Staying healthy is a priority for most of us. We strive to live long, travel, and spend as much time with our families as possible. We have to enjoy life while we can, because anyone can be injured or become seriously ill without warning.
Regardless of whether these circumstances are temporary or permanent, they can easily have a negative effect on your ability to work and earn a living. You may be entitled to social security disability benefits in this situation.
Everyone who works in the United States contributes to Social Security. The money goes to individuals who can’t work due to a debilitating medical condition or who are at an age where working is no longer possible. These funds go a long way toward improving the quality of life for those with disabilities or those who have been seriously injured.
SSDI and SSI: What’s the Difference?
By the Social Security Administration’s standards, a disability is any physical or mental condition that prevents you from working. If your disability is long-term or permanent, there are two programs that might be able to help: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applies to those who worked for at least 5 out of the last 10 years before you were disabled.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is managed by the state and the Social Security Administration. It provides financial aid to disabled and elderly individuals who have little or no income and few assets.
How Do I Apply for Social Security Benefits?
The Social Security Administration provides three ways to apply for benefits. If you need to apply, you can:
- Apply online
- Call 1-800-772-1213 to apply by telephone. They also have a line for the hearing impaired at 1-800-325-0778.
- Apply in person at your local Social Security office.
The claims process can be lengthy. It can take three to five months before you hear a decision about your claim. The good news is, you can help speed things up by gathering specific information in advance. Try to have the following items ready:
- Social Security Number (SSN) and proof of age (your birth certificate is best).
- Detailed information (name, address, phone number, dates) about every doctor, case worker, and care facility (hospital, clinic), that has treated you during the course of your disability or illness.
- Names and dosages of any prescribed medicine.
- Medical records of every doctor’s visit.
- Any lab or test results you may have received.
- A description of your most recent job and summary of your work experience.
- Your most recent W2 or tax return.
How Does My Claim Get Decided?
Some Social Security Disability Claims do get denied. Your claim should meet certain medical and financial requirements to be approved.
Your medical condition must be classified as “severe” and either:
- Meet the requirements of the Social Security impairment listing
- Keep you from working a job you’ve had in the past
- Keep you from doing other appropriate jobs for your age, education level, and/or skill set
If you make more than a certain amount of money each month, the SSA considers you to be gainfully employed and ineligible to receive benefits. You can read detailed guidelines on what the Social Security Administration considers to be “Substantial Gainful Activity.”
In addition to these guidelines, the SSA uses a five-step analysis system to asses your eligibility. Everyone’s situation is measured with these five questions. That way every applicant gets the same consideration, regardless of age, gender, or race:
- Are you working?
- Is your condition severe?
- Is your disability on the list of disabling conditions?
- Can you do the work you did previously?
- Can you do any other type of work?
What Happens if I’m Denied?
The rules for granting Social Security Disability Benefits are strict. Only 30 percent of submitted claims get approved. If you’re denied, you have two choices: appeal the denial decision or give up, and find another option.
There are many reasons you can be denied, and some of those may be beyond your control. However, there are a few common reasons that benefits claims get denied. It could be because:
- You make too much money
- The SSA thinks your disability is temporary or not severe enough.
- You don’t answer the phone or communicate with the SSA.
- You’ve refused to provide required documents
- You are not attending therapy as prescribed
- Drug or alcohol addiction caused your disability
- You’ve been convicted of a crime
- Your lied on your application
There are exceptions to these rules but, in general, these are some of the top reasons claims are denied. Eve if your claim is denied, you can submit an appeal to an administrative law judge to have it reconsidered.
How Do I File an Appeal?
This is where things get complicated. This process can be long, and is often one best handled by a Social Security Disability Attorney who is familiar with both Federal and Louisiana law.
The attorneys at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson L.L.C. can help with any of the four levels of appeals. We can evaluate your case to see which of the following appeals best suits your situation:
- Reconsideration: If you appeal for reconsideration, an unbiased medical professional with no previous involvement in your case will review.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): This is one of the more common appeals. Applicants who have been denied attend a hearing with an ALJ. During this time, the ALJ reconsiders the case and either approves it or denies it again. ALJs approve more than 60 percent of claims they review.
- Appeals Council: If your cased was denied again by the ALJ, you can ask to have it reviewed by the appeals council. Unfortunately, the appeals council randomly selects the cases they review. They can also be denied for a wide range of reasons, so this option isn’t likely to be successful. In most cases, it’s just the last step you have to take before you can take the SSA to court.
- Federal Court: If you are suing the SSA in federal court, you need a social security disability lawyer. They can help you serve a court summons to the SSA, write a brief on your situation, and much more. Though the odds you may win are fairly good, fewer than 1% of cases actually make it to federal court.
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
The sooner you hire an attorney, the better. An experienced Louisiana social security disability attorney is your best advocate, and can help guide you every step of the way. The lawyers at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson L.L.C. have been handling Social Security Disability Claims for over 30 years. We’ll deal with the SSA, from your first hearing to the end of the appeals process.
You didn’t choose to live with a disability or a debilitating disease, but you can choose to fight for the Social Security Disability Benefits you’ve been contributing to for years.
The SSA wants you to quit, and we want to help you keep fighting. Our consultations are always free. We take cases on a contingent fee basis so we don’t get paid unless we help you get approval from the SSA. Our social security disability lawyers are eager to hear your story. Contact us now or give us a call at 337-436-6611.