Disability Claimant’s Commonly Asked Questions

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal disability program for individuals over the age of 18, but under the age of 65, and who have paid into the Social Security system through income tax deductions.  An individual must have earned sufficient work credits to have insured status for SSDI. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program for individuals who are disabled, blind, or over 65.  To be eligible for SSI an individual does not have to have earned work credits.  However, the claimant’s income and resources must be below $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. 

There are many nuances to each program and attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help explain the reasons you may or may not qualify for each disability program.  A change in your status may affect your eligibility for benefits.  In order to get better representation, your attorney needs to know if you go back to work, go to school or other vocational training, move, want to file new applications, or get married or divorced, as these events could affect your eligibility to receive benefits.  

Why should I hire an attorney?

At Martone Law Firm you will meet with an attorney prior to seeing a judge in order to fully prepare for your administrative hearing.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help identify and remediate any issues in your claim, as well as gather information needed to prove your claim.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm are highly skilled and experienced, and since we are local we know the culture, providers, and judges in New Mexico.     

Attorneys can be difficult to reach over the telephone because we are doing the legal work on cases, including preparing for and attending disability hearings, writing legal memorandums, or studying recent changes in Social Security disability law.  If you need to come into the office to speak with an attorney, please call ahead to schedule an appointment so that we may better serve you.  We work for you and want to provide excellent service.  Our staff is available to discuss your needs and answer any questions you may have.  Our staff is experienced in disability cases and will discuss your questions or information with an attorney when times allows.  Our staff works closely with attorneys to ensure that your case is being handled properly. 

How can I afford an attorney?

There is no charge for our legal services unless you receive benefits.  Social Security sets the limit for how many an attorney can charge, which is no more than 25% of your back benefits upon a successful claim.  There are no upfront costs to hire an attorney.  In addition to 25% of your back benefits, an attorney may charge you for out-of-pocket expenses for collection of medical records, court filing fees, or evaluations.

We understand that finances can be a problem while we are working on your case.  We can discuss various assistance programs that you may be eligible for, but it is unethical for attorneys to make loans or give advances on benefits to clients. 

Can you make the process go faster?

An attorney may be able to help win your case, but an attorney cannot make the process go faster.  The application and appeals process is very slow.  At Martone Law Firm we ensure that all deadlines are met and avoid unnecessary delays. 

Why do I have to keep filling out the same forms?

At the initial application and reconsideration process DDS will send several forms for a claimant to complete.  These include work history reports, work activity reports, function reports, third party function reports, and various questionnaires about your particular condition.  A claimant’s failure to complete and return a form can result in a denial of their claim.  Many Administrative Law Judges review these forms and question the claimant about them at the hearing, looking for inconsistencies or lack of information about a condition they are claiming is disabling.  At Martone Law Firm, we can help you complete these forms with the accuracy and detail needed. 

What is “date last insured”?

The “date last insured” or (DLI) is the last date you are eligible to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Your DLI depends on when you last worked.  When you stop working your DLI is generally extends for 5 years.  If you apply for SSDI and your DLI has past, you must prove that the onset of your disability was prior to your DLI.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help you prove your disability even with remote DLI by gathering evidence necessary to show your condition was disabling back then and continues through the present. 

What is residual functional capacity?

Your residual functional capacity (RFC) is an assessment of your ability to do sustained work activity on a regular and continuing basis, generally 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent 40 hours a week work schedule.  The RFC assessment considers only limitations resulting from medically determinable impairments.  Your RFC is the most you can do despite your limitations.  Your RFC is usually the key to proving your disability, and considers both your physical and mental limitations in combination.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help gather the necessary evidence from your treating providers to document your limitations caused by your medical impairments. 

What is a consultative examination?

During the initial or reconsider process a claimant may be scheduled for a consultative examination.  A failure to attend a consultative examination could result in a denial of benefits.  Sometimes, an Administrative Law Judge may send a claimant for a consultative examination before making a determination.  Consultative examiners have contracts with Social Security and are often not specialists knowledgeable about your particular medical condition.  Social Security regulations require a general medical examination to last 30 minutes and a psychiatric examination about 40 minutes.  The written report from a consultative examiner can be damaging to a claim and may be based on incomplete information.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help identify any issues in a consultative examiner’s report, advocate for reasons why or why not a report should be considered, or provide the examiner with necessary documentation about your condition prior to the evaluation. 

How much will I receive if I am awarded benefits?

If you qualify for SSDI the amount of monthly benefit you are entitled to depends on the amount of tax deductions you paid into the Social Security system.  In order to identify how much you could be eligible for, Social Security provides an online log-in where you can check your work credits, and eligibility for SSDI.   

If you qualify for SSI, the maximum benefit in 2019 is $771 monthly.  This amount may be reduced based on other income or support you may be receiving.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help identify reasons why your SSI benefit is being reduced and whether or not an adjustment can be made. 

What happens at a hearing?

At an administrative hearing, the claimant is required to provide testimony under oath about their impairments and how those impairments result in functional limitations which prevent the individual from working, or if a child’s case that the child meets or equals a listing. 

Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help identify and remediate tough issues at a hearing. We are local and know the Administrative Law Judges in the Albuquerque Office of Hearings Operations, who travel throughout the state or hold video hearings to reach areas outside of Albuquerque.  Each Administrative Law Judge has a method to his or her hearing practices and knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the anxiety with the process.  Before you see a judge, you will meet with an attorney to ensure that you are prepared and that the judge has all the necessary information to make a fully informed decision.  

Contact Martone Law Firm today to see how our experience can benefit your claim for disability benefits.