DO I QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY (SSD) BENEFITS?
To qualify for SSD, you must have worked long enough in jobs where Social
Security taxes have been paid for you. Usually, if you have worked in
such jobs at least 5 of the last 10 years, you will have earned enough
quarters of credit to be covered if you have a severe medical condition
that has prevented you, or will prevent you, from substantial gainful
work activity for at least a year, or is expected to end in death before
that time period.
If you think you may be eligible for disability benefits, we can help you
file your application online or appeal any denial you may have received.
WHEN SHOULD I APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?
Apply as soon as you and your doctors agree that your disability is going
to last a full year. You are not eligible for Social Security Disability
benefits if your condition is not expected to last a full year. However,
if you have been denied because Social Security believes your disabling
condition is temporary, our attorneys may be able to speak with your doctors
and get the right kind of evidence to show your condition is more permanent
and will satisfy the one-year requirement. Others, who have been struggling
to work in spite of a disability and know the condition is not going away,
should apply as soon as work activity stops or falls to part-time levels.
I WAS TOLD I DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH "CREDITS" TO QUALIFY. NOW WHAT?
You must earn a certain number of credits over a certain time period to
qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The number of credits
you need depends on your age when you apply and the type of benefit application.
No one needs more than 40 credits for any Social Security benefit.
To determine your number of credits, Social Security uses your total yearly
earnings. The amount needed for one credit in 2016 is $1,260. You can
earn a maximum of four credits for any year. The amount needed to earn
one credit increases automatically each year when average wages increase.
If you have almost enough credits to qualify for SSD, it is beneficial
to talk to an experienced Panama City Social Security Disability attorney
about how to correctly earn the additional credits in order to qualify.
WHAT IS "SUBSTANTIAL GAINFUL ACTIVITY?"
The term “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) is used to describe a level
of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing
significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.
If you earn more than a certain amount and are doing productive work, we
generally consider that you are engaging in substantial gainful activity.
You would not be eligible for disability benefits.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR SSD BENEFITS?
Although you can apply for disability without having an attorney, the attorneys
and staff at Syfrett, Dykes & Furr can help you start your online application
for Social Security disability at no additional charge. Social Security
has a helpful website (www.ssa.gov) that offers an online disability application.
Most questions are straightforward about you, your medical condition,
and your medical treatment. However, other questions about your past work
history can be more confusing and potentially harmful if not correctly
You can also call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0788),
wait on hold for a while, and then finally speak with someone, Monday
through Friday from 7:00 a.m. EST to 7:00 p.m. EST. Or, if you are brave
enough to fight the lines, you can go to your local Social Security office,
pick a number, and wait to see someone in person. The easier way may still
be to contact the Social Security attorneys and staff at Syfrett, Dykes & Furr.
HOW LONG DOES APPLICATION PROCESSING TAKE?
The time it takes to get a decision on your disability application can
vary depending on:
- The type of disability you have
- What type of medical evidence is submitted with your application
- How quickly additional medical evidence can be put together that proves
your disabling condition
- Whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination
- Whether your case gets reviewed for quality purposes
CAN I RECEIVE BENEFITS FOR MONTHS PRIOR TO MY APPLICATION?
Social Security disability benefits can be paid for as many as 12 months
before you apply if it is found you had disability dating back in time
and you meet all of the other requirements.
This is not true of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability. Once
financial considerations are undertaken and disability is proven, SSI
disability benefits begin the month after the application for disability.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SSD AND SSI BENEFITS?
Both programs provide benefits for disability, but the two programs are
financed differently. Employment taxes primarily finance Social Security
retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits. Generally, SSD
benefits are paid to eligible workers and their families, based on the
Meanwhile, general taxes fund the SSI program, which serves the needy.
SSI eligibility depends largely on limited income and resources as well
as meeting the definition of being disabled.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I QUALITY FOR SSI BENEFITS?
To get Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, you must be blind
or disabled and determined to be in a defined financial need. This means
you must have a limited amount of resources and household income. Generally,
one must have less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 if married) to qualify
for SSI. Resources are things you own like cash, bank accounts, stocks,
land, personal property, vehicles, or anything else that can be exchanged
for cash to pay for food or shelter. Some resources will not be counted
against you like the home in which you live or the vehicle you drive to
doctor appointments. In Florida, if you are receiving any SSI you will
also qualify for Medicaid.
One more important thing. Your living arrangements can affect how much
you can get in SSI. If you are considered living in the household of another,
you will get less money than if you are considered living alone. To be
considered living alone, you need to be paying for your portion of rent
or food or both OR have signed an agreement with the person who is helping
you pay these expenses obligating you to pay them back.
CAN I RETURN TO WORK WHILE RECEIVING SSD BENEFITS?
Yes, you can return to work while receiving Social Security disability
benefits. There are special rules that encourage you and help you get
back to work without jeopardizing your initial benefits if you feel you
are getting better. You may be able to have a trial work period for nine
months to test whether you can work.
MY SSD CLAIM HAS BEEN REJECTED. WHAT NOW?
If your claim was denied and you believe you qualify for SSD benefits,
don’t worry. You can file an appeal or you can get the help of a skilled
Panama City SSD attorney to not only file the appeal but review the reason
for the denial and help you try to put together better proof. There are
several levels of determination for Social Security Disability benefits.
You have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to appeal a denial to reach
the next level of determination.
If you fail to appeal a denial during the required time, you may still
be able to appeal if there was good cause for not meeting the deadline
(i.e., mental illness, hospitalization, delayed receipt of denial, etc.)
If you do not have good cause, you can reapply for Social Security disability
or Supplemental Security Income. Please keep in mind that "appealing"
and "reapplying" are not the same thing. Reapplying means you have to
start the process over again.
HOW DO I RECEIVE AN SS STATEMENT THAT CONTAINS A RECORD OF MY EARNINGS?
You can get your personal Social Security Statement online by using your
my Social Security account that can be set up at www.ssa.gov. If you don’t
yet have an account, you can easily create one. Your online Statement
gives you secure and convenient access to your earnings records. It also
shows estimates for retirement, disability and survivor benefits you and
your family may be eligible for.
Social Security also mails Statements to workers attaining ages 25, 30,
35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 and older three months prior to their birthday
if they don’t receive Social Security benefits and don’t have a Social
Security account. Workers who do not want to wait for their scheduled
mailing can request their Social Security Statement through the website.
The Statement will arrive by mail in four to six weeks.
CAN I RECEIVE DISABILITY AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS SIMULTANEOUSLY?
Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement
benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age. The
law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability
benefits on one earnings record at the same time.
WHAT ARE "COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCES?"
Social Security has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants
whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously
meet disability standards. Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are a way of
quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably
qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical
information. CALs allow Social Security to target the most obviously disabled
individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that
we can obtain quickly. Compassionate Allowances is not a separate program
from the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security
CAL conditions are selected using information received at public outreach
hearings, comments received from the Social Security and Disability Determination
Services communities, counsel of medical and scientific experts, and research
with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Our attorneys are familiar
with CALs and can work with your doctors to put together the proof that
IS THERE A WAITING PERIOD FOR SSD BENEFITS?
If you are found to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits,
there will also be a date that is used to establish the onset of your
disability. Unless one is disabled on the first day of the month, no one
gets paid for the month in which disability is established. Additionally,
there is a five-month waiting period following the onset month before
benefits will be paid. The first month for which benefits are paid is
the sixth full month after the date your disability began. This waiting
period does not apply to the payment of SSI disability benefits.
WILL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AFFECT MY SSD BENEFITS?
Social Security does not count unemployment benefits as earnings. However,
if you are receiving unemployment benefits, you have likely signed a statement
that you are ready, willing and able to work for the time period in which
you receive these benefits.
In a disability hearing, some judges wrongly refuse to award benefits for
time periods when unemployment was received. There are legal arguments
to establish entitlement to disability benefits for the same time periods
as when unemployment was received if the medical evidence supports only
an ability to return to work part-time.
CAN CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?
A child with a disability age 18 or older may get Social Security benefits
when a parent gets retirement or disability benefits. The child also can
get benefits if a parent dies. The child’s disability must have begun
before age 22.
WHAT IS THE TICKET TO WORK PROGRAM?
The Ticket To Work Program can help Social Security beneficiaries go to
work, get a good job that may lead to a career, save more money, and become
financially independent, all while they keep their health coverage through
Medicare. Ticket to Work is a free and voluntary program that gives beneficiaries
real choices that can help them create and lead better lives. Individuals
who receive Social Security benefits because of a disability probably
already qualify for the program.
CAN I RECEIVE SSD BENEFITS IF I ALREADY RECEIVE VETERANS' BENEFITS?
Even if you meet the requirements to get veterans disability benefits,
you may not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Eligibility
for each program is different. For example, the Department of Veterans
Affairs pays benefits for partial disability. However, Social Security
pays disability benefits only to people with impairments, which are so
severe they prevent any kind of substantial gainful work.
WHAT ARE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR WOUNDED WARRIORS AND HOW CAN I APPLY?
This program expedites processing of disability claims of current military
service members or veterans disabled while on active duty on or after
October 1, 2001.
WHAT ARE DISABLED WIDOW/WIDOWER'S BENEFITS?
This is a disability program where you can apply for benefits based on
a deceased spouse’s earnings record. For instance, if a wife or husband
has stayed at home to raise children and take care of the household, she
or he may not have the required number of credits to qualify for disability
on their own account. Or, if a wife or husband has earned substantially
less than her or his spouse, the monthly benefit may be higher on the
spouse’s account. In order to qualify for disabled widow’s/widower’s benefits,
you must be 50 years or older and the onset of your disability must be
within seven years of your spouse’s death.
WHAT ARE DIVORCED SPOUSE BENEFITS?
You can apply for benefits based on your divorced spouse’s earnings record
if you were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years, are at least,
62 years old, are currently unmarried, and obtaining benefits under your
divorced spouse’s earnings record results in a greater monthly benefit
than what you could receive based on your own earnings records.
CAN I RECEIVE AN EXPEDITED DECISION ON MY SSD CLAIM?
The Social Security Administration has rules in place for individuals applying
for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits that need faster processing
of their claim which they call “critical cases.” There are four situations
Social Security recognizes as warranting critical case processing:
- The first is called a TERI case and applies if you have a terminal illness.
- The second is a Wounded Warrior or Military Service Casualty Case (MSCC)
and applies if you are a veteran applying for Social Security disability
based on a service injury occurring on or after 10/1/2001.
- The third is if your case is flagged as a Compassionate Allowance (CAL) case.
- The fourth type is a “dire need” case. A dire need situation exists when
a person has insufficient income or resources to meet an immediate threat
to health or safety, such as the lack of food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
DO I QUALIFY AS A "DIRE NEED" CASE?
You must be able to show one or more of the following:
- A lack of food (i.e., without and unable to obtain food)
- A lack of medicine or medical care (e.g., the claimant expresses that he
or she needs medicine or medical care but is unable to obtain it due to
lack of resources)
- A lack of shelter (e.g. shutoff of utilities such that home is uninhabitable,
homelessness, expiration of shelter stay, or imminent eviction or foreclosure
with no means to remedy the situation or obtain shelter).
Many times, we are able to help with establishing dire need. However,
as the backlog of cases grow with Social Security, and more and more disabled
people are waiting on decisions, it is getting harder to get “dire need”
established. Letters from family or friends that are aware of your situation
can be helpful. Unpaid bills, foreclosure notice, eviction notices, expiration
medical coverage, bank statements, letters from your doctor including
unpaid doctor bills, and any other supportive documents that can show
your extreme hardship. At our firm, we can review your personal circumstances
and make suggestions about the specific type of evidence that will be
most beneficial in your case for obtaining dire need status when needed.
HOW ARE ATTORNEYS PAID FOR SSD WORK?
Lawyers only get paid if the application is accepted and benefits are secured.
The fee is most often by direct payment from Social Security and is usually
25% of the past-due benefits owed to you when you win. However, a fee
is capped at $6,000. This cap is set by the Commissioner and is always
subject to change.
AM I ALLOWED TO EARN INCOME WHILE MY CASE IS PENDING?
Yes and no. It is not uncommon for someone to have had a heart attack or
other illness/injury, be out of work four or five months, try to go back
to work, work a few weeks, and then be unable to do keep it up. That would
be considered by most judges to be an “unsuccessful work attempt,” and
would not preclude you from getting paid your SS benefits even for the
period of time you were working.
Other people will try to work part-time while applying for disability benefits.
If it is part-time and sporadic, most judges will agree this is also an
"unsuccessful work attempt.” However, if you’ve still managed to work
in spite of significant health problems and you are working 25 or 30 hours
per week, then most all judges will deny your claim. Unfortunately, those
who struggle to work generally will have a harder time winning than those
who simply stop early on.
HOW MUCH CAN I EARN AND STILL RECEIVE SSD BENEFITS?
It is presumed that somebody working and earning under $1,010 per month
is not working. But be careful! Just because you are earning less, it
doesn’t mean you are safe from SSA saying you are able to work and are
not disabled. They might rule that you are being underpaid (intentionally
or unintentionally) or that you can actually work more than you are doing.
So, while you can use the above amount as a rough guide, the only safe
way to be considered “not working” is not to work at all or working substantially
under the amount.
IF I AM DISABLE, CAN MY CHILDREN RECEIVE BENEFITS?
Children can receive benefits if an eligible parent is disabled, retired
or deceased. They can receive benefits until they graduate high school
or until age 18, whichever is later. The amount they receive depends on
how much the adult receives. Certain adults who never earned very much
money may find that the children do not receive cash benefits.
WHAT TYPE OF DOCUMENTATION SHOULD MY DOCTOR PROVIDE ME ABOUT MY CONDITION?
The best report from a doctor is a report he would give as if he were explaining
your condition to other physicians. First, he should give a long history.
What were the initial symptoms, when did they start, when did they become
significant? He should then mention his initial examination or workup.
What clinical observations did he make? Next, what treatment did he give
and how well did it work? He should give the diagnosis and the prognosis.
He should explain the basis for the diagnosis and the prognosis, that
is, how did he make these determinations, what medical tests were used.
He should also describe your current clinical findings—that is, what he
finds when he examines you. Lastly, he should summarize the impact on
your ability to work—how these conditions have affected your ability to
function. He should describe whether they limit your ability to sit, stand,
and walk, to lift, to carry, to work on a regular eight-hour-day basis.
If it is an emotional condition or has emotional components, he should
describe the impact of stress, working with others, working under deadlines,
your ability to concentrate and deal with the general public or coworkers,
to remember instructions and learn a job.
Many times doctors are not aware of how to write an opinion about disability
for Social Security. It is not enough for your doctor to just say you
are disabled. If you have a doctor that is willing to help you, our attorneys
routinely review medical records and consult with doctors about the type
of language that will help you prove your case.
MY HEARING NOTICE SAYS A VOCATIONAL EXPERT AND MEDICAL EXPERT WILL BE AT
THE HEARING. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Let me start here by saying if you are not represented and your hearing
notice says there will be a vocational or medical expert at your hearing,
it would be a good idea to get a Panama City SSD lawyer as soon as possible
to help you prepare for the hearing. Vocational Experts testify about
the physical and mental requirements of your past work, as well as the
jobs that may be available to you.
The Medical Expert will answer questions about your condition and what
he/she believes about your ability to function either physically or mentally
with your condition. You should have an experienced lawyer familiar with
your medical records and condition who can also question the vocational
and medical expert based on your limitations. Vocational testimony may
sound very bad or good to your case but might actually be quite the opposite.
It takes a lawyer who has cross-examined many vocational experts to know
the difference and how to approach a given case.
Are you ready to pursue a Social Security claim? Syfrett, Dykes & Furr
can help. Contact us to request a
free consultation today.