After there has been an approval for your Social Security disability case, your journey doesn't end there. As a side note, many claimants complain that after their disability attorney wins their case, they never hear from them again. Well, don't take it personal. You hired that attorney to do one thing for you and he or she fulfilled their obligation. If you want them to hold your hand further down the road, you should probably expect to pay for their time. This would be no different than hiring a speeding ticket attorney and expecting them to counsel you on a piece of real estate you are attempting to sell.
Again, don't take it personal. Social Security disability attorneys are only paid if we win your case. We have hundreds of other clients just like yourself needing attention so they too can be successful and receive benefits.
So, what can you do if you win your case? Here's some quick pointers:
1. After receiving a favorable decision (especially after your hearing), call your local Social Security office and update all your information. This is especially true if you were only applying for SSI benefits. SSA will want to update your financial information to make sure you still qualify financially. Beware, just because the judge (ALJ) found you disabled, doesn't not mean you will receive any money. If your case is for SSI, then you are still going to have to qualify financially before receiving benefits. In either an SSI or an SSDI case, you still need to contact your local social security office and make sure they are not missing anything before they release funds.
2. Learn and understand the income limits you have after being found disabled. If you are on SSDI and you want to work, make sure your are not grossing above $1,130.00 (for 2016) per month. If you're on SSI, then you need to make sure your income and assets are under the statutory maximums or you'll be cut off as well. Remember, at any time you go over these limits, there is always the chance that your benefits will be suspended or cancelled. Further, if you continue over these limits, SSA may send you a letter explaining that you owe them for all the payments you received during that time. It is not uncommon for people to find out they owe $20,000 to $30,000.00.
3. Take the time to learn the difference between passive and active income. If you are getting older in age, and you have investments and real estate, etc., and you receive an income from these, understand that SSA may either deem them as passive income or income that you are actually working to earn. So, if it is passive, you likely will be able to receive unlimited amounts of income if you are on SSDI and you are not actively working to make that money. It is more complicated than this, but you need to understand what SSA determines as work and avoid this.
4. Keep going to the doctor. Like I just said, keep going to the doctor. Keep trying to get better, if there is a chance of doing so. But, even if your condition is not going to get better, still keep going to the doctor. Your case is likely to come back for review in the next two to three years, and if you have not been seeing your doctor, your benefits will stop after your review period. Most people placed on disability will be reviewed at one time or another, and your medical records need to be up to date.
5. If you move, or if you leave the state in which you are currently living in, you have to call SSA or send them notice in writing. Many people, after receiving disability, tend to change their lives dramatically. If you leave your state for 30 days and stay in another for that period of time, you are assumed to have moved. SSA doesn't like not knowing where you are. Further, states have different regulations and requirements of their own, which could get you in trouble if you are receiving food stamps, medicaid, etc.
6. If you do want to go back to work, try and do it through the Ticket To Work Program administered through SSA and your local state employment program. If you stay within the program and follow their rules, you can make a lot more money and still be considered to be disabled for a period of time. Then, that will let you decide whether or not you are capable of working or you need to return back to your disability status. If you don't enter into this program and you are earning too much money, you can't cry foul when SSA wants to kick you off disability and make you repay what you received. You can't go back and retroactively claim Ticket to Work. If you think you can work, get enrolled in this program first.
7. Better your life. Chances are when you were attempting to get on disability, those were some pretty lean times. In fact, you may have lost your car, your home, even your husband or wife (or significant other). If your case did take a long time (2 years or more and you won), then you likely received more money than you have in your entire life. Do something positive with it. Earn a new trade, go to school, do whatever it takes, so that when that day comes and your disability is finally cut-off, you're ready to reenter the workforce and get back to work. This is truly your time to make your life better in the future. But, and this is a big but, if you do enroll in some type of vocational program to be skilled once you do reenter the workforce, make sure you don't have to go through the Ticket To Work program as well. For example, if you claimed you have mental impairments and you are attending college, then you may find that if you did not notify SSA, your benefits could be terminated and you may owe money you received while doing so. While every case unique, it's always best to go to your local SSA office, sit down with a representative, and ask first before doing something. That way, you at least know the consequences of doing something before you do it.
If you need to reach us, you can always do so at: (888) 780-9125. We handle Social Security disability case throughout Texas and California.