How Does Social Security Disability Work?
The federal government established Social Security as a way for workers to retire at a predetermined age. The earliest that someone can receive retirement benefits is age 62. The benefits increase on a sliding scale up to age 70. These benefits are meant only for those who have been working normally throughout their adult lives. Anyone who is disabled, forced out of work, or unable to work may receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Clients who are faced with this issue should reach out to the Maryland Social Security disability lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton for assistance.
We have a track record of helping our clients receive the benefits to which they are entitled. We understand, however, that a majority of our clients do not quite understand how this system works. We want to work in-tandem with our clients to give them support, help them file their claims, appeal denied benefits, and appear before administrative law judges when necessary. Clients should not be afraid of the SSI and SSDI process when we can provide the support that is needed.
What Types of Benefits Does Social Security Offer?
Someone who has been paying into the system throughout their life can receive benefits at or approaching their retirement age. As mentioned, these benefits can begin as early as age 62. Full retirement age, when the worker can receive 100 percent of their benefits, is age 66 or 67, based on year of birth. Benefits continue to increase up to age 70 when the worker can take the maximum amount.
Many people believe that Social Security is designed only for retirees and that someone will not receive benefits if they have not paid into the system.
However, there are two other components of this program, including one designed for disabled workers who paid into the system, and one for those who did not contribute. Benefits are determined primarily by the amount that someone has paid into the system, and they are broken up into two distinct categories. When we work with our clients, we can explain which plan is appropriate for them.
SSI is designed for those who do not have a work history. SSDI is designed for those who have a work history and are no longer able to work or maintain full-time employment. SSI helps those who may have been disabled since they were children or teens. This may also include someone who was disabled early in their career. SSDI is designed for people who have been working and paying into the Social Security system. We help our clients with the application process and explain how disabilities will be documented. We handle the paperwork, filing deadlines, and communication with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
How can I Receive SSDI Benefits?
People who can receive benefits fall into different categories. On the one hand, someone who has been disabled and unable to work will need to apply for SSI. Someone who was working and paying into the system may have been disabled, stopped working, or only has the capacity to work a few hours a week. This means that the worker could be unemployed or underemployed. These workers are eligible for SSDI.
Some people assume that they cannot apply because they have some capacity to work. Other clients do not apply because they think they are not old enough or think they are too old. Preconceived notions about Social Security will cause many to miss out on the benefits that they deserve. This may include people who seem to be in good health but are simply not fit to work.
Common Conditions Covered Under SSI and SSDI
Common conditions covered under SSI and SSDI include the following:
- Musculoskeletal issues, such as back injuries and even slipped discs
- Chronic breathing problems, such as severe asthma or COPD
- Chronic cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease
- Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis
- Mental conditions, such as severe anxiety or depression
- Immunocompromising disorders, such as lupus or Marfan syndrome
- Skin disorders
- Kidney problems, including dialysis
- Bloodborne diseases, such as anemia
Any of these disorders can make it difficult for the claimant to work full-time. Someone who cannot breathe well may have difficulty when they are outside breathing unfiltered air. Back problems and slipped discs could make it impossible to drive or sit at a desk for long periods of time. Diseases, such as multiple sclerosis can cause weakness and loss of muscular control. The same is true of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Cardiovascular disease could leave the patient very tired and winded after walking only a few feet. Skin disorders might make it unsafe for people to go outside, and someone on dialysis may not be able to leave the house.
Cancer requires quite a lot of treatment, and mental conditions might make it difficult to leave the house or work in an office environment. These conditions should be taken seriously, and we will ensure that all the necessary medical documentation is provided when the claim is filed. Without a complete case with all the proper documentation, it can be difficult for families or individuals to receive proper benefits.
How Does a Disabled Person Receive Benefits?
When disabled people are applying for SSI or SSDI benefits, they need to know how to apply. First, the client must understand for which benefits they can apply. The system uses a simple 20/40 rule that makes it easy to know whether someone qualifies.
The 20/40 rule states that a worker who is over 31 years of age should have worked 20 of the last 40 quarters to qualify. This means that the worker has paid into the system enough to withdraw benefits. This also means that the worker was likely working full time or close to full time. Someone who does not fulfill these requirements may qualify for SSI benefits.
Anyone who qualifies under these rules can apply for SSDI benefits. The disability insurance portion of Social Security is designed to pay someone who can no longer work. SSDI helps those who might have been hurt and can no longer work. Some may only be able to work at a minimum. Being underemployed is just as bad as being unemployed, and the program will support the individual who knows they cannot work a full-time schedule.
Anyone who does not qualify under this system should apply for SSI. The SSI program is meant for those who do not qualify or have no work history at all. This often includes individuals who have been disabled for some time and could not build up a work history. Someone who is under the age of 31 can receive SSDI benefits if they have the work history to back up their application. SSI benefits, however, should be considered when it is clear there is not enough work history to support an SSDI application. Anyone who applies for the wrong type of benefits will be denied, and we will need to review the case to figure out which program is appropriate. Some applicants do not fill out their applications properly, and others may have simply applied for the wrong program.
Total household income is also considered; someone who is in a household with adequate income will have a difficult time applying because the household income could leave the applicant without benefits. We work with clients to prove that they should be covered by Social Security given their disability status. We understand that some families cannot support a disabled individual, regardless of their income.
Why Do Denials Occur?
Denials can occur because the SSA may have misinterpreted the documentation, the application may not be complete, or there may be other issues that need to be addressed. When clients come to us to ask about a denial, we will explain why the denial occurred. We notice that denials most often occur because of the following:
- Lack of evidence to support a disability claim
- The treatment plan created by a doctor was not followed
- Income is too high
- Lack of cooperation, which could include a missing document or a line that has not been completed on a form
It is important for clients to go to the doctor to have the appropriate documents completed. Although someone may believe it is obvious that they are disabled if they use a wheelchair, the administrative law counsel and workers for the SSA do not know that. They need to see documentation from a licensed physician who diagnosed the disability.
Treatment plans can help a disabled person recover to a certain degree. The SSA does not know if the treatment plan given to one of our clients could allow them to overcome their disability, and the SSA will deny claims where it seems the applicant is not following their treatment plan. It is important for a client to work with a doctor to provide testimony showing that the person wants to live a productive life but is still disabled.
Again, household income could be too high for a Social Security claim. Although clients cannot move their money around to get the benefits they deserve, we will work with the family to prove that the household income does not necessarily make up for someone’s disability. We take everything into account, and we will compile all the documentation necessary to convince the SSA to approve the claim.
Can I Receive Retroactive Benefits?
Retroactive benefits are available for anyone who has been disabled before they applied. The disabled person may not realize the steps they can take when an injury or accident occurs. Retroactive benefits can be offered for up to 12 months before the application date. This is necessary because of the following:
- The injured party might not know they qualify for benefits.
- The family or the disabled party may have applied for the wrong benefit program.
- The applicant may have had the disability long before the application was submitted.
Retroactive benefits are not guaranteed, but we will ensure that we present a case that will convince the SSA to approve the benefits. We can also argue for retroactive benefits for anyone who must attend a denial hearing. We will explain to our clients how the process works, and we may even negotiate with an administrative law judge to receive retroactive benefits in one form or another.
Questions About Social Security Benefits
Anyone who comes to our offices for assistance may have a range of questions about how Social Security works. When clients approach us for help, they may not know how to proceed. We ask our clients to do their research online, bring all the evidence that they have, and explain their situation. We can answer questions about SSI or SSDI, and we will help our clients determine if they qualify. Some of these cases are confusing, and we will research the case carefully because we may need further clarification.
Can Someone File for Benefits After a Denial?
Applying again for benefits once they have been denied is not a good idea because an appeal maintains the original application. Benefits could be jeopardized if the applicant sends in a new application. When we appeal, we can go to a hearing with an administrative law judge to explain exactly how much the applicant should receive. We will ensure that we are working from the same case that was presented when the client initially applied. It can be difficult to make a new application look exactly like an old application. Filing a new application might also confuse the SSA because they will have multiple files. They could deny both cases, thinking it is fraud, even though the client merely applied again because they were worried about receiving their benefits.
Why Should an Experienced Attorney Handle the Case?
Although the government does not send a lawyer to argue against benefits for the disabled, our clients should have a lawyer with them when they come to the hearing or even to fill out an application. A family may realize that their situation is more complicated than they originally thought, and they can retain a Maryland Social Security disability lawyer for help. We will guide our clients through the process and explain how this system works.
What Happens After a Denial?
One of the first things that we do is make sure that the applicant has chosen the appropriate benefits program. Some people will apply for SSDI when they do not have the work history to support that application and some will apply for SSI even though they should be applying for SSDI. We can help the client complete the proper application so that the claim can be approved. A simple review of a client’s work history will tell us everything we need to know.
When denials occur, the SSA will send documentation showing why they have denied the claim for benefits. We help our clients address these issues, and we will resubmit the claim when possible. When needed, we will help with the appeal hearing, which can be challenging for a client with no legal experience.
How Long Will It Take to Receive an Approval?
We understand that applying for Social Security disability benefits can be tiresome. These applications could take up to two years to be approved based on a variety of factors. The Maryland Social Security disability lawyers will ensure that an application is handled properly, and we can follow up with the SSA to learn about the status of the application. Anyone who works for the SSA will take our phone calls more seriously because we are a law firm.
We also ask that our clients do not call the SSA to inquire about an application. We understand that it can be frustrating to know that benefits should be provided even though the application is simply sitting in the system. When people call the SSA, they may allow their anger to get the best of them. Transcripts of phone calls may be read by the administrative law judge during an appeal hearing. Communications with the SSA should be done by a lawyer with a calm demeanor.
What Can be Done if Benefits are Stopped?
When benefits have been stopped, this is different than a denial. This will probably cause confusion and stress for the client. We recommend that clients submit a Request for Reconsideration that asks a case worker from the SSA to look over the application again. This is always the best place to start, but clients might want us to send that form to the SSA. We know how to complete the form and support our request with documentation.
If that is not possible, we will submit a request for a hearing with an administrative law judge, which allows us to meet a judge who decides these cases every day. Although clients can submit this paperwork on their own, they can come to LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton for help at any time.
What is the Statute of Limitations for an Appeal?
When applicants want to appeal a decision by the SSA, they have 60 days to submit their appeal request. Clients should contact us as soon as possible to prevent any delays in the case. We know that it can be shocking when someone who is disabled is denied coverage under Social Security, but we need to act quickly so that the statute of limitations does not expire before the case is heard.
Although this statute of limitations is firm, there are times when applicants simply do not know that they have been denied. The SSA might not have sent letters to the applicant at the proper time, or the applicant might have moved. The case may have been allowed to sit on a case worker’s desk for too long, or a previous denial may not have been issued in time for an appeal. We will argue that the statute of limitations should be extended when it is obvious that the client did not have a chance to appeal through normal channels.
Can a Second Appeal be Filed?
A second appeal can be submitted just like the first one. At this point, we have already argued the case before an administrative law judge who has denied the claim. That judge is relatively low on the scale of jurisdiction, and we will take the claim to district or federal court when needed. Clients should not try to take these claims to district and federal court on their own. Our Maryland Social Security disability lawyers understand courtroom etiquette, what judges expect during a hearing, and how to prove the case.
What Happens at an Administrative Hearing?
During administrative hearings, judges will ask specific questions about the case. It is important to remember that these administrative law judges are not familiar with the case because they were likely given the file when the hearing began. We will begin to frame the case so that the judge understands the details and begin to ask questions. Judges want to know the following:
- How and when the client was disabled
- If the client was working or is working
- What accommodations the client needs
- If the client worked long enough to qualify for SSDI
- If there is medical documentation of the disability
We will teach our clients how to respond to the judge when going to these hearings, and we will work with our clients to obtain a favorable judgement. The administrative law judge will inform us of their decision quickly, and we can file an appeal if the claim has been denied again. At times, the judge might provide advice for getting the application approved, or the judge might suggest that the applicant apply for another program.
What if the Case is Still Denied?
As mentioned, we are willing to go all the way to federal court to help our clients receive the benefits they need. This is one of the reasons why it can take up to two years for an application to be approved. We must work with our clients to ensure that their cases be heard, and we will continue to follow up on these claims until they have been paid by the government. We will also look for any malfeasance that may have occurred during the application process. If the local SSA office is not acting in good faith or not handling the case properly, we will cite all these problems when filing an appeal.
Maryland Social Security Disability Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Those in Need of Social Security Benefits
Anyone who needs assistance with Social Security, SSI, or SSDI benefits should speak to the Maryland Social Security disability lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will fight for your right to receive the benefits you deserve if you cannot obtain or maintain employment. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.