How Can an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney Help Me?
It can be overwhelming to pursue Social Security Disability benefits. It can also be imperative that you do so based on your circumstances. By working with an experienced attorney, you can gain peace of mind knowing that you have done your best in obtaining the assistance you deserve. From determining if you are eligible to helping to fill out the paperwork accurately, ensuring you are putting yourself in the best situation to receive benefits, and handling your appeals, knowledgeable attorneys can work with you to achieve the desired outcome.
I have worked with countless clients to help them obtain benefits. I know what to expect and can help you to understand the steps in the process and how to best prepare yourself. I can help you effectively navigate this process to achieve the desired result. Contact me at 407-499-5680 to get started.
What is Meant by Disability?
Disability under Social Security is viewed differently than in other programs. Social Security pays on complete or total disability rather than partial disability or short-term disability. Social Security programs assume that the client can access short-term or partial disability assistance as a working person through worker’s compensation, savings, insurance, and investments.
If the following are true, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The client can not do work as they had previously or engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medical condition. The client can not perform their job at the same level or adjust to other work available due to their medical condition. The client’s condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year or may result in death. If all of the above is true, there is a good chance that you qualify to obtain Social Security Benefits.
What Programs Are Available?
A couple of programs are typically offered at the federal level. Each state will have specifics that they follow, but you can generally expect two types of programs. Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be available for eligible applicants with little to no income or resources. Payments can be made to individuals over the age of 65, blind or disabled, to supplement the resources they already have in place. It is not meant to be the primary source of income. You may also be eligible for other assistance, although the eligibility for these programs is based on your state level, and you will need to apply separately for these benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance is another standard option (generally the most common option) for benefits, also called SSDI benefits. This category covers not only the client themselves, if they are eligible, but also their disabled surviving spouses and children of disabled, retired, or deceased individuals. If the client receives SSDI benefits and reaches full retirement age, the benefit will typically automatically transition to retirement benefits in the same amount.
How Long of a Work History Do I Need to be Eligible?
Some guidelines must be met to be eligible specifically pertain to your work before becoming disabled. Meet the above criteria (your disability has left you in the position of no longer being able to work or perform at the same level for at least a year or which may result in death). You must also be able to satisfy the working/employed history requirements.
Social Security is set up so that your total wages per year as employed (or self-employment income) are set up on credits. You can earn up to four credits for each year worked. These work credits are based on earned income. For each level reached, you earn credits for that year. These levels change often, so you will need to calculate based on the most current level system to determine how many credits you have personally. In general, you need 40 points to qualify for SSDI. Twenty points will need to be earned in the last ten years before your disability. Other details may make your eligibility specific to your circumstances, such as if you are younger and haven’t had time to accumulate enough credits, which can mean you are eligible. If you have enough work credits to qualify, the next step is determining if you have a qualifying disability.
What Makes for a Qualified Disability?
Earning levels or guidelines are one of the most typical ways to determine eligibility. You may be eligible if you have substantial gainful activity (SGA) in your recent history and earn below what the minimum per month is currently; you may be eligible. Some levels often change that pertain to blind or disabled levels of income; you will need to check to see what the current levels are to determine if your income falls below that guideline and therefore satisfies this eligibility requirement. For example, you may qualify if the current level is $1,500 a month, and you make less than that.
What is the severity of your condition? This is the next question that will be reviewed in order to determine eligibility. If you are significantly limited in your ability to do basic work-related activities such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering due to your condition and have been limited for at least twelve months, you likely qualify.
The Social Security Administration, SSA, maintains a list (called the Listing of Impairments) of medical conditions that is updated regularly, and they reference this list to determine whether your illness or impairment is severe. Most of the impairments listed are permanent or may result in death. There are two parts to this list; Part A refers to the impairment evaluation of those over 18. Part B refers specifically to minors and their impairments. If your condition is not on the list, you may still qualify if it is found that your impairment is as severe as one of the medical conditions that are recognized on the list.
There is also a section that refers to Compassionate Allowances. This relates to illnesses such as different types of cancer, acute leukemia, and more. Once a diagnosis is confirmed for any of the diseases listed in this section, disability benefits can be initiated immediately.
The last two sections have to do with the work performed. The SSA will review and determine whether or not your medical impairments prevent you from completing the work that you used to do. If it is proven that you can perform with this impairment just as you were before, you may be disqualified.
The SSA will also investigate whether you can adjust to another type of work that can be performed even with your medical impairments. If you cannot adapt to other work due to your condition, you likely have a qualifying disability.
Do Widows or Widowers Qualify for Benefits?
There are benefits available for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses. If something happens to the employed person and their widower or widow or surviving spouse is between 50 and 60, they may be eligible for benefits. Similarly, if the widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse has a disability that qualifies under the definition of disability for adults, they may also be eligible. In this case, the disability would have to have started before the employed person’s death or within seven years of the death in order to qualify.
What About Children with Disabilities?
The SSA defines disability for children as a mental or physical condition that seriously limits their activities, lasts or will last for at least a year, or is expected to shorten their lifespan significantly. As with adults, a list of impairments helps the SSA to define what constitutes a seriously limiting disability. This is sometimes referred to as the “Blue Book.” Also, similar to adults, there is a Compassionate Allowance list with severe conditions (such as childhood cancer, low birth weight, heart transplants, and more) that can be referred to expedite the process of receiving benefits for eligible children and their families.
Parents can utilize medical reports, reports from medical caregivers or social workers, information from the school they attend, and information documented by the parents regarding the child’s symptoms, daily activities, and limitations to demonstrate eligibility for disability.
There are also benefits available for a Disabled Adult Child (DAC) with a disability that began before age 22. If the DAC is older than 18, has a disability that began before the age of 22, and meets the definition of disability for adults, they may also qualify for benefits. The working component of the qualifications does not apply to the DAC based on their parent’s work history. The DAC is limited on their earnings; however, they will not be eligible if they earn over a certain amount per month. This limit fluctuates, so you will need to check to see the current threshold to determine if their earnings meet the requirements for benefits. Benefits for the DAC will typically cease if they get married. There is an exception, however, if they marry another DAC; in this case, they are able to continue to receive benefits.
What If My Loved One is Blind or Has Low Vision?
The SSA will consider someone to be legally blind if their vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 on their better eye. Your loved one may also be considered legally blind if their visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with corrective eyewear. Some special rules and guidelines apply to blind or low-vision clients, as these limitations severely impact one’s ability to live and work. For instance, a client’s income level in the low vision or blind category is much higher than that of regular disabilities, making it easier to qualify for benefits. Suppose your loved one doesn’t meet the legal definition of blindness. In that case, there might still be other benefits that they may qualify for, especially if there are other contributing medical conditions that inhibit your loved one from working.
How Can a Disability Attorney Help?
There are several steps in the process of applying for Social Security benefits. You don’t have to navigate this complex process alone. An experienced attorney can help you to determine eligibility for you or your loved one, gather the necessary documents (medical, work, or military records), and assist you in filling out the paperwork appropriately. This can save you time, stress, and money in the long run by streamlining the process and ensuring it is done the first time accurately. You may also need to appeal your application or be represented during a hearing to fight for the benefits you or your loved one deserve. An experienced immigration law attorney can also help you in these phases and create a plan that will get you the desired outcome.
I have years of experience helping clients and their families fight for the benefits they deserve. The process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. I can help you effectively prepare for the necessary steps and ensure you get the most out of your benefits. What may appear to the untrained eye as something small that is left out of a form or information that was missed may lead to a significant increase in the benefits available. That is what we are trained to do.
I will walk you through the process, ensure that we are maximizing our chances at getting you the most benefits you deserve, and prepare you for an appeal should that happen. No matter where you are in this process, I am confident I can assist you in getting the outcome you deserve. Contact me at 407-499-5680 to learn more about how I can help you and your family.