I Won My Social Security Disability Case - Now What?


Anyone who has gone through the Social Security disability process knows how hard it is to win disability and SSI benefits. Finally getting the benefits is a big relief. But there is more to your benefits than a monthly check.

Show me the money!
Of course, the money is the most important thing. Social Security will decide when you first became disabled, which is your "onset date." Then they will decide what your back benefit amount is. Usually, you cannot get back benefits before the day you apply for SSI, or for more than a year before you apply for Social Security Disability. You cannot get Social Security Disability benefits until after you have been disabled for five months, so your five months of back benefits will be SSI. After that, you will get SSI, or disability, or a combination of both. This will depend on how much you have paid in to the Social Security system over time. If your back benefit payment is large enough, Social Security will pay you in up to three large checks spread out over time.

If an attorney represented you, the attorney may be entitled to a portion of the back benefits to pay attorney fees. Make sure your attorney gets the part of the back check owed to him or her. If Social Security accidentally gives this money to you, Social Security can ask you to pay the money back later. If you get SSI, and you owe people or agencies money you borrowed to pay your living expenses while your case was on appeal, let Social Security know. If you get SSI you also need to spend down the back benefits below the resource limit within nine months.

Does anyone else get paid?
Sometimes. Be sure to ask Social Security if your spouse or children are entitled to benefits off of your account. If you are paying child support, the Social Security benefits your children get may cover your support obligation, but only if you modify the child support order. If you have a caretaker, have them talk to DHS to see if they are entitled to any state money for caring for you.

Do I get any medical benefits?
Yes. Your Medicare coverage does not begin until you have been disabled for 24 months. Medicare will cover 80% of many medical expenses. If you get SSI, you will also be eligible for Medicaid. If you do not get SSI, you may be eligible for the "Medically Needy" benefits. This program covers medical bills above a spend down amount. The higher your benefit amount, the higher your spend down will be. The spend down is like an insurance deductible. You are responsible for paying the spend down and Medicaid covers the rest. Medicaid and Medically Needy benefits cover much of what Medicare will not cover.

Now that I am disabled, will Social Security ever look at my case again?
They probably will. Many disabilities are not permanent. Social Security will look at your file every now and then to see if you are still disabled. It is important to keep seeing your doctors and following through with treatment while you get benefits. If you stop getting treatment, it may look like you are no longer disabled. If Social Security reviews your case and says you are not disabled any more, you have the right to appeal. If you believe you are still disabled, and you appeal the decision within ten days, your benefits will continue during the appeal.

What if I get better and want to try going back to work again?
Social Security has a lot of information on work incentive programs if you want to try to work. For more information on Social Security work incentive programs, call 1-800-772-1213, or contact your local Social Security office.

Iowa Legal Aid assists people with Social Security issues. If you cannot afford a lawyer and have a legal problem in Iowa, call 1-800- 532-1275. Persons 60 or over may be able to get free legal advice from the Legal Hotline for Older Iowans at 1-800-992-8161.

Last Review and Update: Aug 11, 2011

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