- What is social security disability?
Social Security is the foundation of economic security for millions of Americans—retirees, disabled persons, and families of retired, disabled or deceased workers. About 158 million Americans pay Social Security taxes and 57 million collect monthly benefits in 2013. About one household in four receives income from Social Security.
Social Security is largely a pay-as-you-go program. This means that today’s workers pay Social Security taxes into the program and money flows back out as monthly income to beneficiaries. As a pay-as-you-go system, Social Security differs from company pensions, which are “pre-funded.” In pre-funded retirement programs, the money is accumulated in advance so that it will be available to be paid out to today’s workers when they retire. The private plans need to be funded in advance to protect employees in case the company enters bankruptcy or goes out of business.
The average Social Security benefit in January 2013 was:
- $1,264 a month for retired workers;
- $1,217 a month for widows or widowers over the age of 60;
- $1,130 a month for disabled workers;
- $1,735 a month for a disabled worker, spouse and one or more young children;
- $2,536 a month for a widowed mother and two children.
The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at the 2013 full retirement age (66) is $2,533 a month.
- What is the application process?
If you are lucky, applying for Social Security Disability benefits (whether SSDI or SSI) will be a one-step process, You will apply, you will be approved, and benefits and back-pay will arrive soon after. This, however, is rare.
Unfortunately, almost 65% of all initial applications are denied.
Applying for Social Security Disability has two basic stages: Initial Application and Appeal. However, there are levels within each, and it’s important that you not give up if you are denied at one, but to press on to the next.
The Initial Application Phase
So, all of the necessary materials (medical records, doctor’s recommendation, proof of birth, tax and income records, etc.) have been gathered together and the initial application for Social Security Disability benefits has been completed and submitted. Now what?
Well, now you wait. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your claim. This is supposed to take three to six months, but often takes more. The SSA may require a “consultative medical examination” to confirm the findings of your physician.
If approved, you’ll be awarded monthly benefits, as well as back pay. Back pay consists of your eligible benefits from the time you applied. In some cases it can also cover up to 12 months before the claim, if it’s proved that your condition kept you from “substantial gainful activity” during that time.
The Appeals Phase
The appeals process for Social Security Disability benefits is composed of four separate stages:
1. Reconsideration—Within 60 days of the denial of your claim you must submit a letter in writing appealing the decision. The SSA will review the claim, however, over 85% of reconsidered claims are denied.
2. Hearing—If you ask for an appeal of the reconsidered claim then your case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge. During the hearing, you or your advocate/attorney will be able to make your case and submit evidence. The Administrative Law Judge will then make a ruling on your case.
3. Appeals Council—If your claim is denied by the Administrative Law Judge then you (or your advocate/attorney) may submit a request to have your case reviewed by a Social Security Appeals Council. The Council may deny your request for a review, or they may hear it. If they hear it, they may approve you, deny you, or send you back to an Administrative Law Judge.
4. Federal District Court—If your claim is denied by the Appeals Council, you have exhausted the SSA review process. At this point your only recourse is to file a case in federal court.
As you can see, the process can be laborious and intensive. You will be interacting with a massive bureaucracy, where even a small mistake can result in delay or denial. In such a situation, expertise and experience are often your best friend.
THERE IS NO FEE. THERE IS NO OBLIGATION. THIS IS A COMPLETELY FREE EVALUATION OF YOUR CLAIM OPTIONS.
- Have you been denied?
If you are denied for Social Security Disability benefits it’s important that you don’t give up. Almost 65% of all initial applications are denied.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an appeals process in place, however the process can be intense and drawn-out, especially if you proceed without representation.
A disability advocate or attorney can explain the realities and schedule of the appeals process. They can help you arrange and present your case, whether to an Administrative Law Judge or a Social Security Appeals Council. Whether it’s in preparing you and your witnesses or gathering documentation or filing the strongest appeal possible, your chances of success increase greatly when you work with a disability advocate or attorney.
If you’ve already been denied Social Security Disability benefits (whether SSDI or SSI) and you’d like to know how to move forward, please fill out this FREE DISABILITY EVALUATION FORM
- What is the difference in between SSI and SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are income supplement programs for “permanently” disabled people. Both programs are managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a payroll-tax funded insurance program. Workers and their employers pay into it (funds are deducted from your check as part of your FICA payments). If you can prove to the SSA that you have a disability which will keep you from “substantial gainful activity” for a period of at least 12 months, and if you (or your parents, depending on your age) have accumulated enough Social Security credits, you may be eligible for SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is not dependant on having paid Social Security taxes. To qualify for this program you must be blind, disabled, or 65+ years of age, as well as having limited income or resources (as defined by the SSA).
If you think you or a loved one may be eligible for either of these programs, please fill out this FREE DISABILITY EVALUATION FORM
- How do Disability Advocates and Attorneys get paid?
All Social Security representation works “on contingency,” which means they only get paid if you win. Whether your disability advocate is an attorney or not, the Social Security Administration (SSA) regulates how much your advocate can be paid.
The fees for Social Security Disability advocates/attorneys has been set at 25% of the back pay awarded, with a cap of $6,000. What this means is that if you retain a disability attorney and then win your case, they will receive 25% of the past-due benefits due to you (but only up to a max of $6,000).
The advocate or attorney will receive none of your monthly benefits. Their fee comes only out of the back pay, and will be paid to them directly by the SSA. If you are awarded no backpay, then they will receive no fee. (Though it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to be awarded back pay if you use an experienced disability attorney.)
There can be other expenses (clerical, postage, copies of all of your medial records etc.) so it’s important to talk to your representatives about any possible out-of-pocket expenses at the outset.
To speak with an experienced disability advocate, please fill out the FREE DISABILITY EVALUATION FORM below and one will be in contact with you.
- What's the most important thing I can do before beginning the application process?
Have a conversation with your doctor. It’s incredibly important that your physician understands exactly what it is you need from them. They need to be able to lay out, clearly and concisely, the history and expected future and treatment of your medical condition. There is nothing as valuable to a disability case as an easily understood cause-and-effect narrative of your condition since the onset of your disability.
- What makes a strong case?
At the end of the day, a strong case is apparent. The most important aspect of a strong case is strong medical evidence and a clear, narrative history from your doctor, showing the beginning of the disability and a detailed breakdown of the effects up to the point of application.
- If I am approved, when will I begin to see benefit check's?
Unfortunately, times vary. The average appears to be roughly 90 days. You should receive a check for your first monthly benefit payment, as well as a check for back pay.
- If approved, will I receive retroactive benefits?
Yes. If you’re approved, then the SSA will calculate your back pay (or past-due benefits). This includes retroactive benefits covering the period from when you applied until the time you were approved, and can include back to when your disability began.
- I am ready to file, what are the next steps?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) accepts claims from people over the phone, in person at a local SSA office, or online at www.SSA.gov. If you file the claim yourself, then you are wholly responsible for filling out the forms, for compiling your medical records and documentation, and for keeping track of the process and corresponding with the SSA. What a confusing process! That’s where we come in. Do not wait, contact us today for an evaluation of your case.
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Fill out this FREE DISABILITY EVALUATION FORM. THERE IS NO FEE. THERE IS NO OBLIGATION. THIS IS A COMPLETELY FREE EVALUATION OF YOUR CLAIM OPTIONS.