Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) AND Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Disclaimer:  This page is provided for general informational purposes only and does not provide medical or legal advice. Please check any information that interests you with the Social Security Administration and/or with representatives listed on this page or any other representatives you choose.

If you are disabled from brain injury and/or other qualifying conditions, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

The following information is from the Social Security Administration, and it describes some of the requirements for qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI):

“In addition to meeting our definition of disability, you must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.

“Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to 4 credits each year.

“The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2024, for example, you earn 1 credit for each $1,730 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $6,920 you’ve earned your 4 credits for the year.

“The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when your disability begins. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year your disability begins. However, follow this link to learn that younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

“For more information on whether you qualify, refer to How You Earn Credits

You may call the US Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 to find out if you have the necessary “work credits” to apply for SSDI. Have your social security number, date of birth, and other identifying data with you when you call.

If you do not have the necessary work credits, and you are disabled with low or no income, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which will provide you with a monthly cash benefit.

If you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits based on your work history, but your benefits are very low, you may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to your low income.

If you are disabled and unable to work, do not delay. Start your application process as soon as you can.

Social Security Administration (SSA) Information about Applying for SSDI
Website:  https://www.ssa.gov/disability
Find answers and information about the points below here.

How you qualify.
How much work do you need?
How do we decide if you have a qualifying disability?
Special situations.
Special rules for people who are blind or have low vision.
Benefits for surviving spouses with disabilities.
Benefits for children with disabilities.
Publications.

Social Security Administration (SSA) Information about Applying for SSDI
Website:  https://www.ssa.gov/disability
Find answers and information about the points below here.

How you qualify.
How much work do you need?
How do we decide if you have a qualifying disability?
Special situations.
Special rules for people who are blind or have low vision.
Benefits for surviving spouses with disabilities.
Benefits for children with disabilities.
Publications.

Popular Myths About Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

We hear commonly held beliefs about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Not all of these beliefs are accurate.

MYTH #1:  Everyone is denied the first time they apply for disability benefits
FACT:  Some people have been granted disability benefits the first time they applied.

MYTH #2:  You must file your first application for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration directly yourself.
FACT:  There are multiple resources for getting help with initiating your claim, that is, filing your
initial application. There are multiple reasons for getting help with initiating your claim including getting expert, professional help from the get-go and not making mistakes that may hurt your case by doing it on your own.

MYTH #3:  The only person who can help you with a Social Security case is an attorney.
FACT: “Disability Representatives” are enrolled with the Social Security Administration and may take your case. You may find a disability representative at this link:  https://www.nadr.org/ Please also see resources below.  SOAR Representatives may also take and initiate your case. See resources below.

MYTH #4:   An attorney will not take your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case.
FACT:  There is at least one attorney in New Mexico who will take your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case. If there are others, we would love to include them here in our resource guide. However, there are other representatives who will also take your SSI case and who will initiate it for you. Again, see resources below.

MYTH #5:  Only an attorney can help with your case, but an attorney won’t take your case until you have been denied once.
FACT:  Attorneys are not the only people who can help with your case. And while some attorneys won’t take your case until it’s been denied once, there are at least two attorneys in New Mexico who will initiate your case for you. They are listed below. If there are others, we would like to include them here in our resource guide.

Myth #6:  If you are denied after hearings, there is nothing more to be done.
FACT:  There are two levels of Social Security application, hearings, appeals, etc.

1.  Social Security Administration level – This is the first level, and it includes initial consideration, reconsideration, hearing and the Appeals Council – each of these areas can be appealed upon denial by a non-attorney Disability Representative or by an attorney. These 4 areas involve the Social Security Administration directly.

2. Federal Court level – this includes cases that have hearing denials that have already been to Federal Court before and Appeals Council denials – these cases can only be appealed by an attorney. This is a distinct process outside of the Social Security Administration to conduct legal administrative review.  It is the “check and balance” of the system, which is why it is “outside” of the Agency.

Disability Application Resources

Michelle Baca Law Office
New Mexico Disability Attorney
4101 Indian School Road NE, Ste. 360
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Phone:  505-872-1144
Fax:  505-872-1155

The law office of Michelle Baca is 100% disability-focused. Ms. Baca and her nine legal assistants will take your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits case or your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case from the very beginning. They will initiate your case and represent you throughout the process. You do not need to first be denied by the Social Security Administration in order for Ms. Baca’s office to take your case. Call Ms. Baca’s office as soon as you know you need to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Jon Samuel Sipes
6300 Riverside Plaza Ln #100
Albuquerque, NM 87120
Phone:  505-609-5515

700 N Stanton St. Suite 210
El Paso, TX 79902
Phone:   915-500-4016

The law office of Jon Sipes is 100% disability-focused and takes New Mexico Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cases from the very beginning – he will initiate your case and represent you throughout the process. If you have a hearing, Mr. Sipes stated that he will, in most cases, travel to the town the hearing will be in. He stated that Social Security Administration statistics show that there is a slightly better chance of succeeding in an in-person hearing vs. a Zoom hearing, so he stated he takes every opportunity to go to a live hearing with you. You do not need to be denied by Social Security to have Mr. Sipes take your case. Call him as soon as you know you want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico
Blue Cross Community Centennial
If you are a member of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico or Blue Cross Community Centennial, call the phone number on the back of your card and ask to be connected with Centauri Health Solutions® for the Best Benefits Program. This program can help if you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This program is not dependent on your being homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Brown & Brown Absence Services Group
300 N Beach Street
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Toll-free phone:  877-261-1947
Toll-free fax:  877-899-1329

Social Security Disability (SSDI) representation. Since Brown and Brown are Disability Representatives registered with the Social Security Administration, they can work with you no matter what state you are in. Brown and Brown’s team will help you get the SSDI benefits you are entitled to you if you have a disabling medical condition and you are no longer able to work you. When you work with Brown & Brown, their team of experienced Client Advocates is here to help you understand the SSDI process, as well as how this works with your current long-term disability (LTD) benefits if any.

Applying for Social Security Disability can be a long and complicated process. Brown & Brown is here for you throughout the complex approval process. They take pride in their fast and favorable awards, and their compassionate Client Advocates work quickly and directly on your behalf. Importantly, they will take your case from first submission – you do not have to apply yourself and be denied once for Brown & Brown to take your case.

They will contact your doctors to obtain updated medical records and their Client Advocates will submit them to the Social Security Administration on your behalf. If you are required to attend a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), they will prepare your case file on your behalf with all pertinent information.  The Administrative Law Judge reviewing your case will have a comprehensive overview of your situation and will be able to make an informed decision. This includes presenting medical evidence on your disabling condition(s).  They also have an extensive nationwide team of experienced disability attorneys. The majority of their clients do not have to attend a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, but if your case reaches the hearing level, they will help you prepare and work with an experienced attorney in your area. Since the attorneys they work with are most often local to your region, they are familiar with the preferred procedures of the local hearing offices.

SOAR New Mexico
SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is a model designed to increase access to Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI) for individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

SOAR promotes recovery and wellness through increased access to Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. SOAR providers assist individuals with complete and quality applications. If you have a brain injury, you most likely meet the criteria of a medical impairment.

SOAR Provider
Wesley Etheridge
Las Cruces, NM
Email: wesley.etheridge@amadorhealthcenter.org
Phone: 757-401-7302

SOAR Providers for Presbyterian Healthcare Members
Joell Jones, Presbyterian
Farmington, NM
Email: jjones3@magellanhealth.com
Phone: 505-366-1058

Abe Robertson Gordon, Presbyterian
Albuquerque, NM
Email: gordona@magellanhealth.com
Phone: 505-249-6371

Trina Wheeler, Presbyterian
Albuquerque, NM
Email: wheelert@magellanhealth.com
Phone: 505-252-8345

Returning to Work when You Receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits

If you are on SSDI, you may work part-time without your benefits being affected, providing that your income does not exceed an amount specified yearly by the Social Security Administration. You will be required to report your earnings to the Social Security Administration (SSA) on a monthly basis. You will be assigned a SSA counselor to whom you will report OR you may enroll in a Ticket to Work program administered by the NM Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or by a community agency.

Once you are in the Ticket to Work program, you will benefit from specific incentives created by SSA to help people receiving SSDI return to work.

For example, you may have, on a one-time basis, (approximately) eight “trial months” during which you may earn an unlimited income without affecting your benefits. These months can be consecutive or not. So, for example, you might attempt to work full time for three months and then decide you are not able to continue, so you can stop working. You may use your additional five trial months at another time. For any month you declare a “trial month,” your benefits will continue no matter how much money you report making in a trial month, and if you have to stop working, your benefits will still continue.

If you do continue to work past your trial months, and your income is high enough that you no longer receive monthly financial benefits, you still will have up to (approximately) eight years during which you
may stop working if you need to, and your monthly financial benefits will restart with no evaluation needed.

These incentives are built into the SSDI program so that you can try to return to work without the risk of losing your benefits prematurely.

Returning to Work When You Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
When you are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) your benefit is based on disability and low income and not on a work record. If you have income, you will also need to report your income monthly to your Social Security counselor. You will lose $1 of benefits for every $2 you earn over $65.00.

If you work while receiving SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration will disregard the first $65 you earn in a month plus one-half of what you earned over $65.

They will calculate one-half of the amount over $65 that you earned for a month, and they will reduce your next payment by that amount.

So if you earned $265 in one month, they would subtract $65 from $265  to get $200. They would then subtract one-half of that, or $100, from your next SSI payment. Your next month’s payment would be $843.00

You can learn more about Supplemental Security Income here:
https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-income-ussi.htm