This month’s post is by Attorney Jay Barger. Jay focuses his practice on social security disability, family and business law, and personal injury.
Have you been denied Social Security Disability benefits? We are here to help.
Social Security administers two programs for people who have become disabled and need monthly benefit payments to make up for their inability to work and earn a living:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program designed for people who have worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system for years prior to becoming disabled. If an individual is judged disabled, the individual will receive SSDI benefits regardless of the individual’s assets or family income.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a “needs-based” program. SSI is designed to pay benefits to disabled people who need help with basic living costs, even if they haven’t worked or paid taxes into the Social Security system. To qualify for SSI payments, a claimant cannot have family assets or income over a certain limit.
The first step to obtain benefits is completing forms provided by the Social Security Administration. These can be found online but are most often completed at a local office and then reviewed by the Administration. These include a medical release so the Administration can review your medical records. If a denial is issued, you must ask for reconsideration and then, if reconsideration is denied, you then must request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. It can easily take more than one year before you appear in a court for a hearing in front of the ALJ. At each stage you can do your case serious damage if you do not have an attorney. Most often attorneys get involved only at the appeal stage, but I have seen people do real harm to their cases in their initial application, so I would encourage you to seek out counsel from the beginning of the process.
To obtain disability, you must have worked and paid into the system through taxes. Then, you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs and you are considered disabled if you cannot do work that you did before, you cannot adjust to ANY other work because of your medical condition and your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Getting approved requires medical proof, but the Administration will also have doctors review your medical records. A recent article in the DNJ detailed numerous ways some doctors have manipulated the system to increase the denial rates in Tennessee. It is very enlightening and I encourage you to read it: https://www.dnj.com/story/news/2019/01/06/tennessee-doctors-disability-claims/1077220002/
It is unfortunate that so many doctors have treated these patients “like a cash register” as the article quotes one physician as saying. Denials are frequent but having an attorney on your side is often the difference between winning and losing. Some of the most important factors to consider are:
Age – The older you are the more likely you are to qualify.
Treatment history – Having an established medical history with consistent medical providers treating your disabling condition gives you the strongest chance.
Side Effects – If your condition is causing side effect such as depression, anxiety or you have complications from medications, these can affect your ability to work and increase your likelihood of being approved.
One of the biggest challenges for obtaining disability is that you cannot be gainfully employed while applying but you must have worked and paid into the system. Generally, you need to have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years to qualify. There are dozens of ways the Administration can deny you and we are here to help. It is important that you speak to someone as soon as you think you might be a candidate for disability benefits. We would be happy to schedule a free consultation with anyone in need of assistance in making an application. Most often we will not receive any payment until it concludes and only if you win.