Social Security Disability Law

DISABLED?  UNABLE TO WORK?

NEED TO FILE A SOCIAL SECURITY CLAIM OR HAS YOUR CLAIM BEEN DENIED?  WE CAN HELP!

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Social Security Assistance | (801) 393-5555

Social Security Disability Insurance is a government program that pays you monthly benefits if you become disabled and unable to work before you reach retirement age.  If you have dependents, and Social Security decides that you are disabled, then your dependents may qualify for benefits as well.  Social Security Disability laws are complex and it would be beneficial to your claim to hire an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to guide you through the process.

What Types of Social Security Disability Are Available To Me?

There are two types of Social Security Disability benefits:

(1)    Social Security Disability Insurance is based on your work history and your medical condition.  You must have worked long enough in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes (typically 10 years), and you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability.

(2)   Supplemental Security Insurance is based on your financial need and your medical condition.  You must have a demonstrated financial need, and you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability.  Your work history, or perhaps lack thereof, is not a factor with this type of Social Security Disability.

How Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security generally pays monthly benefits to qualifying people who are unable to work for a year or more, or people who have a condition expected to end in death.  The condition must be so severe that you cannot work.

How Do I Apply For Social Security Disability?

To begin an application for Social Security Disability Insurance, you can apply online or in person.  You can also meet with one of our attorneys, and we will help you apply.

To begin an application for Supplemental Security Insurance, you will have to go to the Social Security office.  It is best to call the Social Security office and set up an appointment to apply for SSI, so you only have to go down to the office once.

What Information Do I Need In Order To Apply For Social Security Disability?

It is important to submit a complete and accurate application, so that Social Security can thoroughly review your claim.  Before you apply, please gather the following information:  education history; work history for the last 15 years; a list of medication you are taking; a list of doctors you are seeing or have seen for your conditions; copies of medical records that you have; and documentation of any public assistance benefits, workers compensation payments, etc.  Bring this information with you to your appointment. 

What Information Is Social Security Looking For When They Evaluate My Application?

There is no “magic formula” or particular words to use when filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits.  However, there are some important things to keep in mind when you apply:

1.       List all of your medical conditions, not just the most serious one that you see as preventing you from being able to work.  This way Social Security can fully evaluate all of your conditions together, and how they affect you and your ability to work.

2.      Submit as much medical evidence as you can.  If you have copies of your hospital records, doctor reports, treatment notes, etc. submit them with your application.  This can cut down on your wait time, and makes it possible for Social Security to thoroughly evaluate your claim. 

3.      Fill out the application and any other forms completely.  If you do not, you may get denied simply for incomplete information.

4.      When filling out the forms, be honest.  Don’t make your condition sound better or worse than it actually is.  Remember, Social Security will compare your statements with what your doctor records state, and it is important that the information is consistent.

5.      Once you submit your application, Social Security will likely send you additional forms to fill out.  Respond to any requests for information promptly, or you could end up with a denial for not responding.

Although it is important to be honest and thorough when filling out your application and other forms, you don’t have to be perfect.  Just fill out the forms as completely and honestly as possible.  If you have any questions during the application process, we are here to help you.

What Is the Process Social Security Uses to Evaluate My Application?

Social Security uses a 5-step process to evaluate your application, and make a decision on whether to approve or deny the payment of benefits.  Only when you satisfy step one does Social Security move to the step two of the evaluation, and so forth.  Only once you have satisfied all five steps will you be approved for payment of benefits.

Step 1 – Are you working?  If your gross earnings (before taxes) average more than $1,170 per month, Social Security will typically find you not disabled.

Step 2 – Do you have a condition that is “severe”?  Your impairment is severe if it interferes with basic work-related activities.  Such condition must also be “medically determinable” or proven by medical records and doctor’s notes – not just according to your answers to questions on the Application.

Step 3 – Does your condition meet a “listing”?  Social Security has listings for every type of medical condition, both physical and mental health conditions.  For each listing, Social Security has certain criteria that must be satisfied by information contained in your medical records.  If you can show from your medical records that you satisfy Social Security’s specific criteria for a particular listing, then you will be found to meet a listing for qualifying for Social Security benefits. 

Step 4 – Can you do your previous work?  If you can perform the requirements of any job you had in the last 15 years, then Social Security will find you are not disabled.  On the other hand, if you are unable to perform any of the requirements of your prior work, you will typically be determined to be unable to do your previous work.  For instance, if your prior work was in construction and required you to lift 50 pounds or more on a regular basis, but your doctor has now restricted you to lifting no more than 10 pounds, then you cannot perform your past work.

Step 5 – Can you do any other work?  If you cannot perform your past jobs, then Social Security will determine if there are other jobs in the national economy that you can perform, given your current restrictions.  If Social Security finds that you cannot adjust to any other jobs, then you will be granted disability benefits.

How Long Does It Take To Get Approved For Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Disability application process could take several months or it could take several years to get approved.  The time it takes to get a decision on your application can vary depending on the nature of your disability; how quickly Social Security can get medical evidence from your doctor; whether Social Security sends you for a medical examination; and, whether you are required to attend a hearing.  Unfortunately, the majority of all claims are denied based on the initial application and you need to be prepared to keep appealing and pushing your claim forward.  We will help you through every step of this process, to relieve as much of your stress as possible.

What Happens If I Get Denied Benefits?

Unfortunately, the majority of all claims are denied based on the initial applications.  If you do receive a denial letter, you then have 60 days to appeal that decision.  Social Security will then review your case and decide if the correct decision was made.  Quite often, you will receive a second denial letter from Social Security.  Once again, you have 60 days to appeal that decision and request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  At the Hearing the Administrative Law Judge will ask questions regarding your medical conditions, day-to-day activities and how your medical conditions limit your activities.

How Much Do You Charge To Represent Me For My Disability Claim?

Federal law establishes how Social Security attorneys are paid for their services.  We get paid out of what is called your back pay.  From the time that you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you start accruing back pay.  Then once you are approved, Social Security counts up the months you have been waiting for benefits, and you receive a lump sum payment.  Social Security will send 25% of the back pay amount to us as your representative, and will send the remaining 75% to you. All of your benefit payments after that go to you and we do not receive any additional payments.  Also, Social Security attorney fees are limited to no more than $6,000 per case. 

Because our fees are only paid out of your back pay, we don’t get paid until, and unless, you get approved for benefits.  If you do not get approved for benefits, you don’t owe us anything for the time we have spent on your case.

How Much Will I Get Paid Once I Get Approved?

The amount of money you will receive from Social Security once you get approved is different for every person.  This is because Social Security bases your benefit amount on the amount of income for which you have paid Social Security taxes.  We suggest checking your earnings history to make sure it is accurate.  Social Security typically does not send out annual statements anymore, but you can check your earnings history online by going to www.ssa.gov and setting up a “mySocialSecurity account”.

In the event that you have never been able to work because of your medical conditions, then the amount of Social Security benefits will be based upon a Social Security Administration formula.

What Happens At My Hearing?

The hearing with an Administrative Law Judge is typically the most stressful part of the disability application process.  It is normal to be nervous about your hearing, and having to speak with a complete stranger about your medical conditions and limitations.  However, we will help prepare you for your hearing, and we will be with you at your hearing, so that will hopefully relieve some of your stress about your hearing. 

A Social Security hearing is confidential, so there will be only a few people in the hearing room: yourself, your Social Security attorney, a hearing reporter, a Vocational Expert, in some cases a Medical Expert, and the Administrative Law Judge.  At the Hearing the Administrative Law Judge will ask questions regarding your medical conditions, day-to-day activities and how your medical conditions limit your activities.  You are there to answer questions regarding these topics.  Your Social Security attorney is there to represent you and make sure your rights are protected. The hearing reporter is there to make sure the recording equipment is working and to take notes for the Administrative Law Judge, so the hearing reporter will not have anything to say during the hearing.  The Vocational Expert is there to give an opinion on your ability to work, either in your past jobs or in other jobs available in the national economy.  The Medical Expert may be there to give an opinion on the medical issues in the case.  The Administrative Law Judge is there to oversee the hearing, hear the evidence and legal arguments made by the Social Security attorney, and to make the final decision on your claim. 

If I Am Approved For Disability, What Happens When I Reach Retirement Age?

Social Security Disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age.  The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits at the same time.  If you have not earned retirement benefits, then you would continue receiving your disability benefit amount when you reach full retirement age.

How do I get started with applying for Disability Benefits?

Call Mountain View Law Group for a consultation to learn more and to get started on your application for disability benefits.  The consultation is free and we can usually submit your application for benefits that same day. 

For a Free Consultation with an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney Regarding Your Unique Social Security Disability Needs, Please Call Mountain View Law Group at (801) 393-5555.