If you have been diagnosed with a disabling injury or illness that leaves you unable to work for a living, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance through the Social Security Disability benefits program. Unfortunately, many people who have medically diagnosed conditions and seek SSD benefits find out that obtaining the benefits is a lengthy, bureaucratic process.
Most SSD applicants receive a notice of denial initially and have to file an appeal to pursue the payments they are due. The Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review issues more than 2 million claim decisions every year and has one of the federal government’s largest case backlogs, so pursuing disability benefits requires perseverance.
The disability benefits attorneys at Becker Law Office help disabled workers seek SSD benefits they are due. We can make sure that your SSD application is complete and fully documents your disability’s effect on your ability to hold gainful employment. Call us or contact us online for a free discussion of your disability benefits.
Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits
The Social Security Disability program is an insurance program funded by all workers’ Social Security taxes. Its purpose is to assist workers who can no longer work. Applicants must demonstrate that they meet specific criteria before they will qualify for SSD benefit payments.
First, an SSD applicant must have a condition that prevents the worker from performing substantial gainful work.
The Social Security Administration requires evidence that:
- You cannot do work that you did before.
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or cause your death.
- Your medical condition(s) prevents you from adjusting to any other type of employment.
An applicant for SSD benefits must have a history of employment and payment of Social Security taxes to qualify for benefits. Generally, you can qualify if you have paid into the Social Security system for 40 quarters – 20 of which were in the 10 years before you became disabled.
To prove your eligibility for SSD benefits, you must provide a variety of personal information in addition to information from:
- Medical records
- Employment records
- Workers’ compensation claim records
- Financial records, i.e., bank accounts, retirement accounts and other assets.
To prove you have a demonstrable physical or mental disability, your medical records should show that your condition matches an impairment in the Social Security Administration’s list of impairments, which is known as the “Blue Book”.
The Blue Book describes impairments to each major body system that are considered severe enough to prevent an adult from doing any gainful work. If your medical condition matches a listed impairment, you are considered disabled.
The most common disabilities qualifying for SSD benefits include:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Neurological Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Cardiovascular System Impairments
- Digestive System Disorders
- Respiratory System Disorders
- Malignant Growths and Tumors
- Genitourinary System Disorders (kidneys, bladder)
- Sensory Systems Disorders (including speech)
- Blood Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders (hormonal imbalances)
- Malignant Neoplastic Diseases (malignant growth or tumors)
- Immune System Disorders (including HIV/ AIDS)
- Congenital Disorders.
If your condition does not match a listed impairment, you must provide medical evidence that demonstrates that your injury or illness incapacitates you in a manner that is equivalent to a recognized impairment.
If the reviewer handling your claim agrees that you have a disabling condition, the reviewer then must decide whether you can perform your current job’s essential functions with a reasonable accommodation, or whether you can perform any other kind of substantial gainful activity.
You will receive the decision by letter. If your application has been approved, it will spell out your benefit and when payments will start. If your application for SSD benefits is denied, it will state the reason and advise you that you have 60 days to appeal the decision.
Appeals Are Likely with an SSD Claim
If you have already applied for Social Security Disability benefits and been turned down, you are not alone. Most claim applicants must go through a lengthy appeals process. The Social Security Administration decides 2 to 3 million disability claims a year. From 2006 to 2015, only 23 percent of applicants were awarded benefits based on the initial applications, the Social Security Administration says.
You have four opportunities to appeal a decision on your SSD application. The appeals process includes:
Appeals Council Review
Federal Court Case
The SSD application and appeals process is complex and includes important deadlines that must be met. You are not required to have an attorney’s assistance until you reach the final appeal, which goes to a federal court. However, you will be expected to follow the rules of evidence and procedure during the hearings. The Social Security Administration will have seasoned professionals to present their case against your claim, so you should have experienced legal representation, too.
An experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer from the Becker Law Office can help you with the complexities of the Social Security Administration’s disability claims process. Our objective is to ensure you obtain the full benefits you are entitled to receive by law without unnecessary delays.
Reasons to Hire an SSD Attorney
Your initial SSD application is likely to be denied
Your SSD application could be denied on a technicality
A disability lawyer has experience with the system
SSD attorneys are effective
You Can Afford Our Social Security Disability Lawyers
Regardless of the attorney you hire to pursue SSD benefits, the lawyer’s fees are regulated by the Social Security Administration. Your legal representative is required to file a fee agreement or a fee petition with the SSA.
In most cases, the SSA will approve payments of no more than 25 percent of past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. Your representative would also be allowed to charge for out-of-pocket costs, such as for the expense of obtaining copies of medical records.
Becker Law Office’s Social Security Disability benefits lawyers and legal support personnel work with SSD applications and appeals every day. We know what belongs in your SSD application and how those who will review your application expect information to be presented.
We will make sure your application is accurate and complete. The application should:
- Document your medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity.
- List your complete employment history and participation in the Social Security system. In most cases, you’ll need 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. However, the requirement is based on age. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
- Demonstrate that your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities – such as walking, sitting, lifting and remembering information. This will include submitting a Physical Residual Functional Capacity assessment form completed by your doctor.
We will respond to any requests for more information from SSD claims examiners. We will work with you to locate and obtain any records or to clarify information in your application package. Claim examiners may ask you to undergo an additional medical exam by a doctor of their choice. The Social Security Administration will pay for this consultative medical exam, and you must comply with the request or your claim will not move forward.
If necessary, we will reach out to medical professionals to provide an additional opinion about your disability case. They may be able to work with you or your existing records to clarify and strengthen your application.
We will also keep track of your claim. The Social Security Administration’s disability programs operate with one of the largest backlogs of cases in the federal government. An SSD claim can fall through the cracks for any number of reasons. We will make sure that your claim does not become stalled and that you do not miss any deadlines that would further delay your case.