For the over 10 million Americans who are disabled and unable to work, the Social Security Social Administration (“SSA”) provides billions of dollars in benefits each year through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).[1]

SSDI provides compensation to disabled workers who have contributed to the Social Security trust fund while working.  These contributions are measured on a credit system based on a person’s earnings (or those of a spouse or parent).  For each year of work, a person can receive a maximum of four work credits.  Each year, the SSA determines how much taxable income equates to a single credit.  For example, in 2019, workers earned one credit for every $1,360 in wages or self-employment income.[2]

Typically, an individual must accumulate the following to be eligible to receive SSDI benefits:

  • A minimum of forty lifetime credits; and
  • Twenty credits earned within the ten years preceding the date of disability.[3]

For low-income individuals who have not met these requirements, SSI benefits may be available.  The federal government allocates funds from general tax revenue for cash assistance payments to the aged, blind, and disabled.  To qualify, a disabled individual must have less than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for couples) and receive limited monthly income.[4]

Can I Collect both SSI and SSDI?

Many individuals are eligible for benefits under both the SSDI and SSI programs at the same time.  This is referred to as “concurrent” benefits.[5] To be duly eligible, you must meet the requirements of both programs, and the sum of both payments cannot exceed your highest SSI payment.  To streamline the application process, the SSA does not require that you apply separately for benefits; rather, if the SSA deems that you meet all eligibility conditions, they can issue an approval for the concurrent compensation.

How Do I Know if I am Disabled?

Over 215,000 Virginians are considered disabled and eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits.[6] The SSA’s definition of disability is different than other government programs.  Social Security only pays for total disability, excluding partial or short-term debilitating conditions.[7]

To qualify for SSDI, an adult individual must have a determinable physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

  • Results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity; and
  • Can be expected to result in death; or
  • Has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.[8]

The SSA utilizes the following five question analysis when making disability determinations:

  • Are you working? In 2019, if you are working and earn more than $1,220 per month, you are generally not considered disabled.
  • Is your condition severe? Your impairment must significantly limit the ability to accomplish basic work – such as lifting, walking, sitting, standing, or remembering – for a minimum of twelve months.
  • Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are considered so severe that they prevent individuals from performing substantial gainful activity. If you have a condition not included on the list, the SSA will have to decide if it is as severe as other medical conditions on the list.
  • Can you do the work you previously did? Your medical condition must prevent you from performing any of your past work.
  • Can you do any type of work? If you are incapable of performing past work activities, the SSA will look to see if there is other work you can perform despite your impairment(s). If you cannot perform other work, the SSA will most likely render you disabled.[9]

Under certain circumstances you may be able to work while receiving disability payments; however, these exceptions are very limited.  Because SSDI and SSI are designed to compensate for lost income from being unable to work, working is counterintuitive to the SSA’s intended purpose and can significantly compromise your ability to qualify and collect benefits.  Prior to commencing any job, we invite you to consult with experienced Blacksburg Social Security disability attorney Mark Hurt at our firm to ensure that you do not jeopardize your compensation eligibility.

How Much Can I Collect if I am Eligible for SSDI and SSI Benefits?

Disability benefits vary from person-to-person, in part because the SSA uses a complicated weighted formulate to calculate monthly compensation.  However, on average most people receive $1,233.70 per month.[10] For individuals who worked longer and contributed more substantially to the Social Security trust, benefit eligibility may extend to $2,861 per month.[11] However, if you are collecting other government benefits, the amount of SSDI may be affected.

How Do I Submit a Social Security Disability Claim?

You can apply for SSDI or SSI benefits online through the SSA website, www.ssa.gov, or you can schedule an appointment to have an SSA representative take your application information over the phone.

It is important to submit a claim as soon as possible because SSDI benefits will not begin until the sixth full month of disability, and the SSA waiting period does not begin until the first full month after the date in which they decide your disability began.  For SSI, benefits are available for the first full month after the date you file your claim, or, if later, the date you become eligible for SSI.[12] The disability application process can be lengthy, especially if the claim requires an appeal; therefore, the sooner you begin the process, the faster you may be able to collect.

While a person can file a claim on their own without the assistance of an attorney, those who do so often have a high initial rejection rate.  Almost three-quarters of all Social Security disability claims are initially denied, even though the person submitting the claim may been the medical test eligibility requirements.[13] If your claim is initially rejected, we can help you in appealing such denial.

Often, denials are based upon technical reasons such as incomplete claims, missing information, or other matters.[14] As an experienced Blacksburg, Virginia Social Security disability attorney, Mark Hurt has filed numerous claims on behalf of injured clients, he has gained extensive knowledge about the common reasons that claims are often denied, and he can use this knowledge to increase the chances that the initial claim will be approved without the necessity of an appeal.

How Much Does an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney Charge?

The federal regulations that apply to fees that can be charged in social security matters cap legal fees at 25% of the backpay amount (usually with a maximum of $6,000, except in certain circumstances a higher amount may apply).  Fees are not charged with respect to future disability income payments that are not yet due, do you will be able to keep 100% of such amounts.  Because our services are provided on a contingency fee basis, there is no fee if benefits are not awarded.

At the outset of our engagement, we will prepare a detailed fee fee agreement that discusses our fees and related costs.  With respect to costs, you will be responsible for those that are incurred in your matter, such as the costs to obtain medical records.

How Do I Appeal a SSDI Denial?

Those who have claims denied are entitled to request a reconsideration through the appeals process.  The appeal itself can involve different aspects depending upon why the claim was denied.  In most cases, claim denial is based on not satisfying the requirements for proving medical disability in accordance with the requirements, even though the person may be medically-eligible.  In these circumstances, during a reconsideration an independent physician will review your case and make an independent ruling.

If your claim is denied after the reconsideration, you will have sixty days to appeal and request a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.  An administrative hearing is much like a traditional legal trial – evidence is presented, witnesses are questioned under oath, and you are entitled to have a representative, such as an attorney, assist you.

Having a Virginia social security disability attorney who is experienced with handling appeals can be highly beneficial.  At our firm, founding attorney Mark Hurt will help you understand the appeals process, and he can also provide a strategic advantage by helping you put forth a case that will increase your chances for a favorable determination.

How We Help

We have more than three decades of legal experience focused on helping those injured obtain full and fair compensation.  We help Blacksburg residents and others file for SSDI and SSI benefits and appeal wrongful denials in seeking to secure the compensation they rightfully deserve.  If you believe that you are entitled to social security disability benefits, we invite you to call our office today to schedule a free consultation and learn about the social security disability benefits, the types of compensation for which you may be eligible, and how we can help.


[1] Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, Social Security Administration (Oct. 2019), https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2018/index.html.

[2] Benefits Planner: Disability | How You Qualify, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html.

[3] If an individual becomes disabled at a younger age, less work credits may be required to qualify for benefits.

[4] Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Eligibility Requirements – 2019 Edition, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-eligibility-ussi.htm

[5] 2019 Red Book, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/supportsexample.htm.

[6] Annual Statistical Report on The Social Security Disability Insurance Program, SSA (2018), https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/ssi_asr/2018/ssi_asr18.pdf. (4.3% of the almost 5 million Virginia residents collect SSDI).

[7] Benefits Planner: Disability |How You Qualify, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html.

[8] Benefits Planner: Disability |How You Qualify, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html.

[9] Benefits Planner: Disability |How You Qualify, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html.

[10] Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, Social Security Administration (Oct. 2019), https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2018/index.html.

[11] Disability Benefits, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf.

[12] Disability Determination Process, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability.html.

[13] Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2018/sect04.pdf.

[14] Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits, SSA, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2018/sect04.pdf.