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Find answers to frequently asked questions.

Question:
While an attorney is recommended is there any benefit to a client representing themselves? If the applicant is represented by an attorney (or other individual), does the applicant have an opportunity to speak for themselves or add to the proceedings?

No, it is our opinion that all applicants should be represented at the hearing by an individual who is knowledgeable about Social Security's decision-making process at the ALJ level, whether it be a lawyer, paralegal, or a SOAR case worker. Administrative Law Judges follow fairly strict rules about how to decide disability cases and what evidence can be considered. Although applicants can represent themselves “pro se” (i.e. “for oneself”), it is in their best interest to secure representation.  The applicant may find it difficult to learn enough about Social Security law to advocate for themselves professionally at the hearing.

Yes, the applicant will have a chance to speak for him/herself. The representative will ask the applicant questions which is called “direct examination.”  This gives the applicant a chance to tell his or her story. Also, the ALJ will often begin the hearing by asking the applicant questions. Remember, the ALJ level is the first time the applicant is seen face-to-face by SSA.  The earlier stages are paper reviews.

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Question:
Who do I contact to find out the status of a claim when the applicant is waiting for a hearing?

The second stage in the appeals process is when the applicant requests a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These hearings are scheduled through the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). Visit the SSA website to find the appropriate hearing office based on the applicant’s address, or ask your local SSA field office. 

You can also take a look at Prior or Pending Applications and other Appeals resources in the SOAR Library.

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Question:
Why would someone get two checks?

In certain circumstances, someone can get both SSI and SSDI. This happens when someone is approved for SSDI, but their monthly check is lower than the full SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR)*. This could be due to earning low wages throughout the employment history or limited recent work. In this case, the individual will receive SSI to supplement the payment to bring them up to the FBR. Since the Social Security Administration (SSA) discounts the first $20 of earned or unearned income an individual receives when calculating the SSI amount, a concurrent beneficiary will receive $20 above the SSI FBR.

*The Federal Benefit Rate changes annually and can be found at SSA Annual Updates.

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Question:
Why would someone have their SSI benefits check reduced by one-third?

It sounds like they may be living in a situation that SSA calls Living Arrangement B, which is when someone is living with a family member or friend and is receiving food and shelter at no cost. SSA calls that "in-kind support and maintenance" and generally reduces the individual's SSI check by one third.

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Question:
Would a child with a disability qualify for SSI if their foster parent makes good money?

In short, SSA does not look at the foster parents' income or resources. Once the child goes back home, (even if your agency maintains legal custody), SSA will look at the household income & resources of the parental household.

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Question:
Would someone who has life insurace policies with a cash value totaling $3,700 still be eligible for SSI?

SSA considers any life insurance policy with a face value of $1,500 or higher. The face value is how much insurance you're buying, (e.g., $5,000, $10,000, etc.). The cash value is what you'd get for the policy if you cashed it in.  Since this person’s policies are valued at $3,700, they are over the resource limit for an individual ($2,000). In order to fall below the resource limit, they would need to cash in one (or more) of the policies depending on what other resources they have.  They would need to use/spend that money to live on before becoming eligible for SSI.  

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