While most of us don’t like to think about needing Social Security Disability, the truth is that millions of Americans must apply for these benefits each year. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a 20 year old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before they reach retirement age. 16% of the population has some kind of disability. 26% of these are severe enough to be found totally disabled. The highest numbers of approved claims are for spinal injuries and mental disorders.
Here are some questions many of our clients have asked about Social Security Disability:
“I was in a car accident. Am I eligible for Social Security Disability?”
Social security disability provides monetary benefits to individuals whose illnesses or injuries prevent them from working. A person can be considered disabled for a wide range of mental or physical limitations. However, disability benefits are only given to people whose medical conditions are expected to last for at least 12 months or will result in death.
In order to obtain disability benefits, you must have worked for a certain amount of time based on your age. If you haven’t paid in social security long enough, you may be entitled to limited benefits, which are called Supplemental Security Income benefits.
“How can I prove that I am disabled?"
When you apply for disability benefits, you will need to provide:
- Your social security number
- Your birth or baptismal certificate
- Names, address and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics that you visited and dates of your visits
- Names and dosage of all your medicine
- Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and caseworkers that you have in your possession.
- Laboratory and test results
- A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did
- A copy of your most recent W-2 Form, or if you are self-employed, your federal tax return for the past year.
Additionally, you will need to complete an application form, a form that collects information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work, and you will have to submit a form that gives the SSA the right to talk to your doctor about your medical condition.
“When should I apply for Social Security Disability?”
Since the social security disability application and review process can take a very long time, it is important to apply for benefits as soon as you believe you have become disabled. In fact, if your application is initially denied and you enter into the appeals process, approval can take up to three years.
“What if my application is denied?”
If the SSA denies your application, you have the right to appeal their decision. However, you must make a written request within 60 days of receiving your denial letter. During this process, you have the right to be represented by a lawyer. There are four levels to the appeals process:
- Reconsideration: This is the process where someone who was not involved with the first decision will review all the evidence you initially submitted, as well as any new evidence.
- Hearing: If the reconsideration still denies your benefits, you have the right to request a hearing. The hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge, and he or she will question you and any witnesses you bring. Although not required, it is strongly recommended that you have an attorney represent you at the hearing.
- Appeals Council: If the judge rules against you in the hearing you may request a review by the Appeals Council. If they decide to hear your request, they will either review your information or return your case back to an administrative judge for further review.
- Federal Court: If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may choose to file a lawsuit in federal district court.
“How much will my benefits be?”
The monthly amount you receive for social security disability will depend on your average lifetime earnings. Certain members of your family may also qualify for benefits under certain circumstances.
“What if I want to go back to work?”
After you start receiving benefits, you may want to try to go back to work. There are federal incentives that exist that can help disabled people re-enter the workforce, while still receiving certain benefits.
We’ve worked hard for thousands of clients who’ve become disabled because of mental and physical illnesses and injuries. If you or a loved one finds themselves in need of disability benefits, contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free consultation today.