A man stands next to a building with wooden siding, looking at the camera. On this page, find answers to Social Security Disability FAQs. A man stands next to a building with wooden siding, looking at the camera. On this page, find answers to Social Security Disability FAQs.
Social Security Disability Advocate Andrew Mathis

Social Security Disability FAQs from Maryland, Virginia & DC Disability Advocates

Questions about Qualifying and Applying for Disability

If I need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, what should I do?

To apply for Social Security Disability, you need to fill out application forms and provide supporting documents like medical records.

You should apply as soon as you realize that you can’t work for health reasons. The sooner you start, the sooner you can get through the process of winning benefits and the more back benefits you could collect if you have a long wait for approval.

You can ease the burden of applying by working with a disability advocate, who can handle your claim for you. You pay no fee for your advocate until you win benefits.

How does Social Security decide I have a disability?

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must have serious health problems that stop you from doing any kinds of work you might be qualified to do, and your condition must be expected to last at least a year.

Social Security will look at medical records describing the seriousness of your condition and information on your education, work history and the demands of your job.

Learn More »

Who decides if I am eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?

For your initial application for disability, a claims examiner in your state’s disability determinations office will make the first decision on your claim.

If you’re denied and need to appeal the decision, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at Social Security could be the one who decides on your benefits.

If you appeal your claim to higher levels, Social Security’s Appeals Council could look at your claim, or even a federal judge.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security runs two different disability programs. Which one you apply for depends on your work history, income and assets. This is how they work:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This is a government-run insurance plan that you pay into with Social Security taxes withheld from every paycheck. It’s not a handout. It’s coverage you’re supposed to receive when you can no longer work due to your health. It pays monthly checks calculated with a formula that includes your past income and qualifies you for Medicare health coverage.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This is financial aid for people who have never been able to work substantial amounts, or haven’t worked in a long time. You qualify for it by showing that you have limited income and assets, in addition to health problems. It pays a set amount determined by the government and qualifies your for Medicaid health coverage.

If you’re wondering whether you’re eligible for disability benefits, or which benefits program to apply for, you can get a FREE consultation from Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates.

Get My Free Case Review! »

How long does it take to get disability benefits?

An initial decision on your application can take about three months. When you need to appeal a denial, the process takes longer.

For example, government data from 2020 said the average wait time for a hearing with a disability judge was 10 months in Washington, DC, 11 months in Virginia and 13.5 months in Maryland.

The wait times often fluctuate. At Mathis & Mathis, we stay up to date on how those changes affect you.

Does my age matter when applying for disability benefits?

Your age can make a difference.

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you’re eligible when you’ve worked for a period of time.

But even more important, as you become a more senior worker, Social Security will consider you less likely to be able to switch to a different job if health problems stop you from working in your current job.

That means you’re more likely to win benefits—because the key to winning benefits is that you cannot work any job at all, not just that you can’t work your most recent job.

After you turn age 50, your odds of getting approved start increasing.

How can I improve my chances of receiving Social Security Disability benefits?

Because Social Security denies so many people for disability benefits, it’s important to avoid any mistakes in your application that might hurt your chances.

Over a recent 10-year period, Social Security denied 79 percent of people when they first applied for benefits. After people appealed those denials, more people got approved, pushing the approval rate up to about a third of all applicants.

To make sure your information is complete, correct—and the right kind of information that Social Security is looking for—you can turn over the legwork to an experienced disability advocate, like Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates.

Our advocacy firm has helped thousands of people win benefits over the last 30 years.

Learn More »

If I win my case, how much money will I receive?

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the exact amount you receive in monthly checks depends on a formula that includes information on your past income. The average monthly payment across the whole country in 2021 was $1,277.

If you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your monthly checks are set by the government and are the same for everyone, though the amount changes over time. In 2021, the amounts were set at $794 for an individual and $1,191 for an eligible couple.

Is Social Security Disability the same in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., or other places around the United States?

It’s a federal program, so Social Security Disability mostly works the same way in every state.

There are a few differences as to which state agencies manage initial applications, how states add to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, wait times to receive benefits and approval rates for benefits.

For more details on Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, click the button below.

Learn More »

Does SSDI Provide Annual Raises?

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the amount of your SSDI often increases with the cost of living.

Learn More »

Questions about Social Security Disability Denials and Appeals

If I applied for disability benefits but was denied, what should I do?

First of all, don’t give up.

At Mathis & Mathis we sometimes meet people who got discouraged and stopped trying to win benefits. It’s understandable to get frustrated with the process, but if you appeal your denial, you still can win benefits.

Most people get denied. In a recent 10-year period, 79 percent of people who applied for benefits got denied at the initial level. Getting denied is almost a built-in part of the process.

Many of those people who are denied at first finally win benefits when they appeal.

When you’re denied benefits, get in touch with us.

At Mathis & Mathis, we may be able to keep your hope of winning benefits alive.

Social Security Disability Is All We Do.

Contact Us Now! »

Should I appeal my denial of disability benefits? What happens when they deny benefits?

Social Security will often deny benefits because of a problem with information in your application, or because claims examiners conclude your health problems aren’t severe enough to rule out working.

When you’re denied, you should appeal. Appealing can give you a better chance of winning benefits.

But you need to move fast: You must file your appeal within 60 days of receiving notice of your denial.

I know someone who was approved for Social Security Disability benefits, and they aren’t even disabled. Why was I denied?

Someone who seems healthy but still gets benefits could have more struggles with their health than you know.

Many debilitating health problems, including autoimmune disorders, diabetes, heart disease and mental health conditions, don’t necessarily change how a person looks from the outside.

The person you know may also have been denied, like most people, and had to appeal the decision to get benefits.

The fact is, getting approved for benefits is a strict process. And cases where people cheat the system have been extremely rare.

It’s better for everyone who needs disability benefits if people don’t judge other people’s situations too harshly.

My doctor says I am disabled, so why is Social Security denying my disability claim?

Winning Social Security Disability benefits isn’t as easy as getting a doctor’s note.

Social Security has a highly specific definition of what it means to have a qualifying disability.

Your doctor may have a different idea of disability than what Social Security uses.

Statements from your doctor and records from your doctor visits are important parts of your disability claim, but you’ll also need additional information.

If I received notice that I will have a hearing, what should I do?

When you’re going to a disability hearing with a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you need to prepare for what you will say there.

You’ll need to update the information in your file, prepare to answer questions from the judge and prepare to ask questions of medical or vocational experts who Social Security could call to talk about your case.

Your hearing is an important opportunity to directly tell someone at Social Security why you qualify for disability benefits.

Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates can help you prepare, so you can go into your hearing with confidence.

And when you have a disability advocate by your side, you can also increase your chances of winning benefits, according to a government study.

What are the four levels of disability appeals?

First, you ask Social Security for a reconsideration.

Second you go to a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

Third, you ask for a review from Social Security’s Appeals Council.

Fourth, you sue Social Security in federal court.

Every step has important considerations for you to know. To find out more, click the button below.

Learn More »

Does Social Security conduct surveillance for my Continuing Disability Review (CDR)?

When you’ve been receiving benefits, after a period of years Social Security will check to see if your health condition still qualifies, because you still can’t work.

That’s called a Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

As part of it, Social Security could conduct surveillance on you.

That includes scanning your social media accounts looking for signs that you’re actually able to do things that your impairment is supposed to limit. It could even include sending someone to watch you and try to catch you in public exerting yourself physically in a way that suggests you’re strong enough to return to work.

They probably won’t do this, but it’s possible.

Generally, CDRs are easier to get through than your initial application.

When a Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates client receives notice that their benefits are under review, we can help.

We believe in supporting our clients’ well-being, even long after we’ve won their case.

Learn More »

Questions about Working with Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates

How much experience does Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates have with Social Security Disability cases?

Our disability advocacy firm has been helping people win benefits for over 30 years. Andrew Mathis, who leads our firm, personally has worked in this field for most of that time.

We’ve helped thousands of people win benefits. Andrew has helped people with their disability claims in 33 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

Contact Us Today! »

What does a disability advocate do?

The work that goes into applying for Social Security Disability benefits and appealing a denial can be a burden, especially when you’re trying to rest and cope with health problems.

An experienced disability advocate takes that burden off of you, does the legwork for you, and helps you get the best possible chance of winning benefits. At Mathis & Mathis, you can turn your claim over to us and know it is well taken care of by people with experience.

And if you have a representative with you when you go into a hearing with a disability judge as part of your disability appeal, government statistics have shown your chances of winning benefits can almost triple.

Learn More »

How much does it cost to get Mathis & Mathis for my Social Security Disability claim? How can I afford help?

Social Security and disability advocates know that when you’re facing health problems and loss of income, paying for professional services is difficult.

That’s why you PAY NO FEE UNTIL YOU WIN benefits.

And when you do win, the fee for your advocate comes out of back benefits that Social Security awards, not your paycheck.

And how much can be withdrawn from your back benefits is also subject to limits set by Social Security.

This system is set up to make it low-risk for you to have a disability representative, who in turn could improve your chances of winning benefits.

What areas does Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates serve?

Many of our clients come from Washington DC, Baltimore, Alexandria and Northern Virginia.

But we help people all over Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

In fact, we will consider a taking case from anywhere in America. We’ve helped people in at least 33 states.

I’m interested in talking with Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates. What should I do?

You can fill out a form on this website to tell us about your situation and begin the process of working with a disability advocate.

And you can call us.


Fill Out Your Information »

Call Mathis & Mathis Now! »

Why Should I Get a Disability Advocate?

Disability advocates have training and experience in navigating the Social Security Disability system on your behalf. Similar to working with a disability lawyer, an advocate can increase your chances of winning benefits.

And there’s no fee for your advocate until you win.

Learn More »

When in the Process Should I Get a Disability Advocate?

As soon as you realize you can’t work because of health problems and need financial assistance from Social Security Disability benefits, you can benefit from working with a professional disability advocate.

An experienced advocate can help you avoid mistakes in your initial application for benefits. Or if you apply and are denied—which happens frequently—your advocate can help you appeal and get another chance at life-changing benefits.

Learn More »