A Guide to Social Security Disability
The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a medical determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.
There are several different types of Social Security disability benefits, however the main ones are Social Security Disability Insurance (Title 2) and Supplemental Security Income (Title 16). Both programs provide medical coverage for qualified applicants. However, only those who have worked and paid taxes long enough to be insured for disability are eligible for SSDI. SSI, on the other hand, provides assistance for those who are disabled, but do not have the work credits necessary for SSDI eligibility.The Application Process
Anyone with a medical condition that prevents them from working for a continuous period of at least twelve months may qualify for benefits. The application process may take anywhere from 18-24 months, so if you qualify, don’t delay. Any delays may affect the type and amount of benefits you receive.
You do not need an attorney to file your claim with the Social Security office. Start the application process by visiting www.SocialSecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 to ask for a Disability Starter Kit. The local Social Security office will send you the required paperwork and will set up an interview over the phone. A representative from the office will call and walk you through the application process.Denied. Now What?
More than 60% of all applications are initially denied, so don’t get discouraged. This does not mean that you are not entitled to benefits. If you have been denied benefits, you need to immediately request a reconsideration of your application. In fact, once you’ve been denied, you only have 60 days to request reconsideration of your claim.
Once you have requested reconsideration, your application will be reviewed again by Disability Determination Services (DDS). Unfortunately, this review is likely to end with another denial. Once DDS denies your application again, request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who will make an independent determination with regard to your application. The hearing is informal, but your testimony will be taken under oath.
There will likely be a vocational expert at your hearing. Be prepared to discuss your work history and the reasons why your medical condition, either physical or psychological, will prevent you from working any type of job.Why Would You Need an Attorney?
If you’ve been denied benefits, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney experienced with the Social Security system gives you the best chance of getting all of the benefits that you are entitled to. Though the hearing is informal and the strict rules of evidence do not apply, having an experienced attorney with you can be a real benefit. An attorney can help insure that you are properly prepared to testify and that all of your important medical records have been properly submitted for the Judge’s review.
The Social Security Administration must approve all attorney’s fees. In 2013, fees were limited to 25% of back-owed benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. Most attorney do not charge fees unless you are awarded benefits. These fees will not be withheld from your regular monthly checks. Instead they are taken from the amount of back-owed benefits that you are awarded.