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 to the fullest while we can, because the simple truth is that 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. Thankfully, in this situation, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability Benefits.
Everyone in the United States who works also contributes to Social Security. The money goes into one fund and is granted to individuals who are either unable to work due to a debilitating medical condition or who have reached an age where working is no longer possible. These funds go a long way towards 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, any physical or mental condition that prevents you from being gainfully employed can be classified as a disability. If your disability is one that is long-term or permanent, there are two programs run by the SSA that might be able to help: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) only applies to workers who have been working for at least 5 out of the last 10 years before you were disabled.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is managed both by your state’s government and the Social Security Administration. Its purpose is to provide financial aid to disabled and elderly individuals who have little or no income and few assets. Remember that SSI laws vary state to state. Spend time doing some research into your state’s specific SSI rules and laws.
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. Some benefits claims can take from 3-5 months to be decided on. The good news is, you can help speed things up by pulling together specific information and documents 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 medicine you’ve been prescribed.
- 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.
If your spouse or children are applying for benefits, you need to have their social security numbers and birth certificates as well. If you have been married more than once, you will need to provide the dates of any previous marriages.
How Does My Claim Get Decided?
Some Social Security Disability Claims do get denied. To be approved, your claim will need to meet certain medical and financial requirements.
To be considered, 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 any other jobs that are appropriate for your age, education level, and/or skill set
If you make more than a certain amount of money each months, the SSA considers you to be gainfully employed and ineligible to receive benefits. Click here to 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 using these five questions, so that everyone who applies for benefits 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% of all claims that are submitted 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 refuse to provide required documents
- You are not attending therapy as prescribed
- Your disability was caused by a drug or alcohol addiction
- 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 can start to get a little more complicated. This process can be long, and is often one best handled by a Social Security Disability Claims 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, your claim will be reviewed by an unbiased medical professional who has had no previous involvement in your case. Most reconsideration cases are lost and in some states, they’re not even an option.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): This is one of the more common appeals that is used. 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. Over 60% of claims reviewed by ALJ’s are approved.
- Appeals Council: If your cased was denied again by the ALJ, you can ask to have it reviewed by the appeals council. Unfortunately, the cases selected for review by the appeals council are randomly selected. 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 to hire a Social Security Disability Claims 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 Claims 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 get to choose whether or not you’d live with a disability or be diagnosed with a debilitating disease, but you can choose whether or not to fight for your right to 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 free and we take cases on a contingency fee basis. That means we don’t get paid unless we successfully help you get approval from the SSA. Our lawyers are eager to hear your story. Contact us now or give us a call at 337-240-9349 or toll free at 800-836-3702.