’s co-occurring mental disorder(s) would improve to the point of non-disability in the absence of DAA, then DAA is not material and Social Security would allow the disability claim.

For these reasons it is very important to have well documented medical records of medical impairment(s), both physical and mental.

What Must the Social Security Disability Decision Contain in a Claim Involving DAA?

When the issue is whether DAA is material, a Social Security adjudicator must make the following findings:

  • The person hasDAA;
  • The person’s impairment(s) are disabling considering all of his or her impairments, including DAA.
  • The person would still be disabled in the absence of DAA, or a finding that the person would not be disabled in the absence of DAA.

A Social Security adjudicator must provide sufficient information and document their reasons in the disability decision.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

If you have a disability case that involves drug addiction and/or alcoholism, find a disability lawyer that is experienced to help you address these complicated issues. When a disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC represents you, we show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step. We know what it takes to win your disability case. For a free consultation, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 and visit our website at


Why Hire a Disability Lawyer?

Every person has the right to be represented in his or her disability case before Social Security. It is your choice whether you file the disability application and pursue appeals on your own or whether you hire a disability lawyer to represent you. A disability lawyer provides advice and guides you through the administrative process. Disability lawyers know the Social Security rules and regulations, are able how to get evidence and make the arguments to prove disability. Having a disability lawyer may improve your chances of being approved for disability benefits.

What Can a Disability Lawyer Do for Me?

A disability lawyer you appoint can:

  • Answer your questions and address your concerns regarding your case;
  • Assist you with completing and filing the initial disability claim application;
  • Develop the best theory of disability and advocate your disability case;
  • Help you get medical records or other important information to support your claim;
  • Represent you in any interview, conference, or hearing you have with Social Security;
  • Write briefs to support your case;
  • Help you and any of your witnesses prepare for a hearing; and
  • Request appeals when necessary.

How Much Does Hiring a Disability Lawyer Cost?

The costs are fairly straightforward.  Most disability lawyers have a free consultation where they evaluate your case. Based on the information you get from the consultation, you will know the merits of your case going forward and can decide about hiring representation.

Many disability lawyers charge a contingency fee where they get paid only if you are found to be disabled and entitled to disability benefits. No payment is required if you are not approved. Contingency fees are regulated by law and approved by Social Security. The contingency fee amount is 25% of your disability back pay or no more than $6,000.  You pay the disability lawyer only if you win your case.  Disability lawyers are highly motivated to actively work to get your disability case approved by Social Security so that they will also get paid.

Another type of fee some disability lawyers charge is a fee for the number of hours worked on the disability case through a fee petition. The fee petition requests approval for hours of work. It is also regulated by law and must be approved by Social Security.

When Should I Contact a Disability Lawyer?

Even if you are just starting to consider filing a claim for disability, you should consult with a disability lawyer to answer any questions you may have and help you evaluate the strength of your case. It is a very good idea to hire a disability lawyer before you file your initial disability application with Social Security. The lawyer will help you identify and address the relevant legal issues right from the start of your case.

Throughout the adjudication process, the disability lawyer can give you advice and assist you with completing required forms and other paperwork as you work together to navigate your claim.

Should I Hire a Disability Lawyer if My Case is on Appeal?

If you filed your disability claim with Social Security on your own and you now have received notice that your claim has been denied, it is not too late for you to you appoint a disability attorney to represent you through the appeals process, such as reconsideration, an administrative law judge hearing, and Appeals Council review. The disability lawyer can help collect and submit key medical evidence, communicate with your doctor and any other medical professionals who have treated you, prepare you for any questions that the administrative law judge may ask at the hearing, and advocate for you with Social Security.

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

Choose a disability lawyer who is experienced and knows what is required to win your Social Security disability case. When a disability attorney at Cardea Disability, LLC represents you, we show our commitment by providing you with information, guidance, and support at every step. For a free consultation, contact a disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 and visit our website at

Can a Veteran be Approved for both Social Security Disability and Veterans (VA) Disability Benefits?

Yes. Veterans can be approved for both Social Security disability benefits and VA disability benefits.  However, you must file for each benefit program and qualify under each program’s different rules.

What is required to meet SSA’s disability insured status?

You must have disability insured status before you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits or SSDI. Generally, you have to have earned 20 credits during the last 10 years. However, if you are 31 years old or younger, you can have fewer than 40 credits to meet the disability insured status.  

As a military service member, you pay Social Security taxes on your earnings and accrue work credits.  Since 1988, inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves are covered by Social Security.  You may also get additional earnings credits under certain conditions. For more information, go to 

What is SSA’s definition of disability?

SSA has a strict definition of disability:

  • You must be unable to do substantial gainful work because of your medical condition(s); and

  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months or to result in death.

Once you are approved for SSDI benefits, the amount you receive each month is based on your average earnings before your disability began and is NOT based on the severity of your disability.  You can receive up to 12 months of retroactive SSDI benefits from the date you file a SSDI application with Social Security.  For SSI benefits, you can only receive payments back to the date the application was filed or the protective filing date. 

Can SSA expedite the processing of disability claim filed by a veteran?

Yes.  If you are a veteran rated with a 100 percent permanent and total disability, SSA will expedite your disability claim as a high priority workload. SSA is usually able to identify veterans who meet the criteria, but sometimes the veteran may have to self-identify by providing the VA notification letter to SSA.  SSA also expedites disability claims for military service members who became disabled on or after October 1, 2001.

What do I need to file for Social Security disability?

You will need information such as:

  • Your Social Security number;
  • Proof of your age;
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that treated you and the dates of your visits;
  • Names and dosages of all the medications you are taking;
  • Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers that you already have copies of;
  • Information about laboratory and test results;
  • A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did;
  • Your most recent W-2 form; 
  • Supporting statements from family, friends, coworkers, or clergy with knowledge about your disability.
  • Information about your spouse and children.

In addition, you need to have certain military documents available such as:

  • Form DD 214
  • Proof of military pay
  • Any military medical records you have that support your disability, including medical tests, physician’s notes, and therapy documentation.

Are VA benefits considered income for disabled veterans who also get Social Security disability?

VA benefits will not affect your SSDI benefits. However, VA benefits will have an effect on SSI.  SSA classifies VA benefits as “unearned income” because the payment is not due to paid employment.

What is required to get approved for VA disability?

You may be eligible for disability compensation, if you: 

  • Got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an in-service disability claim), or
  • Had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a pre-service disability claim), or
  • Have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (called a post-service disability claim)
  • AND your military discharge was not dishonorable.

What is a VA disability rating and How is it used?

For veterans’ disability, you do not need to be totally disabled to be eligible for compensation.  The combined or total disability rating is a percentage ranges from 0 to 100 percent and is based on the severity of your impairment(s) and how much your disability decreases your overall health and ability to function.

The VA uses your disability rating to determine your disability compensation rate, and it affects the amount of money you receive from the VA each month. 

What do I need to file for VA disability?

You will also need your DD 214 discharge papers and any other separation documents you have.  Also, you will need medical records and other information such as:

  • VA medical records and hospital records that relate to your claimed conditions or that show your rated disability has gotten worse.
  • Any other military medical records you have that support your disability, including medical tests, physician’s notes, and therapy documentation.
  • Private medical records and hospital reports that relate to your claimed condition or that show your disability has gotten worse.
  • Supporting statements from family members, friends, clergy, law enforcement personnel, or those you served with that provide information about your claimed condition and how and when it happened or how it got worse.

For more information about what information is needed to support a claim for VA disability, see

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

Choose a disability lawyer who is experienced and knows what is required to win both your VA disability and Social Security disability claims.  Check to see if a disability attorney is VA accredited at

For a free consultation, contact an accredited VA disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 and visit our website at