Social Security Disability
If you have an illness or injury that prevents you from obtaining a job, or an illness or injury that forced you to leave your last job, you may qualify for disability benefits, including a monthly disability payment from the Social Security Administration (SSA). At LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, we work with those who deserve to be supported through these social entitlements. We want you to understand the coverage you will receive, and we will help you file your claim or appeal a denial.
There are two types of disability benefits that may be available to you: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The following information will help you learn which one you should receive based on your situation:
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
SSDI is paid to those who have recently become disabled and who have a history of being employed in the recent past. This is an important distinction because you may have maintained employment for some time, but an injury or illness may have forced you out of work. You may have lost your job because you could not fulfill your duties, and now you cannot find a job because of your disability. SSI is paid to persons who do not have a history of employment in their recent past. This means that you may have never been able to work, or you may have been disabled as a child and you are no longer supported by your family.
SSI recipients usually receive less money than recipients of SSDI; however, the amount of benefits a person receives depends upon several factors not related to the injuries or illnesses that are disabling them. It is also important that you file your claim properly. If you submit your paperwork improperly, you could be denied, even though it is clear that you should receive benefits.
In some cases, there may be circumstances that will prevent you from receiving the benefits you deserve. We will review your case, and someone from our law firm will take over your case so that you receive the appropriate benefits. We work tirelessly to serve those who cannot help themselves or have been discouraged by the federal disability benefits system.
How Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
In order to receive SSDI benefits, you must not be gainfully employed. If you apply for benefits and are working at the time your application for benefits is considered, you will be denied. However, if you are working only a few hours per week and that is all the work you can physically perform, you may still be eligible to receive benefits. This is known as underemployment, and it can be just as bad as unemployment if you have no other source of income.
We strongly encourage you to file a claim if you can hardly work. Many Americans believe they can only receive benefits if they cannot work at all, and that common misconception might cost you and your family dearly. If you are not gainfully employed, have a severe impairment that will last more than 12 months or may result in death, the impairment is listed or equals an impairment that is specifically listed in the Social Security regulations, or if you are unable to perform your previous work or other generally available jobs, then you are disabled and are entitled to SSDI benefits.
How are Benefits Paid?
SSDI benefits are paid to individuals who have a work history. The SSA determines eligibility for SSDI benefits based upon a person’s quarters of coverage. A quarter refers to a quarter of the year. The common question for determining eligibility is if you paid enough money into Social Security in the recent past to be insured? For example, if you are over the age of 31, you must have worked 20 of the past 40 quarters, also referred to as the 20/40 threshold, to be eligible for SSDI benefits.
If you did not reach the 20/40 threshold, but are otherwise disabled, you may only be entitled to collect SSI benefits. If you are under the age of 31 and have not worked 20 of the past 40 quarters, you may still be eligible for SSDI benefits. There are exceptions applied to the rules by the SSA, and you should not be expected to understand the nuances of these entitlements. A Baltimore Social Security lawyer will assist you in determining which benefits you are eligible to receive.
Eligibility for SSI benefits is subjected to the income level of the members of your household. Thus, if you are disabled but live with a relative who has sufficient income, you may not qualify for SSI even though you are unable to work. This may be a shocking revelation for some, but the SSA looks at everything when considering your claim.
Why was I Denied Benefits?
- Insufficient medical evidence. When your case is reviewed by the Social Security Administration, they will look at the medical evidence used to determine your disability status. Because the staff at the SSA are not licensed physicians, they can only go by the evidence you provided. This is why we use medical experts and work with your current doctor to provide the appropriate documentation for your disability.
- Failure to follow your treatment plan. If you are disabled and are not following your treatment plan, it looks as though you do not want to improve. The SSA believes that you may want to live on disability and will deny your application. We will show that you are following your treatment plan and provide the appropriate documentation to show you followed the doctor’s orders.
- Income. If you have a source of income or live with family members who can provide for you, you will be denied. We will explain how you received any money and carefully outline your financial situation to show why you deserve disability benefits.
- Previous denial. If your case was played out in the court system, you may be denied again. You must produce a completely new claim with help from our legal team.
- Failure to cooperate. When you cannot provide the required documentation for your disability, the SSA will claim that you failed to cooperate. This could be nothing more than a misunderstanding, and we will ensure that you have all the documents that the caseworker wants to see. We will even speak to your caseworker to help them understand that you have done everything in your power to satisfy the SSA’s requirements.
Can I Receive Retroactive Benefits?
SSDI benefits are retroactive for up to 12 months prior to the date of your application for benefits. This means you could apply for benefits and receive them even for the months before you applied. SSI benefits are not retroactive and can only be awarded from the first full month following the month in which your application was filed. If you believe that you should receive benefits because you did not realize you qualified, reach out to us immediately.
Whether this is your first time filing, you wish to appeal a denial, or if you simply want to find out if you are eligible for SSDI benefits, our experienced lawyers can help. The following are frequently asked questions to help you understand what you are dealing with, how we can help you, and how to approach your issues with SSDI benefits, hearings, and dealing with the SSA.
Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Claims
The Social Security Administration Recently Denied My Claim for Disability Benefits. Should I Appeal or File Again?
If you file again, you may not receive as much in benefits than if you appealed the decision. Generally, it is better to appeal than to file again. However, there may be certain times where you want to do both. Do not complain to the SSA or talk to one of their lawyers. You say something that might invalidate your claim. The SSA knows the rules better than you do, and they might start looking at your file, notice that you deserve fewer benefits, or lower your benefits.
Do I Need an Attorney?
While there is no requirement that you hire an attorney, the process of obtaining benefits can be complicated and confusing. Our lawyers have the experience, resources, and know-how to obtain the benefits you deserve. We will develop your case, determine how your benefits should be paid, and note where the government has gone wrong. Those handling your case at the SSA may make mistakes. We will ensure that those mistakes are uncovered so that you can receive the benefits you deserve. If someone at the SSA is willfully mishandling your case, we will hold them accountable for their actions.
If My Initial Application was Denied, What Can I Do?
The initial application stage represents only the start of the claims process. There are several levels of appeal that may be available to you. Upon learning of your denial, contact us immediately. You must continue to work on your claim so that it does not expire. Because you only have so much time to appeal, we will begin work on your case immediately. Americans often assume that they are the victims of bad luck when they do not obtain the social entitlements they deserve. Often, the case has not been handled properly, and we will ensure that your claim is filed properly, that you are represented at your hearing, and that you understand what is happening.
You may have also applied for the wrong benefits. SSDI is offered to those who cannot work, but Americans often do not realize that they can apply for SSI benefits if they have little to no work history. Families may assume that a disabled child who cannot work will need to be supported by the family in perpetuity, but that adult child can receive SSI benefits. You may have missed out because you applied for SSDI benefits, but we will help you file the appropriate application.
How Long Does It Take to Be Approved for Benefits?
The claims process can take anywhere from several months to approximately two years depending on your claim and the appeals level at which you are finally approved. Whether you are approved depends on the strength of your case, and you should build your case carefully. When we take over your case, we will make sure that we collect all the information involving your claim, including doctor’s statements, income or asset statements, and anything else that will solidify your claim. We will also work with you for as long as it takes. Please understand that we do not have control over the administrative court system. You could be stuck in a backlog of hearings, and we will work hard to expedite your case in any way that we can.
If I was Denied Disability Benefits or My Benefits Have Stopped, What Can I Do?
If you believe that you have been wrongly denied benefits, you should appeal. The first stage of your appeal is a Request for Reconsideration. This will force the SSA to take another look at your case. You may also choose to file a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge. When you do this, you are forcing the SSA to look at your case more closely and back up their denial in court.
Do I Have a Certain Amount of Time to File My Appeal?
Generally, you have 60 days to file a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge. If you miss this deadline, your case may be dismissed.
If My First Appeal was Unsuccessful, What Can I Do?
You can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this hearing, you have the right to appear before the Judge and explain why your serious medical condition prevents you from finding or keeping a job. The attorneys at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will appear with you at this hearing to assist you in proving detailed evidence that you are disabled.
If we need more time to prepare your case, we may request a continuance for your hearing. We will collect all the information needed for your case and talk to you about your options going forward. It can be frustrating to compile documents and work with the SSA. We will do that for you and let you know what happens when we appeal, schedule a hearing, or even appeal a second time.
What Happens at the Administrative Hearing?
A judge will question you about what activities your medical condition prevents you from performing and what activities you can still perform. Certain judges prefer to have your attorney ask these questions. Frequently, a vocational expert will testify as to the type of work you performed in the past, the types of transferable skills you obtained, and whether a person with limitations such as yours can obtain or maintain employment. A medical doctor may testify at your hearing in rare cases.
What if My Case is Still Denied?
You may take your case to the federal district court so long as you appeal. We will fight for your right to disability benefits before a district judge and ensure that your case is fully developed before appearing in federal court. A hearing at the federal court is no different than your initial hearing. We will continue to collect evidence to prove that you should receive benefits. As mentioned previously, these cases can take quite some time to resolve because you are stuck in a cycle of hearings and paperwork. We will handle everything, prepare you for court, and help you understand what your legal options are.
Are SSDI Benefits Retroactive?
Usually, yes. If you are eligible for benefits, the SSA will determine when your benefits should have begun. An individual can be found to be entitled to benefits for a period of time, even before they applied, regardless if those benefits are classified as SSDI or SSI payments.
Baltimore Social Security Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Work with Those in Need of Social Security Benefits
If you have concerns pertaining to Social Security, the Baltimore Social Security lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can assist you when filing a claim for disability benefits or if you were denied. We will fight for your right to receive the benefits you deserve if you cannot obtain or maintain employment. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Prince George’s County, we represent clients 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.