1. Who is eligible for disability benefits from Social Security?

    If you worked in recent years and paid enough in Social Security taxes and now your health makes it impossible for you to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

    Your health problems must be expected to last at least a year and must prevent you not only from doing your previous job, but any other kind of work, too.

    Social Security also has another disability program, called Supplemental Security Income – or SSI – which you could qualify for if you have a disability that prevents you from working, lack recent work history and have limited income or resources.

  2. My doctor says I am disabled so why is Social Security denying my disability claim?

    For the purposes of awarding benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has its own definition of “disability,” which could differ from your doctor’s.

    Social Security’s definition is strict compared to many medical professionals.

    It’s also possible your doctor hasn’t described your condition correctly to Social Security, and you in fact do qualify under the SSA’s rules.

    Doctors sometimes rush their reports, don’t know all the factors relevant to the SSA or don’t explain your case in a way the SSA claims examiner recognizes as a disability.

    Also, you could’ve left out some important information that would help you. For example, it’s important not to downplay the physical and mental demands of your previous job, leading the SSA to conclude your work wasn’t as demanding as it was.

  3. What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

    Social Security Disability Insurance covers you if you have substantial recent work history and you paid into the Social Security system through deductions from your paychecks.

    For Supplemental Security Income, you don’t need any recent work history or a record of paying into Social Security. SSI is for people with limited income and resources who cannot work because of health problems. It also provides benefits to children with disabilities.

  4. How long does it take to obtain my disability benefits once a claim for benefits is filed?

    A decision on your initial application can take several months.

    If you’re denied and you make an appeal, it can take many months more to get a hearing with an administrative law judge.

    The wait time varies depending on how many cases the hearing office has to process.

    In general, it can be very difficult to predict exactly how long it will take to hear a decision on your case.

    Because of the time it takes, it’s best to apply as soon as you realize health problems are going to keep you from work for at least a year.

    Additionally, if you wait too long, you can miss out on thousands of dollars in benefits for past months.

  5. What type of medical benefits/insurance will I receive?

    Social Security Disability Insurance provides monthly payments to you when you can no longer work because of medical conditions.

    It’s designed to help you cover basic living expenses when you suffer a loss of income because of health problems.

  6. Why do I need a lawyer to help me? Why should I hire Cunningham Law Group?

    Statistics from Social Security show that you have a better chance of winning benefits with help from a lawyer. Applying for disability is complicated. Most people are denied the first time they apply. A lawyer can ensure you make the strongest case.

    The attorneys at Cunningham Law Group make a point of working personally on your case and getting to know you as an individual.

    We’re dedicated to helping our neighbors from communities across southern Virginia. We are familiar with local services available to you in Virginia and have experience with local Social Security offices.

    At larger or national law firms, you may not even meet a lawyer in person until the day of your hearing with a judge.

  7. How much does it cost to hire Cunningham Law Group for my Social Security Disability claim?

    To determine if you have a case to begin with, Cunningham Law Group will evaluate your case free.

    Once you are a client of Cunningham Law Group, you do not pay any attorney fee unless you win your disability case.

    When you do win, our attorney fee is 25% of the past-due benefits, which Social Security awards you and your family when your benefits are approved.

    The Social Security Administration established the 25% fee as a rule for all attorneys who handle disability cases.

  8. Where is Cunningham Law Group located? Does Cunningham Law Group offer appointments?

    Cunningham Law Group has offices in Halifax and Hopewell.

    We encourage you to come to our offices, so we can meet you in person. With some law firms, you won’t see a lawyer until minutes before you have a hearing with a judge.

    You can make an appointment to meet with us. If it’s more convenient for you, we can also consult with you on the phone.

    We take extra care to make applying for disability benefits as comfortable as possible for you. In our Halifax office, we even have a video hearing center where you can come to talk to a judge, instead of going to a Social Security office, when you need to appeal your case.

    Few law firms offer that service.

    This is how you reach us in Halifax:

    Cunningham Law Group
    120 Edmunds Boulevard
    Halifax, VA 24558

    This is our Hopewell contact information:

    Cunningham Law Group
    500 Buren Street
    Hopewell, VA 23860

  9. How does Social Security determine whether I am disabled?

    Social Security considers you officially disabled if you cannot work because of health problems and your health problems are expected to last at least one year.

    Claims examiners with Social Security also will consider whether you could perform a new kind of work from what you did before.

    Social Security has a long list of physical and mental impairments that could potentially qualify you for benefits. But the most important factor is whether your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from working.

    You can learn more for free with a case evaluation from Cunningham Law Group.

  10. What are the important deadlines I need to watch?

    When you first need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the most important thing is to apply as soon as you can.

    Don’t hesitate, because waiting could mean you will miss out on benefits.

    If you’ve already applied and received a denial, Social Security has strict deadlines for when you must appeal.

    Often, it is within 60 days of receiving your denial letter. Missing deadlines when you appeal can cause significant delays in your case.

    The lawyers at Cunningham Law Group will make sure your application and appeal stay on track.

  11. If I win my case, how much money will I receive?

    Until you win a favorable decision, it’s impossible to know exactly how much money you will receive.

    For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the amount varies depending on how much you have worked and earned in the past.

    The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits program has a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. If you have some income, it reduces the amount of SSI you can receive.

  12. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

    Medicare is a health care insurance program run by the federal government that covers you if you are 65 or older, or you are young but have a severe disability.

    Medicaid is a health care assistance program that provides coverage for you at any age if your income falls under certain limits.

  13. If I applied but was denied, what should I do?

    First, don’t give up hope. Most people are denied the first time they apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

    If your claim is denied or you disagree with any part of the Social Security Administration’s decision, you may appeal the decision. Many claims are won on appeal.

    In Virginia, the appeals process has four steps:

    • Reconsideration – First, you can ask for another review by someone at Social Security who wasn’t involved in your first decision.
    • Appeals Council review – If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can ask for Social Security’s Appeals Council to reconsider your case.
    • Hearing before an administrative law judge – If you still get a denial after reconsideration, you can go to a judge, who holds a hearing on your case.
    • Federal Court – If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may appeal to the United States Court system.

    We strongly recommend hiring a lawyer to help you at every appeal level. Cunningham Law Group can file your appeal for you.

  14. What will happen at my hearing?

    When you are appealing a denial of Social Security Disability benefits and you go to a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), the judge will ask questions of you and other witnesses.

    The setting is fairly informal, but the judge will ask you about your work history and health limitations.

    Medical experts and vocational experts could testify about your case.

    Attorney Joel Cunningham, Jr. will prepare you to testify, question those experts on your behalf and present your arguments for winning disability benefits.

    Your hearing with a judge is an important moment in your case. It’s the only time you will meet face-to-face with someone who has decision-making authority on your claim.

  15. What is the difference between a lawyer and non-attorney advocate?

    Lawyers have more formal training and education in collecting evidence and building arguments than non-lawyer advocates.

    Advocates are not required to have legal training, although they can represent people in Social Security Disability cases.

    If your case reaches the stage where you need to appeal to U.S. District Court, you will need a lawyer who is licensed to practice in federal court to represent you.

  16. What if I cannot afford an attorney for my disability case?

    When bad health keeps you from working, it’s understandable for you to worry about how you will afford an attorney to seek disability benefits. Hiring an attorney sounds like an expensive thing to do.

    But there’s good news. Cunningham Law Group charges you no attorney fee unless you win benefits.

    When you do win, our attorney fee is 25% of the past-due benefits, which Social Security awards you and your family when your benefits are approved.

    The Social Security Administration established the 25% fee as a rule for all attorneys who handle disability cases.

    It also costs you nothing to learn more about whether you have a case. Cunningham Law Group will evaluate your situation for free.

  17. What information will my attorney need?

    For Social Security Disability cases, your attorney from Cunningham Law Group will ask you about your past jobs, when you could no longer work because of your health and details of your medical condition.

    You lawyer will ask about medical treatment you have received and collect medical records on your case.

  18. What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to get disability benefits?

    Hesitating to apply, or failing to appeal a denial promptly, are among the most common mistakes people make in the disability benefits process.

    The sooner you apply, the more benefits you can receive. Instead of taking time wondering if you qualify, get Cunningham Law Group to evaluate your case.

    There’s little risk for you to check with a professional, because we will evaluate your case for free.

  19. Does Cunningham Law Group offer telephone appointments?

    Yes, if it’s most convenient for you, you can consult with us by telephone.


  20. Am I eligible for disability benefits from Social Security?

    You must meet both medical and non-medical requirements to qualify for disability benefits.

    Medically, your health condition must be severe enough to keep you from full-time employment. And it must be expected to last at least a year.

    The non-medical rules vary based on the type of claim you have. They include factors such as your work history, income and assets.

    Social Security has thousands of rules governing disability benefits. The team at Cunningham Law Group can help you determine if you have a case Contact us for a free consultation on your particular situation.

  21. Can I collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits while I work?

    If you’re like most people, you would rather work than try to live on disability benefits.

    Some people continue to work part time while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. But you have to stay under a certain amount of work to receive benefits. The exact amount you can earn per month changes over time.

    The Social Security Administration has a threshold for “substantial gainful activity,” which you cannot exceed to qualify for benefits.

    Social Security also has a trial period where you can test out returning to work while still receiving benefits. Contact Cunningham Law Group for a free consultation of your case.

  22. How do I appeal?

    Your first step in appealing is to ask Social Security for a reconsideration of your Social Security Disability denial.

    You will need to submit forms and evidence to Social Security.

    Cunningham Law Group can manage the process for you, so you get everything correct and on time.

  23. Does my age matter when trying to receive disability benefits?

    Your age can make a difference.

    A major factor determining your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits is whether you can adapt to different kinds of work – such as less physically strenuous jobs.

    Over age 50, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers it harder for you to switch to a new kind of job. As your age advances beyond that, the SSA becomes even more lenient in deciding whether you should be able to adapt to new work.

    Every case is different. Contact Cunningham Law Group for a free consultation of your situation.

  24. Do I have a severe impairment?

    Social Security considers your impairment severe if it prevents you from doing the kind of work you did before and also stops you from doing a new kind of work.

    Information from your doctor and records of your medical treatment, combined with details of your job history, are key factors in determining if your impairment is severe.

    Cunningham Law Group will keep track of all this information for you.