Social Security Benefits are provided by the US government for people with disabilities to support them while they are unable to be employed. Who can apply for social security disability benefits? How much does social security disability pay? How not to be trapped in social security fraud? These and more questions are raised among many consumers.

To help you answer your top Social Security Disability FAQs, PissedConsumer interviewed Jerry Zivic J.D., a Media Commentator and Best Selling Author who has years of experience as a Social Security Disability Attorney.

If you believe that you're unable to do any kind of work for any type of reason, you should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.

In our video interview, Jerry Zivic J.D. shares his expertise and things you should know about Social Security for Disability. 

Below are the top Social Security Disability questions discussed with an expert:

Jerry Zivic: If you're watching this, I'm sure you have an interest in Social Security Disability. Before we start the interview, I wanted to go over the highlights of what you'll be able to find in this interview. There's a lot of interesting and very meaty advice that you can find.

We're going to talk about how to qualify for Social Security Disability, a thumbnail definition of what Social Security Disability really is, how sick you have to be, how and when to file a claim, when or if you need to hire an attorney. The best way to help Social Security find in favor of you and pay you your money as quickly as possible.

What you need to have to submit to Social Security. How to keep your Social Security benefits. Tips about how to best use medical records. The relationship between your private long-term disability insurance company, and Social Security Disability, and how to protect yourself from Social Security scams.

What is Social Security Disability?

Mike Podolsky: Guys, I'm presenting to you Jerry Zivic who has been a Social Security for Disabilities Attorney for years. I'll let him speak about it. We will talk today about Social Security for Disability and Jerry's book.

We will touch upon different areas of consumers that need SSD for their livelihood, for their income. Jerry will answer some questions that we've got from our consumers.

Jerry Zivic:  Hi, my name is Jerry Zivic. For over 30 years, I practiced Social Security Disability Law. And actually, my office, Zivic Solutions, appeared in every state across the United States. And I'm very proud of what I did over 30 years. We helped an extraordinary number of people, and to this day, my work impacts people's lives. Because of the work I did, people were able to get health insurance, Medicare. People were able to put food on their tables. People were able to put a roof over their heads. It was just really a gratifying work.

Mike: Thank you, Jerry. So what is Social Security for Disabilities?

Jerry: No agency touches upon people more than the Social Security Administration. Not everybody pays taxes. But if you work, you're paying a Social Security tax. When you get your paycheck, everybody knows something. They see FICA. Well, FICA is your Social Security premium. 

Most times, when you talk about Social Security, people think, "Oh, it's my retirement benefit." Well, Social Security is really a lot more than just a retirement benefit.

They have a program, disability program, and there are two parts to this disability program. There's Title II and there's Title XVI. Title II is for people that have worked during their lives, and they gather what is known as quarters of coverage. 

For every three months that you work, you gain a quarter of coverage. You have to make a certain amount of money in order to get that quarter of coverage and put it into the system. It's like paying an insurance premium. You pay for the insurance, you get the policy.

Title XVI, which is commonly known as SSI, these are for people that really haven't had jobs and they have very few resources. And so those are the two basic disability programs. And when you combine both programs, Title II and Title XVI, in the United States, there are probably... Trying to get an exact statistic, but over 15 million people are collecting these types of benefits, and the number will only go up now. We're in a recession. The last time we had a recession, the numbers went up dramatically.

I'm certain that the numbers are going to go up dramatically now because sometimes people have jobs. And they have what was once known as sympathetic employment. They've had a job and their employer's known them for a long time, and they make a lot of accommodations to keep them on the job.

But because of their age, they're never going to be able to find another job. If you're 62 and you had all these accommodations for a company you worked for 25 or 30 years, it's very hard for another employer to make accommodations. So you'll never get another job. So these people are now probably filing for Social Security Disability as well. And then depending on their problems, they might actually be eligible for it.

What Does It Mean to Be Disabled According to Social Security?

Mike: So what does it mean to be disabled according to Social Security?

Jerry: Okay. Well, to be disabled according to the Social Security Administration, they have a very long definition but I've been able to boil it down to a thumbnail definition unless you want to go through all the steps.

I don't think you're looking for a nap this afternoon. What does it say about my life that I know all this stuff, though? But the thumbnail definition is the inability to do any kind of work for a period of a year or more. In other words, you're not able to do any type of work because it's physical or mental. And it can be either a physical or mental impairment, or it can be a combination of those two impairments.

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Mike: If a person feels that they are entitled to Social Security for Disabilities, what should be the first steps? How should a person go about applying for Social Security for Disabilities?

Jerry: Well, I think the first thing that you should do, I think you should determine whether or not you're capable of doing anything at all for a period of a year or more. A lot of times, when I was working as an attorney, people would call me and they would say, "Well, I can't do my old job.

Well, it's not whether or not you can do your past job. It's whether or not you can do anything at all. Let's say you take a carpenter. He can't lift two by fours anymore. But does he have a skill? Can he do something else? And it's not whether or not somebody will hire you even. It's only whether or not you have the capability to do that work.

Tip: Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits if you you are unable to do any kind of work for year

So if you believe that you're unable to do any kind of work for any type of reason, you should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits. And what I really want to stress, what is really important, it's hard to know, am I going to be sick for a whole year or not?

But the point is Social Security, it's not an easy benefit to get. And better, you should get in line now to have them start to work on your case because it's going to take a while. The average time the last I looked across the country, it's probably up almost two years for them to resolve your case.

This is not something quick. Some people get lucky and they get paid right away. It's not necessarily the case. So you want to file. Doesn't cost anything to file. There's nothing that stops you from withdrawing your case.

If you make recovery, you just send your Social Security letters saying, "Hey, I'm all good. Thanks for your help." I mean, they work for us. We all pay taxes. So there's nothing wrong with filing the claim. There's a couple of ways to file a claim.

The way social security encourages people to do it, they encourage you to do it online. For myself, I'm not a big believer in doing it online. I'm petrified of endless hacking. And Social Security has problems with hacking. And it's a tip I can give people later on what they should do to protect their retirement benefit. But they're going to encourage you to do it online because it's the easiest for them.

Tip: Print out Social Security Disability forms instead of filing online

What you can do is you can go online, and you can print up the forms. And then what I encourage people is to print up the forms you need. Then take your time. Sit down at a table or a desk. Write out all the answers. And then what I encourage people to do is mail it to Social Security.

You can't go into a district office right now, only if there's a dire need that you need to go in because of the pandemic. They've closed all their offices. So you just can't go in. But really, this is the best way to do it anyway because you have your time. You take your time. You fill it out carefully, and you mail it.

Tip: Call Social Security to apply by phone

The other way to do it is you can call them up at 1-800-772-1213. They're required to take your application by phone. They will give you a hard time doing this, okay? Because that's just the way they are. They have all kinds of rules.

And in my 30 years of experience, and I found that they routinely have a very difficult time following a lot of their rules.

...know your rights and exercise those. Remember, at the end of the day… these people work for us. We're taxpayers, and they're supposed to be there to help us.

 So if you're having a difficult time, I wouldn't even encourage asking for a supervisor. Just hang up and call again because we're all experiencing this life. We all have problems. We all are calling customer service for some reason.

And you just know that there are some people that are really helpful and some people that aren't. So if you're just getting one of those people that aren't going to help you, just give it up and start over.

Mike: Your recommendation is if you get a person on the line with you that is not helpful, just hang up and call back again to the same number trying to get another person. That's a very interesting comment. And you said calling the manager will not help.

Jerry: Well, what will end up happening and I'm sure you experienced this in other parts of your life, you know when you're unhappy with your customer service rep, "Oh, can I talk to your supervisor?" And you'll wait 10 minutes, and you'll wait 15 minutes. And ultimately, what happens to the call? You tell me, Michael.

Mike: It drops. Yes, I know.

Jerry: Yeah. The call is going to be dropped. So you will have spent an hour or so of your life going nowhere. So just keep calling back until you get somebody that really you feel knows how to help you. 

But that's why I'm a big believer. Go online. Google Social Security Disability forms and Google knows what this is. They will take you. They will give you all the form numbers that you need, print them up, and write them out. 

Tip: Fill out the print form, make a copy, and send it by mail

That way, you'll have a copy of what you sent in. You won't be wondering, "Oh, I send it off on the internet." And everybody thinks if it goes on the internet, it's good to go. But things get lost in cyberspace. I analogize it to a sock in the dryer. Things just disappear sometimes.

So if you file your application, and when you file your application by mail, do it in a way where you can prove delivery of that item. And people will routinely say, "Well, I'm going to use certified mail."

If I had a nickel for every time I never got the green card back from the certified mail, then I can't tell you how much money I would have. But it would be a substantial amount of money. 

Tip: Use certified mail like UPS Ground to get proof it was delivered

I'm a big believer in United Parcel ground. You get proof it was delivered. And it's important. And whenever you deal with Social Security, and whenever you want to make sure you're filing something with Social Security.

Even though it's an expense, and even though it's going to take time, do it in a way where you have proof of delivery because the number of times when people lose and you're filing an appeal, or you need to prove that something's there, endlessly, Social Security will say, "Oh, we don't have that document. You never sent it in."

 And then you can say, "Well, I've got something here. I've got a green card, or I've got something from UPS that says Susie signed for this on November 1st, someday." "Oh, here it is, we found it." So you have to protect yourself. It's a situation. And I think you can analogize this to anytime you deal with any government agency. You want to do their job for them. You want to lay it out.

Maybe it's a jaded view, but it works. You want to lay it out. You want to make it in a way that it's very easy for them to do their job. So it's there, it's printed up, and you've got proof it's there. And then they can't argue with you.

how to apply for social security disability

What Do I Do if Social Security Disability Is Denied?

Mike: Once you mailed all your documentation in and let's say Social Security does not agree as to your statements, they're not giving you Social Security for Disability, who do you turn to? 

If you are retired, who would you recommend people to go to? Can an attorney help? Or maybe your firm is still working. Where shall people go to try to defend their rights?

Jerry: Well, I think what you want to do is you want to realize this whole process, it's sort of like baking a cake. You have to add certain ingredients in order for the cake to come out correctly. And it starts actually at the very beginning.

It would be great if you could hire an attorney at the beginning of the process. But I don't know necessarily that's the best thing for people to do quite frankly because they're sort of like a push and a pull. Attorneys get paid out of past-due benefits owed, and it's capped at a certain number. So in a way, there's a bit of a disincentive for an attorney to really want to pursue your case vigorously in the beginning because it will earn less money.

And if you think about it, why should you go out and hire an attorney in the beginning, this is a government agency. The government agency is supposed to work for us. Let's do what it takes. So maybe it'll work to our advantage.

Tip: Collect all your evidence for Social Security yourself

But let's set them up in such a way that we can make sure that they can pay the case. So what you want to do is you want to collect all your evidence yourself for Social Security.

By law, Social Security is supposed to collect evidence for you. You're supposed to give them a list of all the doctors and all your medical providers that have treated you for your problem. And they're supposed to go out and get those records.

Well, let me tell you, in reality, they're very weak at doing that. So what you should do is you should go out and you should collect your own records. Make a copy before you send them up and send them into Social Security yourself.

And if you really want to do yourself a favor, you want to outline what's in... Here's a 20-page record of something.

Tip: Keep notes on your visits to doctors and boil your evidence to a paragraph to stick on top of your documents

There are all these test results and things like that. Boil it down to a paragraph or two, and stick it right on top of that document because that way, when somebody is reviewing their file, they say, "Huh, there's Jerry's disability. I can rule on this very, very quickly because he's outlining this for me.” 

And if you'll do that work for them, you'll do yourself a big favor. And I will suggest to you right now too and to anybody…

...whenever you go to any medical provider, you should always keep a record of where you've been for any kind of treatment. Because let's say five or six years from now, you determine that you really were sick at this time, you just didn't realize it.

Are you going to remember you saw Dr. X, Dr. Y, Dr. Z? Absolutely not, you won't remember. But if you keep an ongoing record of where you've been, then you'll always know about it, where you've been.

And I actually think you should buy yourself one of those cheap spiral notebooks that we used to use in high school. And just make a note. "I went to see Dr. Jones for whatever." Even a dentist. Every medicine you take. 

Tip: Get printouts of all the medications you’ve taken

Actually, medicines, every year, you should go to your pharmacy, wherever you're getting any medications, and get a printout of all the medications you've taken for that year. Just put it away. Hopefully, you'll never need it. But if you're going back, you'll never remember and you'll never be able to get a complete record.

Tip: Always ask a copy of your medical records when examined.

And also, I'm a big believer that whenever anybody goes to the doctor now, they should say, "I want a copy of my medical records." They'll look at you like you're crazy. Think about this. Most people, when they go to the doctor, they spend more time on their computer nowadays than actually examining you. So they have these records. 

...ask for it right then and there because when you ask for it a year from now or two years from now, oh, that's going to cost you $5 million to get that record even though it's all computerized.

They've turned it into a money-making process. There are companies out there that do nothing but copy medical records for doctors' offices. And everybody is making money off you, the patient. These are records that you bought and paid for when you went in. Why should you be charged again?

But if you're in a situation where you have to pay for medical records later, understand this, most doctors' offices, not most, a lot of doctors' offices, and a lot of these record copying companies overcharge.

Almost every state in the union has a law that says if you're using these medical records to apply for Social Security Disability, there's a cap on what they can charge. If you're in Alabama or if you're in Illinois, you should look at what the state allows doctors to charge in a situation like that.

So don't be overcharged for those records, but just get the records right away. And just make them a part of your life when you go. You'll either use them or you won't use them. They didn't cost a lot.

How Long Does Social Security for Disability Last?

Mike: So Social Security for Disability at some age converts to normal Social Security. Or once the person reaches 65 or 67, it converts. Is it correct?

Jerry: You are correct. And it used to be 65. It's a moving target now. They call it retirement age. Whenever that current retirement age is, which is a moving target now, could be 80 by two years. Who knows? But we can talk about that philosophically for a long period of time

So you can't get disability and your retirement benefit. It's one or the other. So whatever your retirement age is, it converts automatically. You will become eligible for Medicare. But there's a caveat on that Medicare and it's so unfair. You're entitled to that Medicare two years after your onset date. 

So it's a situation where you have to wait a period of time until you're eligible for Medicare. So you're without care. You're without health insurance. So you have to take care of yourself. 

Mike: Let’s say you apply for Social Security today. You have to wait for two years for your application to be approved. And that is when you mentioned the onset date, from the time of the application, or is that from the time when the Social Security for Disability was actually given?

Jerry: It's the time they determine that you... The day they determined you became disabled. So let's say you became disabled on June 30th. Then you apply for benefits on January 1st the following year. And if they determine that you became disabled from June 30th, so it's a period of time, the waiting period is from that time, from June 30th until the waiting period is up, not from the date you filed.

"How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Benefits" - Introducing the Book

Mike: Jerry, you have created the book. What are you trying to achieve with the book?

Jerry: There you go. I actually have the book. I'm very proud of this book, I actually wrote it with my son. A book on “How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Benefits.” I mean, as you can see, we're just touching the very surface.

We're at the foothills of what's a really big mountain here. And how to keep your benefits, it's very important. We noted in this book, the day you start to work to keep your benefits is the day you get your benefits.

And people think, "Well, I have my Social Security Disability." It's not a lifetime benefit. By law, Social Security is required to review these cases every few years. The actuality of it is they don't do it a lot of times because they don't have the money to do that.

Every now and then, they get the... Subject to politics or whatever, they all worked up and they started to review claims. In theory, they're reviewing a million claims each year. And the kicker with when your case is reviewed is you cannot hire somebody to help you keep your benefits. And so you're stuck to do this on your own.

And somebody might say, "What do you mean I can't hire an attorney to help me?" Well, the reality of it is, when you get a note, you're going to get a letter from Social Security saying, "Dear Mr. Jones, we're reviewing your case. You have 10 days to decide. Do you want to keep your benefits coming while we review your case or do you want us to stop making these payments, and if you win, we'll pay them to you later?"

Well, most people on Social Security Disability need to keep that monthly money coming in. So you're in a situation where you have money that's coming all the time. So there's no back benefit.

If you remember, we talked about attorneys getting paid out of back benefits and there's a disincentive? Well, there's no back benefit to paying an attorney if he wins your case. So if there's no back benefit to pay an attorney, that attorney's chance of getting paid is very slim because most people on disability are on a budget.

So let's say they win their case. They're not going to be able to pay somebody, say $50 a month even to make up for a $4,000 fee or a $5,000 fee. So because there's no way to get paid, no attorney that understands this area of the law will actually take the case.

Tip: Don’t pay any fees upfront

And what you have to run from, and I've seen this over the years, people will call me and say, "I had an attorney wanting to charge me a $2,000 retainer they take this case." Run from this person.

All fees that any attorney charges on a Social Security case, they have to be approved by the government.

So you can't charge money upfront because it's not an approved fee. So that person clearly doesn't understand what's going on. Now, there are nuances and ways to put maybe money in escrow and things like that. But it gets very overly complicated.

So you're in a situation where you have to help yourself. And so going back to that spiral notebook I talked about, if you're awarded your benefit, you want to keep a record of everywhere you've been. You want to know what it is. You want to have those records.

So when Social Security comes to review your claim, you want to be able to sit there and say, "Here are my records. I have been seeing my doctor every three months for the past four years. And he still says I'm not able to work."

But what's interesting is records alone aren't enough. You want to be in a situation where you focus on Social Security. They have to determine what's known as your residual functional capacity. They want to determine whether or not you can do another kind of work. They want to determine whether or not... 

They have these things called listings of impairments. Whether or not you actually meet the medical listings of impairments.So as part of the book that my son and I wrote, we have the third volume, it's called The Forms Library. It's a big Forms Library here. And you can only get this one in paperback.

Over 20 different forms for over 20 different impairments. It's 127 pages of forms. These forms are designed to be medical provider or doctor specific. So all they have to do is put a check, a yes, no, write a word or two, fill in a number. So they don't have to spend a lot of time completing a form because doctors don't like to complete forms. Which is really unfair too if you think about it.

Tip: Help yourself, get the form for a doctor to fill out

It's part of practicing medicine and you being able to have health insurance, which you're eligible for Medicare if you're on Social Security Disability. It's part of your well being. But you want to get this form book, and you want to be in a situation where you can rip out the form and say, "Here, Doctor, all you have to do is fill out this form." And it's all easy for them.

I don't think a lot of attorneys' offices are set up to help people from filing an initial claim. As I said before, I think there's a distance out of there. And I think you want to be in a situation where there's no reason you can't help yourself.

Because if you go out and get all your records, and you file all this, then you're doing whatever an attorney could do. And an attorney and people would routinely call me up because as I alluded to earlier, there are these huge waiting periods, delays with Social Security.

Well, how come it's taking so long for my case? And I must have easily spent 20% to 30% of the calls we got, explaining to people that there are just these huge delays. And in fact, we put into our instructions. We explained right away that there are huge delays and it could take years.

Tip: Make it easy for them to process your claim

But as much as you try and let people know, they still need their money, and they still need their help. So if you apply for this yourself, Enhanced Social Security, everything, you've made it easy for them to process your claim.

In other words, here are all my medical records. You don't have to write to this doctor. You don't have to write to that hospital. Here it is. You can make a decision. You file your claim with Social Security.

Who makes that decision? Not Social Security. Every state has what's known as a Disability Determination Service. Okay? There's one in Florida. There's one in Georgia. Everyone has their own Disability Determination Service. And they're all run a little bit differently, which is one of the problems with Social Security.

Somebody that's let's say not disabled in Texas could be disabled in Ohio with the same problems for whatever reasons. So think about this. You don't have one Disability Determination Service. You have 50 for all 50 states.

You file your claim and then it goes to someplace else to get determined. Talk about a Byzantine way of doing things. That's really a strange way of doing that. But you want to be in a situation where somebody can pick it up. It's human nature. Here's this file. Oh, here's all the medical. I can rule it yes or no.

Even if it's no, you're ahead of the game because then they can move forward on this case. But if you're waiting for them to have to send for records, and then a doctor's office is going to send them... Well, we'll send you the records when we get our money. And it's just months and months of extra layers of waiting. 

Just take the bull by the horns. Be your own best advocate. And everything you need, send it to these people. Give them an outline. And remember, tell them why you can't do anything at all.

Mike: I have a follow-up question. So if someone in Ohio received the Social Security for Disability, but they choose to move to Florida, are they going to lose their Social Security Disability while doing that, or are they going to keep it?

Jerry: No, it's a federal program. And you can actually move out of the country and get your Social Security Disability. So once you're awarded the benefits subject to the continuing disability review that you will get, once you get that disability, you can go anywhere or you can move even while your claim is pending. 

Routinely, people would move states. That's one of the reasons my office was all across the country. People would move. People relocate. We have a very fluid society.

How to keep social security disability benefits

What Are the Common Social Security Scams?

Mike: Jerry, another question. Not everyone is truthful. I'm sure some people are running Social Security scams, applying for the Social Security for Disability when they're not eligible. Can you share some stories?

Jerry: I have one story once. Let me first preface this. There is a fraud but there's fraud in every situation. But it's not anywhere near as bad as people would think it is. And Social Security is actually working. Working better, rooting out fraud.

They're still a long way from doing something. But once, I had a guy that applied for Social Security Disability. And then we had to draft the case when we found out he won a golf tournament. And then I was at the case somewhere, it turns out that the claimant actually golfed with the judge's wife.

But just because you're golfing doesn't necessarily mean you're disabled. I actually had a situation once where I was able to get a disability for somebody that was a marathoner. This person had MS, and there's a dysmyelinating nature of MS where it goes in the comp.

So if you've got MS where it's really bad most of the year, you really can't do anything. If you had a good couple of weeks or whatever, and you ran a marathon, it doesn't necessarily mean you can work. So those are such situations there.

There are companies that actually are detectives. There's a synergy where you can get disability insurance from a private insurance carrier. And it used to be that when you go out on sick pay, let's say you work for a big Fortune 500 company. First, there's a short-term disability, and then there's a long-term disability.

Almost all of these long-term disability payments are insured by an insurance company. A big insurance company, MetLife, Cigna, somebody like that is insuring that disability. They will hire detective companies to actually watch people sometimes to make sure that that person is not engaging in activities that will actually preclude them from working.

And that's actually something that the taxpayers need to realize. It's sort of bizarre. So you're working for a big company. You're getting what's known as sick pay. But the sick pay is really being funded by an insurance company. Part of the agreement that the insurance company has with the company that they're insuring is they have the right to require the people that are applying for long-term disability, that they're required to apply for Social Security Disability.

Now, think about that. So the taxpayers are actually helping the private insurance companies because if you get Social Security Disability, they're not going to pay you the amount that the government is paying you.

And so let's say you're getting $1,000. It's an easy example. And you get $700 from Social Security. That company then is saving $700 a month. And if you'll take, say, a 50-year old person that was going to work for the next 15 or 16 years, take that money and be an actuary, that's worth a lot of money to an insurance company.

So we have a system actually where the taxpayers are helping private insurance and nobody seems to look at this situation. It doesn't seem correct or fair that we, the taxpayers, are helping fund private insurance companies pay the disability premiums that they owe.

Mike: That's a very interesting example. Yeah. So you're saying long-term disability insurer is putting the weight of the expense on the taxpayers?

Jerry: When they can. Almost all long-term disability policies require you to apply for Social Security Disability, and they're saving all of that money.

Mike: So am I right to assume that the long-term disability insurer will be interested to provide an attorney that will be defending your case?

Jerry: There are attorneys and companies out there that help get that money. It's not a good situation, I don't think. And I think if you're going to do that, there should be a different set of rules for them to play by.

In other words, if you have a private insurance company that stands to benefit instead of having the government pay for records and instead of having the government do all this, the burden should be upon the insurance company to foot some of that bill for those costs.

It's just good business. And think about it. They'd probably be happy to do it because as I said, from an actuarial basis, this is worth a fortune to them to get... Especially a younger person that they're showing out $2,000 a month for years to come, it's worth a lot of money.

So maybe I think they'd be happy to pay but they don't have to. They sit back and they let the government do everything for them. So we're all endlessly inundated with spam emails, with phone calls. My mobile carrier now actually lets me know when it's a scammer or it's a scam likely. My favorite friend calls me all the time.

Tip: Social Security will never threaten you with legal action

The scammers have ways to impersonate the government. And you'll get a call and they'll say from the Social Security Administration. Understand, Social Security will never threaten you with arrest or legal action if you don't pay a fine. It just doesn't happen. 

If somebody calls you from Social Security, never ever give out your Social Security number. Never ever even answer with your name...

…because somebody will record, "What's your name?" "My name is Jerry." "What's your last name?" "Zivic." And they'll put it together and use it for something else.

Tell whoever it is from Social Security that you want to be in a situation where you want them to write you the old fashioned way, snail mail. Never trust an email from Social Security. There are endless phishing ways for them to send you stuff where somebody is looking for your information.

Tip: Social Security will not send you an email, they will not ask you for money or a debit card

And understand, no company or anybody can ever promise you that you're going to get a benefit if you pay money. Social Security is never going to ask you to wire transfer or inter-transfer or send them a debit card. They're not going to do that. No company is ever going to ask you to demand secrecy for handling a Social Security related problem.

And as I said, letters just don't come by email. Do everything snail mail, and make sure that you're actually writing or responding to an appropriate Social Security component. I actually recommend if you get a snail mail letter, I would mail it back. 

Once again, proof that you delivered this to the local district office. I would mail it there and let them process it because you know. You can actually see that office. You can see the Social Security Administration on the door there because if you're mailing it somewhere, Baltimore or Virginia, you're assuming, "Well, it's near the government." It might not be necessarily so. So why not be extra careful?

Tip: Don’t give out your Social Security number

So anytime you see anything from the government, don't even bother to answer. That's for any kind of scam. Don't answer any number that you don't recognize. So just know that don't ever give out your Social Security number. 

And don't ever even open up an email that says it's from Social Security because there's probably all kinds of malware and stuff on there. So it's a big problem with fraud. You can get your own Social Security account online.

Because if you create your online account underneath your own Social Security number, you will have that password. So nobody else can pretend to be you because we can all go find your birthday and I can find your Social Security number. It's all out there. But what I can't find is I can't find your password.

So somebody can impersonate you to have access to your online Social Security account. But if you go out and claim your own account, and with your own password, nobody else can claim that or take it out from under you.

So that's a way to protect you, as well as what you want to do too. I'm sure you have all your credit accounts frozen. Correct?

Mike: The credit agencies, you mean. Yes, yes.

Jerry: Okay. As long as you have that frozen, it's good. And you want to do it for all your kids, your spouse, everybody. Just claim it, be done. And that way, nobody else can pretend to be you.

With Social Security, one wants to be able to electronically transfer your retirement benefit into your checking account. Okay, that's fine. But the problem that's happening is your checking account is in the electronic universe. And once things are going over the electronic universe, you're subject to being hacked.

So number one, your money can be hacked on the way to your checking account. That's a possibility. But even worse, it's a situation where that hacker can follow your money into your checking account.

Tip: Get a separate checking account for Social Security Disability benefits and for your retirement benefits

So I recommend everybody have a separate checking account simply for their Social Security and retirement benefit, or disability benefit as well. A separate account, nothing else in there. 

Wherever your money is, if you commingle them with other money, whenever a hacker follows that trail in, could then clear out all your account. So if you have a single designated account, the only thing you're going to lose is that monthly benefit check.

Now, take a step even further. Don't ever do an electronic transfer out of that account. Do it the old fashioned way. Remember, we used to actually have printed checks and we'd write a check and we'd mail it or walk it over or do something.

I think you want to be in a situation where you want to be your own best advocate for Social Security Disability. Because even if you go out and hire an attorney, you want to be in a situation to make that person's job easier. Here are all my records. Here's everything I need. Remember to put in your medications.

How Do I Get Social Security for Mental Disability?

Jerry: A lot of times, people are reluctant to say that they have an emotional problem. If you have an emotional problem and you've been treated for it, admit it. Admit it. Now, let's say a lot of times, it's very difficult to get mental healthcare in this country.

It's near impossible to get mental healthcare. So if you can't afford mental healthcare, then what you have to do is you have to keep a record. "Well, I tried to call the county. I tried to call the city. I tried to call the township and they weren't able to help me." So you can explain away why you can't get any mental healthcare. It's not that you didn't try. It's that you're not able to get it.

Keep track of why you can't do this. You want to make sure that you have your list of all your medications. Just remember, almost every medication has got a side effect. And a lot of those side effects impact on your ability. They make you tired or they make you nervous.

So it impacts your ability to work. There's something in Social Security called persistence and pace. That if you can't work with persistence and pace, then you're deemed disabled. So you want to be in a situation where you can't concentrate. I take tranquilizers and these tranquilizers numb up to my mind so bad that I can't do it. So these are things you want to all keep in mind.

And what people routinely do too, people... And talk about lying. People routinely lie about their education. And Social Security is a function of your age, education, and work background. The older you are, the better chance you have. The less education you have, the better chance you have. Work background, the fewer skills you have, the better chance you have to get the benefit.

Mike: Jerry, thank you very much.

When you decide to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, make sure you have all your medical records and printouts at hand. As our expert, Jerry Zivic J.D., advises, “you want to be your own best advocate for Social Security Disability.

We thank Jerry Zivic J.D. for his valuable insights and for sharing useful tips about Social Security for Disability. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. 

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