Louisiana State Bar Association


1. How does an attorney get paid?

If you win your social security disability case, there are usually back benefits called back pay owed by the government. The attorney’s fee is 25 percent of the back pay. If the case is won at any level up to the Administrative Law Judge level the fee is subject to a cap.

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2. How long does the process take?

The length of time a social security case takes varies from person to person and may also depend on where that person lives. In general, if a person wins the case by decision of an Administrative Law Judge, right now the process is taking approximately between 12 and 18 months, but the case may take longer if the person is denied by the Administrative Law Judge and an appeal of the Judge’s decision is necessary.

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3. What is the process?

The process of applying for social security disability benefits begins by filing an application. Most people are turned down at the first step called the initial level and also at the second step called the reconsideration level. The next step is a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. If the Administrative Law Judge denies the case, an appeal may be taken to the Appeals Council, which is still within the Social Security Administration. Sometimes a case may even be appealed to Federal Court.

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4. How do I apply?

There are several ways to apply for Social Security disability:

If you are eligible for regular social security disability (SSDI) benefits you can apply online (, by doing a phone interview with someone at the Social Security office or by having an application mailed to you. Once the Social Security offices reopen after the pandemic, you can make an appointment to do an in person interview. In order to apply online, you must have access to a computer, laptop or tablet. You cannot complete the application on your phone.

If you are eligible for supplemental security income (SSI) then you must do a phone interview or an in-person interview once the Social Security offices reopen. You can start the SSI application online and put in your identifying information, but you cannot complete an SSI application online.

I recommend that you always apply for both SSDI and SSI. Question 24 of the online application asks if you want to also apply for SSI and the answer should be “yes” or, if you do a phone interview, tell the social security person that you want to apply for both SSDI and SSI.

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5. Is it important to be seeing a doctor?

Yes, critically important. In the process of determining whether a person is disabled an Administrative Law Judge looks at the medical records. Anything that is medically wrong with the person which keeps that person from working but is not in the current medical records, a Judge will not usually consider. For example, if a person testifies at the hearing that they have back pain but there are little to no current records about a back problem, the Judge will most likely ignore it.

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6. Will I have to be denied before talking to an attorney?

No. A claimant for social security disability benefits can consult with and hire an attorney at any time in the process, including before the application.

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7. How do I find out how much money I will get each month?

For regular social security disability (SSDI), the amount of money due in benefits is based on a formula derived from a person’s earnings over their lifetime. The Social Security Administration can tell you how much your benefit amount would be if you are determined disabled. Importantly, in order to qualify for SSDI the person must have worked enough in 20 out of the last 40 quarters (approximately 5 out of the last 10 years). If you haven’t paid in enough in 20 out of the last 40 quarters prior to the date you became disabled, your case will most likely be an SSI case. SSI is for people who have not paid in enough to the Social Security Administration. The SSI amount changes every year based on a cost of living adjustment. SSI eligibility is subject to income and resource limits, meaning that the SSI benefit is usually reduced by any income that person may have and assets are limited to $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple. If these asset limits are exceeded then that person will not be eligible for SSI. A spouse’s income is also taken into consideration. The income and resource limits have exceptions. For example, a house or land that a person lives on is not counted as an asset and one automobile is excluded.

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8. Can I receive early retirement while I apply for disability?

Yes. If you choose to receive early retirement while applying for social security disability benefits, and upon winning the case, the back pay will be the difference between the early retirement amount and the disability amount. However, it is important to know that if you do not win your disability case you will receive the early retirement amount for the rest of your life, which is usually significantly less than the full retirement amount. This can amount to an enormous amount of money over a lifetime.

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9. What is widow’s disability and how do I qualify for it?

Under certain circumstances you may receive disability benefits based on a deceased spouse’s social security number. First, you must apply. It is important to note that the people at social security often get widow’s disability and widow’s retirement confused. You can be eligible for widow’s disability benefits if you are between the ages of 50-59. Widow’s retirement can be received if you are age 60 or older. Sometimes someone at the Social Security Administration will inform an applicant that they are ineligible for widow’s disability because they are younger than age 60. This is incorrect and is a mistake made frequently. Also, to be eligible for widow’s disability the applicant must have become disabled within 7 years of the date of death of the spouse, unless that person received mother’s or father’s benefits, in which case it is 7 years from the time those mother’s or father’s benefits ended. There are other eligibility requirements for widow’s disability benefits, including how long that person was married. Even a divorced spouse can receive widow’s disability benefits if the marriage lasted 10 years or longer.

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10. Can you represent someone in another state?

Yes. Mr. Deus can represent someone seeking social security disability benefits anywhere in the United States and does so. It is not necessary to come to the office. Case workers are available to help with any questions or problems. During Covid, hearings are conducted by telephone or by video. After Covid, Mr. Deus will travel to the hearing site near you and represent you in person at the hearing as he did prior to the pandemic.

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11. Can I apply for disability if I haven’t worked 5 of the last 10 years?

Yes. You can apply for SSI. Also, under certain circumstances you can apply for SSDI (regular social security disability benefits) if you were previously receiving social security disability benefits. Any period of time that a person was previously receiving social security disability benefits is not counted in calculating 5 of the last 10 years (20 out of the last 40 quarters). Also, if a person has not worked 5 out of the last 10 years they can apply for widow’s disability benefits on a deceased spouse’s social security number.

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12. If I am receiving benefits from social security, can I get more if I become more disabled?

No. Social security disability benefits don’t vary depending on the level of disability.

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13. If I am receiving SSI can I reapply and get SSDI?

Usually not. However, occasionally someone getting SSI may become eligible for SSDI if they have some income while receiving benefits, such that they now have 20 out of the last 40 quarters paid.

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14. Can I get both SSI and SSDI?

Usually not because the two offset. If a person is getting SSDI, they usually cannot get SSI. An exception is if the SSDI amount is less than the SSI amount. For example, if the SSI amount is $794 and the person is only eligible for $500 in SSDI, then the person can get the difference in SSI up to the SSI amount.

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15. What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

SSDI benefits are based on a person’s earnings and the benefit amount depends on how much that person earned. There are no income or resource limits for SSDI. SSI is for people who are not paid up for SSDI and the amount is increased from year to year based on the cost of living index. SSI does have income and resource limits. Basically if a person is eligible for SSI, the benefit amount is reduced by whatever income that person has. Minor children living in the person’s household increase the income limits. The income of a spouse is also taken into account. There are also resource limits in that an individual cannot have resources (or assets) of $2000 or greater, or $3000 or greater for a couple. A house or land on which a person lives is not counted as a resource nor is one car or a person’s personal effects. There are other less common exceptions to the income and resource limits.

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16. If I feel like I didn’t get enough in benefits from social security, can I use a social security attorney to get increased benefits?

Usually not. If social security determines that you are disabled and you are receiving benefits, those benefits are usually calculated correctly. Social security does sometimes make mistakes and sometimes finds that a person became disabled later than that person feels they became disabled. In other words, in those circumstances there won’t be as much back pay. It is possible that an attorney may be interested in this type of case but usually not.

Client Reviews
My experience with Mr. Deus and staff was very pleasing. I am very happy with the service I received. I would recommend Mr. Deus law firm to everyone Tanya Esteve - Houma, LA
My case worker was very helpful with all my questions and called me back when he said he would. Mr. Deus was very thorough when he asked me about my condition. I would recommend him to my family and friends. The only regret I have is that I didn't call him sooner Donald Rapp - Zephyrhills, FL
Mr. Rod Deus is a very smart, kind and highly intelligent lawyer. The office staff is professional, knowledgeable and they always put the customer/client first. I strongly recommend that others choose Mr. Rod Deus for their attorney. Mr. Deus will give your case the respect, efficiency and promptness it deserves. Karen Palmer - New Orleans, LA
I am very grateful for all the support I received from Austin and Vanessa and attorney Rod Deus. I was successful in my social security case due to all the guidance received from Mr. Deus and the office staff. I could not have won the case without you. You are the best! Hector Santiago - Apopka, FL
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