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Social Security Disability Attorney In Los Angeles


This is NOT legal advice. This blog provides general information about Social Security Disability cases. To discuss your particular

circumstances and claim, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please feel free to contact Disability Advocates Group at (800) 935-3170

or online if you have any questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim.


DAG Blog

Stay up to date on the latest news in social security disability law.

What to do when your disability claims are denied because your doctor didn’t support your claims

Doctor didn't support my disability claims Doctor didn't support my disability claims

Having your doctor’s support is very critical to your disability claims. If your doctor refuses to cooperate, then your case might become very hard to win. However, there are ways to improve your disability case even if your doctor doesn’t support.

Be Ready to Explain

If you get to the hearing level and still do not have a supportive statement from your doctor, the administrative law judge (ALJ), who will be hearing your case, will need to be portrayed the real and honest picture of your whole case. In order to do this, you should be ready to explain this to the judge. It might be best to tackle this point earlier in your hearing. An experienced disability attorney would know best how to present your case to the ALJ.

Evidence is Key

Brute and clear medical evidence may sometimes be sufficient to convince your judge otherwise, even if your doctor doesn’t support your case. Though it may be time consuming, it would be best if you spend some time and effort to gather all the medical evidence earlier so you don’t miss out on presenting anything the ALJ might need in the hearing. Here is an example of which medical evidence you may collect:

  • Names and contact information of all the medical providers you have seen about your disabling condition;
  • Photocopies of any diagnostic tests such as EKGs, blood work, sleep studies, CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, and EEGs;
  • Dates of any hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to your medical condition;
  • Pharmacy printouts that contain a complete list of medications;
  • A list of any side effects of medications, and
  • A list of any alternative treatments you have sought to treat your condition;

Relevant evidence

Before you seek on to collect evidence of your medical history, make sure you include only the medical evidence relevant to your medical condition. Although it is useful to be vigilant, the SSA or your ALJ might only be interested in seeing evidence for the disability you are putting claims of.

Do not chalk out negative records

Sometimes your medical records may include information that may be damaging to your reputation, such as history of substance abuse or injury during a fight. Although you may be tempted to exclude pieces of information such as these, do not do so. The ALJs are trained to look into these loopholes and if found out the exclusion or hiding of the facts may have a bad effect on your claims.

3rd Party Witnesses

Though your medical provider’s opinions matter the most to the SSA, the ALJ might be interested in hearing out opinions of any third party witnesses to your disability as first-hand accounts. These may include any caregivers, volunteers, social workers, your children, hospital nurses, your boss, etc.

Caregivers: Some disabilities require partial or full-term caregiving of the affected patients. If your disability requires you to depend on a caregiver for cooking, cleaning, bathing, giving medicines etc then you may ask your caregiver to write a letter stating so to the ALJ.

Employers: People spend a lot of time at their workplace. If your former employer or boss was a witness to your disability and saw how it affected your work or life then you may ask them as well to write a letter for you. You would need to ask them to be as specific and honest about your condition as they can be, as it can affect the ALJs decision in or against your favor.

Get a Disability Attorney's Help

Getting approved for disability can be hard if you do not have a supportive doctor. An experienced disability attorney will have dealt with myriad cases where claimants did not have a supporting doctor and will have techniques and strategies that can help overcome this obstacle.

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Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease

Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease

People with Huntington’s disease undergo a fatal genetic disorder – this leads to a progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Although people may develop the disease during early 30s and 40s, the symptoms usually appear in late 50s for most people.

Huntington’s is not only a degenerative disease, it also leads to multiple types of neurological disorders such as impairments in functional movements, cognitive abilities and psychiatric disorders.

When can you get disability benefits for Huntington’s disease?

The symptoms for each person with Huntington’s may vary, thereby affecting their chances to qualify for social security disability. The cognitive symptoms may include an inability to perform daily activities such as toileting or bathing, or symptoms of dementia. Whereas the physical symptoms may include loss of muscle control leading to difficulty breathing, swallowing food or drinking water.

Each person’s symptoms will have varying degrees of severity, hence they would need to qualify the same way under the disability insurance, SSDI requirements as any other disability in the Blue Book.

Meeting an impairment listing

Huntington’s disease can be assessed either under the neurodegenerative diseases or, if the disabling symptoms are all cognitive or mental in nature, under the mental listing for neurocognitive diseases. You must be able to prove to the disability examiner or the ALJ that you meet the disability criteria for any of these symptoms for each of the conditions listed below:

Neurodegenerative symptoms

  • Inability to control movements of at least two limbs (an arm or a leg, two arms or two legs);
  • Critical thinking problems such as difficulty understanding, remembering or applying information;
  • Social problems such as interacting with others;
  • Concentration problems such as focusing on work or with finishing tasks with speed and persistence;
  • Setting realistic goals such as managing oneself;

Neurocognitive symptoms

  • Difficulty paying attention to work, tasks or listening to others for long-term;
  • Short term memory loss such as learning and memory deficits;
  • Difficulty in judgment and planning for tasks, such as inability to turn the car at the signal on time;
  • Bad hand-eye coordination;
  • Poor social judgment and inability to use proper social behavior;

Reduced Incapacity to Work, RFC

If you don’t meet the above criteria for disability, but have an inability to perform substantial gainful activity to earn for yourself or are unable to learn new things for a job – the Social Security may award you benefits based on your Reduced Incapacity to Work, RFC.

Your psychiatrist may have to fill the RFC forms for you, listing all the ways the Huntington’s disease limits your capacity to work and perform regular tasks.

Also, since the Huntington’s disease is a result of a disorder in genes, it can result into further degenerative, serious diseases. Therefore, the SSA may refer your disability case further under the ‘compassionate allowance’ to provide you additional benefits.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Huntington’s, you may consult a disability attorney for legal help and paperwork for your disability benefits.

 

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Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders

Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders

Every 1 in 7 people suffer from some kind of neurological disorders, according to the UN. The World Health Organization, WHO stated that almost 100 million Americans, a 1 out of 3 ration of the US population – suffer from some kind of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spinal cord injury.

Quite surprisingly, 60% of the people suffering from neurological disorders are over age 55. This means that older people are more prone to mental health problems. Moreover, neurological problems are not only limited to the brain. They can occur anywhere in the nervous system, including cerebral area (affecting memory and thinking), spinal cord (affecting movement), or peripheral nervous system (affecting thinking and muscular control of different body parts).

Unfortunately, receiving disability benefits is not as simple as getting benefits for other kinds of disability. The SSA has listed 16 disorders under neurological impairments in the Blue Book of impairments. The Blue Book lists every kind of neurological impairment and specific conditions that affect your mental health. Even if your neurological impairment is not listed in the Blue Book, it does not mean that you would be denied benefits for your conditions. Your symptoms and whether you have paid your social security taxes would be important when deciding your qualification for disability.

Some of the more common neurological problems listed by the SSA include:

  • migraine headaches,
  • multiple sclerosis (MS),
  • brain tumors (benign and malignant),
  • epilepsy,
  • persistent motor function disorganization,
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease),
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • cerebral palsy, and
  • spinal cord/nerve lesions

Most neurological disorders are treatable with medicines and are cured easily if the prescriptions are taken as directed by the physician. However, some neurological disorders are degenerative and get worse with time such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, while some may not be treatable in the first place, such as Down’s syndrome.

How do I know if my neurological disorder would qualify for SSDI?

The SSA would rule on your disability claims for the neurological disorder the same way as any other disabilities. You would need to fill out both medical and non-medical requirements to qualify.

 

Non-medical requirements

You would need help from your doctor to file an RFC form for you listing all the ways that your symptoms and conditions affect you. Your psychiatrist would be able to fill out the paperwork that would show your disability examiner or administrative law judge about how your mental impairment limits you from performing substantial work.

Medical requirements

Remember it is important that you include all kinds of medical proofs, documentation and your doctor’s statements to support your case. This includes:

  • Medical history,
  • Examination findings,
  • Relevant laboratory tests,
  • Results of imaging,
  • Imaging refers to medical imaging techniques,
  • X-ray, computerized tomography (CT),
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Prescription lists and medication

Lastly, it is imperative that your medical evidence and physician/psychiatrist’s statements match the prevailing condition and its symptoms. This is because you may be examined by a doctor recommended by the SSA if they think you are manipulating any evidence. If caught jeopardizing your medical impairment, you could face terrible consequences with a possibility of being disqualified forever from social security.

You may consult a disability attorney for more guidance on social security for neurological conditions.

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Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state?

Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state? Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state?

With the world rapidly becoming a global village, more people now move to different states or change countries in hopes of starting new adventures, interesting careers or find a new love. With these new horizons, your life changes in new ways that you never imagined.

Thankfully, with ‘totalization agreements’ all over major countries including the US, UK, Canada and Europe, you can now move freely to explore new horizons without having to compromise important aspects of your life, like social security or your child’s education.

Many people ask our disability attorneys if moving to a different state would affect their social security benefits.

Will Moving Affect Your Social Security Benefits

No, moving to a different state within the U.S. won’t affect your benefits as long as you have a valid social security card. You would only need to inform the Social Security Administration’s local office about the change in your address, with details about your new address.

This is important so that you don’t miss out on important official correspondence from the office and your disability benefits checks. If you have set your benefits payments to direct deposits, you are good to go as long as the authorities are informed about your change of address. You can make the official change in address and telephone number through your social security login online here.

Would you need to re-apply if you change states?

As long as you move within the U.S. you will not have to re-apply for social security benefits. The SSDI is an insurance program run by the federal government, therefore your approval for SSDI benefits will stay the same no matter where you move in the U.S.

How would my benefits change if I move to a different country?

Although your benefits would not be affected by any move within the U.S. your benefits amount may vary if you move to a different country. Countries that have signed a ‘totalization agreement’ with the U.S. government may have their own rules and requirements for the social security. The income limit thresholds may vary and similarly the amount of benefits for disabled, veterans, survivor benefits and dependent benefits may vary for each country.

Fortunately, you won’t have to earn work credits from scratch if you move to a country with ‘totalization agreements’. This means that any work credits you earned while working anywhere in the world (in countries with totalization agreements) would be utilized for your social security.

Remember you could only avail benefits from one country at a time. For instance, if you are a U.S. citizen with dual citizenship status, working in the Europe, then you will be granted social security benefits on European laws as long as you live in the Europe. You will be able to transfer your benefits to the U.S if you decide to move in there.

If you are thinking of moving or are concerned about benefits changes due to moving states (or country), you may contact a social security attorney for more guidance.

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Social Security Disability and marriage

Social Security Disability and marriage Social Security Disability and marriage

If you are already married or getting remarried with children from your ex, each circumstance will have its own consequences on your Social Security Disability Income. The consequences may not always be negative as you will see below.

How marriage affects your SSDI

Since Social Security Disability Insurance is earned by paying social security taxes on your paycheck, you or your spouse may be entitled to social security benefits on his/her record. Also, your benefits might be reduced or downright cancelled if, you were getting benefits on someone else’s record and got remarried to another person. Similarly, there may be other ways how a marriage may affect your benefits:

  • Your own work record: If you were granted benefits on your own record, or if you are still receiving benefits on your own record (meaning you were entitled to your own benefits as a disabled individual), then getting married to another person, or remarrying with children from old spouse(s) will not affect your benefits. Whether your future spouse works, receives disability benefits on his/her own record, or has no income or disability benefits, would not affect your benefits in any way.

 

  • Deceased spouse's work record: If you were receiving widow/widower benefits as the survivors of a Social Security disability recipient, you will lose your widow/widower benefits by getting married, if you get married before age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled). Also, if you were receiving disability benefits of your own, you would only be able to receive survivor benefits on your deceased spouse’s record if the amount of your spouse’s disability benefits was larger than your own disability benefits.

 

  • Ex-spouse's work record: If you are receiving Social Security benefits under your ex-spouse’s work record, then getting married to another person will cause you to lose eligibility for benefits.

 

  • Deceased ex-spouse's work record: If you are receiving surviving divorced spouse benefits, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 60. If you are a divorced spouse receiving benefits due to a disability on your deceased ex-spouse's work record, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 50. If you were receiving benefits of a deceased ex-spouse for taking care of their minor children, then you may continue receiving your benefits until the children get to adult age (18 years, or 19 years if in high school).

 

  • Parent's work record: If you were receiving benefits under your parent’s record, then you may continue to receive benefits as long as you are under 18 years of age. In cases where you are an adult disabled child, then you may continue benefits for lifetime if your disability striked before you turned 22 and remain disabled. In some circumstances, however, a disabled adult child may be able to marry another disabled adult child without either person losing benefits.

 

You may contact a disability attorney for more detailed guidance.

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Faces and facts of social security disability and work

Faces and facts of social security disability and work Faces and facts of social security disability and work

Work rules for people receiving social security disability and supplemental security income vary from person to person.

The SSA has set out a set of general guidelines, the most important of which is, you can’t work under ‘substantial gainful activity’ while receiving benefits. If you decide to go to work, you can work through ‘trial work period’ under which you would be able to continue your benefits while earning an amount within the income limits set by the Social Security Administration, SSA.

The earning limits for an individual working under trial work period vary each year. The limit stated for 2019 is $880 per month for an individual. This means that any individual working and receiving social security benefits could not earn more than this amount of income. Your benefits will be discontinued immediately if your income increases beyond this amount.

What to report about your work to the Social Security Administration

If you are receiving disability benefits and decide to go to work, you are responsible for informing the SSA of starting any work under trial work period, and any of the changes that may follow. These changes include:

  • Time when you started or stopped working;
  • How much income you are earning;
  • If you started paying for your medical expenses from your income through work;
  • Your work details such as duties, hours, responsibilities, promotion or pay changes;

You can report changes in your work by phone, mail, or in person. You can find your local office on our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator. You may use mySocial Security to report your monthly wages online at. www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

What if your symptoms get worse

You will be able to keep all of your benefits as long your income does not cross the income limits set by the SSA under trial work period. The trial work period is of 12 months initially, however, if you lose your job during this period or your symptoms get worse again, preventing you to continue your work then you can ask the SSA to reinstate your benefits. You will be able to reinstate the benefits if this happens within the 36 month extended period of eligibility.

On the other hand, if you lose your job or your disability strikes again after the 36 month extended period of eligibility, then you may have to file for disability again.

 

 

Reinstatement period

Lastly, if your benefits were reduced or stopped during the trial work period or extended period of eligibility, you can always ask the SSA to re-continue your full benefits if you became disabled again. You won’t have to file a new application as long as you make the request to restart your benefits within 5 years of getting your benefits stopped.

Remember that even if you are working within the income limits during trial work period, the administrative law judge or a disability examiner may still see to your work as an ability to perform substantial gainful activity. It is important that you talk to an attorney to represent you in the best possible way if you want to do some work and continue your benefits.

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How to lay out your past work to win social security claims

How to lay out your past work to win social security claims How to lay out your past work to win social security claims

Your social security disability claims will be denied if the disability examiner thinks that you could find out other probable jobs that fit loosely into your expertise of any past work you have performed.

Fortunately, even if the administrative law judge, ALJ or your disability examiner thinks that you are able to find work related to prior work experiences, your disability attorney can counter those evidences through your medical examination reports and other significant documents.

Beware that these tips are only when you think the disability examiner or the ALJ has misunderstood your past ability as ability to perform similar work today or if they do not fully understand how your medical impairment may be preventing you from performing any kind of work let alone sedentary work.

Describing your prior work experiences

It is imperative that you describe your prior work experiences in as much detail as possible. Your disability examiner or ALJ should be able to fully understand what type of responsibilities you had, what you did and what you did not do, etc.

 

Here is a list of how you could list out your past work experiences in detail:

 

  • How long it took you to learn the tasks under your job description;
  • How long you worked in that particular position;
  • Your job title(s) as listed on your job contract with the employer;
  • Work hours of the job per week;
  • The physical requirements of the job (as listed in the employer contract);
  • How your tasks were similar to or different that tasks for people at similar position(s) as you;
  • Whether you had to take specialized training(s) during your past work experiences and what you learnt during those training(s);
  • Whether you were in charge of other junior employees and what were your responsibilities;
  • Whether you operated special equipments, for instance, a nurse operating MRI machines;
  • Whether your job involved public dealings;
  • Whether you were required to sit, stand, walk or carry weights for specific hours and its details;
  • Whether you had other allowances from your employer, such as day meals, accommodation, travel allowance, medical coverage, etc;

Although it is imperative that you do not downplay your abilities and responsibilities you had in your job requirements, it is also equally important that you don’t overstate them. The disability examiner and your administrative law judge, ALJ will be handling hundreds of cases yearly, so they will know when you are trying to manipulate the system through false claims. If they determine that you are not being honest in your testimonies, they will straight away deny your disability claims.

Lastly, it is also important that you don’t allow skills or prior work experience that does not hold significant value. Even if you allow those work experiences in your record, your ALJ will discredit that information while analyzing your case. Hence, it is important that you don’t overstate your responsibilities in jobs where:

  • The job didn’t lasted enough for you to learn how to perform the work completely;
  • The job didn’t come under ‘substantial gainful activity’;
  • How long the job lasted;

You can hire an attorney to represent you on your disability hearing. Your disability lawyer will know exactly what type of information is necessary for the ALJ or your disability examiner and how to answer those questions correctly.

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Tips for veterans living on SSDI

Tips for veterans living on SSDI Tips for veterans living on SSDI

Almost 3.8 million veterans experience some kind of disability in the U.S. today, as of 2019. Among those, a whopping 1.1 million veterans have a disability rating of 70% or higher, which means their disability is severe enough to prevent them from ever going to work again. The severity of disability of so many of those veterans means they are unable to earn for themselves.

Fortunately, most veterans are able to secure some kind of benefits either under Social Security Disability benefits or veteran benefits under the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, living as claimants of social security and VA benefits and not being able to work may be very difficult and not a choice of some of those veterans. Also, the veterans may not know what options would they have once they rely solely on those benefits.

Here are a few points to ponder that you (as veterans) may not already know, that might improve your life quality while on disability:

  • You can go to work

Yes, you read that right. The social security administration lets you test the waters by letting you perform a limited amount of work under the ‘Ticket to Work’, TOW. The TOW allows veteran beneficiaries to find alternate modes of work with incentives while keeping an amount of their benefits even when they recover a little from the disability.

If you are a veteran willing to go to work while you are on the road to recovery, the TOW may be the best option for you. This is free and completely voluntary and can help you regain control of your life, slowly.

  • You can earn benefits on past disabilities

Sometimes veterans or their families may get so caught up in their disabilities where they may not have considered the option of filing for social security claims or VA benefits on time. Fortunately, if you are eligible under non-medical conditions for social security disability insurance, and are able to prove to the SSA of your past disability, you may be granted SSDI benefits. Although these benefits will be granted as backpay or lump sum with a larger tax than regular monthly benefits, this will still be more than enough to help you pay back loans or medical bills for which you had to borrow money.

  • You have options

Most of the veterans are granted SSDI or VA benefits if they are completely disabled or receive a 70% disability rank respectively. Although not all of the 3.8 million veterans may be granted benefits, there are always multiple options for you to consider.

You can file for both social security disability benefits and veteran disability benefits at the same time. If you qualify for both, good news is you can choose to keep both of them under certain conditions. On the other hand, if you receive a 65-70% rating on your disability, you will still have high chances of being granted VA disability benefits but will be denied Social Security. This is because you are either completely disabled or not disabled under SSA’s rules. In that case, you may also get veteran worker’s compensation, which is not a disability program. Since it is not an income, but compensation, you will not have your benefits reduced due to it even if your benefits increase the threshold.

It is wise to consult a disability attorney while taking these considerations. Your attorney will not only provide you legal guidance but you will also learn which benefits to seek first to maximize your income.

 

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Difference between social security and veteran benefits

Difference between social security and veteran benefits Difference between social security and veteran benefits

It is very common to see wartime or retired veterans receive both social security and veteran disability benefits at the same time. At other times, veterans may be receiving veteran’s disability benefit while working and choose to delay their social security claims until full retirement.

Depending on the unique situation and eligibility, each veteran will be receiving different kinds of benefits under different programs. For instance, a veteran who has little to no income due to inability to work after injury caused during wartime, the veteran would be granted not only veteran pension but could also be granted Supplemental Security Income, SSI if they qualify.

Similarly, a veteran who became disabled and qualifies under Social Security Disability, may be granted both Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI under federal program and a VA disability benefits program.

Social Security vs Veteran Benefits

While social security benefits are granted solely on medical terms veteran disability benefits, as the name suggests, isn’t necessarily granted on disability alone. This means that a veteran would be able to receive veteran benefits even if he/she is

  • Partially disabled;
  • Not completely unable to go to work;
  • Not completely disabled;
  • Not retired;
  • Still working sometimes;

On the other hand, the Social Security Administration, SSA grants Social Security Disability Insurance to people who are completely disabled or unable to perform sufficient work under substantial gainful activity. You are either disabled or ‘not disabled’ according to the SSA’s rules for SSDI.

Another major difference between the two is the ‘general physician’s opinions’. While it is mandatory for a disability claimant to prove through his RFC form that he/she is unable to perform significant work or earn enough income due to their disability, the veteran disability program has no such rule. In fact, doctor’s opinions are not considered while deciding to grant veteran benefits to a veteran.

There is also another award based on veteran benefits, called ‘veteran service connected disability compensation’. This is not an income, and therefore, would not be considered as benefits. A veteran would be able to receive both the veteran disability compensation and the SSDI at the same time without getting their benefits reduced due to social security offset.

Does qualifying for veteran benefits elevate chances for SSDI claims being approved?

Previously, the Social Security Administration, SSA took into account whether you were granted veteran benefits while analyzing your case. If you had been approved for veteran disability benefits or veteran disability compensation, then the SSA considered your case as strong. It also increased chances of getting your social security disability claims approved quicker.

However, as of new rules set by the SSA after 2017, the chances of your SSDI claims getting approved because you were approved for VA pension or VA benefits is no longer taken into account. This is because it is unclear whether you were granted those claims based on ‘total disability’ or ‘partial disability’ basis. Also, it is cumbersome to determine whether the disability was due to service-connected issues or are non-service disabilities.

Although qualifying for veteran pension or veteran benefits will not give any deference to your social security claims, getting your social security claims IS considered necessary by the authorities while granting you veteran benefits or veteran pension. This is because medical evidence listed in your RFC forms or other social security documents can provide further evidence to your veteran claims.

Whether you are looking forward to apply for veteran benefits or social security disability claims, you can consider consulting an attorney for more detailed legal guidance.

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How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case

How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case

When you file an application for Social Security claims you will be analyzed both medically and non-medically by your social security examiner. This also requires you to submit both medical documentation and those documents not necessarily related to your medical impairment. You will be required to fill out a Residual Capacity Form, RFC.

What is RFC and why should you care?

The RFC is an assessment document that needs to be filled by your doctor unless you qualify automatically under the Social Security’s Blue Book of impairments.  

This would be a detailed report that would clearly list out all the possible limitations that may make you unable to perform work under substantial gainful activity, SGA. Therefore, this needs to be filled out carefully and honestly.

Unfortunately, some doctor’s may refuse to help their patients or simply fail to understand the document’s importance leading to the patient’s social security claims denied. This is because your doctor or GP’s assessment matters a lot while considering your eligibility for the social security claims. For instance, if you have PTSD and frequently find yourself unable to focus on work, your doctor may simply rule out the possibility of you unable to perform work if you two have a communication gap in your medical history or medical symptoms.

There may be many other reasons behind your GP’s reluctance to assist you through RFC, such as:

  • Unclear expectations:

Most of the times, your specialist or GP won’t know the importance of filing out the RFC form carefully or may simply fail to use the right tone of language to list all of your symptoms correctly. Unlike reference letters for college essays, your doctor won’t need to write long essays or comprehensions on your disability. Yet, some doctor’s actually refuse to fill out the RFC forms due to this sole reason. Hence, this falls upon you to let your doctor know what to expect. Better, you can talk to an attorney to gather all of the documentation necessary for social security qualifications. Your attorney would happily take on the task to communicated the expectations with your doctor clearly and help them understand the legalities behind the situation.

  • Lack of time:

Sometimes, this may be genuinely the only reason why a doctor may refuse to fill out the RFC forms. Doctors’ have a tough job and very tight schedules, and they may not agree to fill out an RFC form for you due to busy schedules or tight engagements. Whatever the reason, you should try to accommodate your doctor as much as possible. You can offer to let them fill up the RFC when they get off from duty, or ask your attorney to make an appointment with your doctor after their work hours.

  • Medical opinions about your disability:

This problem occurs with claimants who changed their doctors before filing out the RFC form or requested a doctor who does not have any history of your medical conditions. The best way out of this situation is to contact the doctors who knows your medical condition in and out and who you find the most reliable. Some doctors may also simply refuse to fill out your RFC form because you think your condition is not disabling. In this case, you should try to communicate your symptoms with medical history, proofs and other doctor’s statements with your current doctor. But beware, do not try to do fraud with your RFC forms as this can land you in serious troubles legally.

  • Money:

Some doctor’s may be too busy to find out time from their busy schedules. However, most of them would take up the job as long as you can compensate them for the time it takes to fill out your RFC form.

Whatever your case, explaining and convincing an unwilling doctor to fill out the RFC form responsibly may be cumbersome for you. However, your attorney would be able to help by explaining the legalities and importance of the situation to your doctor. Also, many doctors find it reliable to work with attorneys who represent you on your behalf instead of working with you directly for matters involving legality.

To consult an attorney for your social security case, you can contact us through phone or email, or visit us at our office through an appointment.

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Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected?

Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected? Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected?

Disappointment and happiness rarely come together, but most of the U.S. employees face this kind of  emotion at least once in their lives. This is when you receive your paychecks only to see a deduced net amount from all kinds of federal taxes. These taxes include the social security and Medicare taxes.

Although listed separately in the details on your paycheck, the taxes collected through social security tax and Medicare taxes go to the same funding. Also called payroll taxes jointly and less commonly known as the FICA taxes, these taxes are the driving force behind all your social security benefits.

The U.S. government has made it mandatory upon everyone to pay these taxes if they earn an income under the substantial gainful activity, SGA. For self-employed people the taxes are collected under a separate program also under the federal rule, the Self-employed Contribution Act Tax, SECA.

How are FICA taxes collected?

For people working under employers, the employers would automatically collect these taxes from your paycheck before paying you the net amount. Most of the social security and Medicare taxes make up almost 7.5% of their total salary amount, also known as FICA taxes. The funds first go to the Internal Revenue Service, IRS before being transferred to the Social Security Funds.

On the other hand, people who are self-employed, owning businesses or not working under a social security tax paying employer, must pay and report the taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, IRS themselves.

How much taxes you owe to FICA?

FICA taxes are mandatory for every employed individual as mentioned above. The rates are set annually but may not necessarily change each year. The tax rates remained stable between 2013 to 2019 with the rates as follows:

  • 2% of the employees paycheck goes to Social Security;
  • 45% of the employees paycheck goes to Medicare;
  • Employers contribute a total of 12.4% of a professional’s earnings containing the 6.2% of the Social Security taxes within;

Hence, FICA taxes represent a 7.5% of the payroll earnings with an income base limit as $132,900 annually, as of 2019.  Any income above that amount will not be subject to taxes. Also, Medicare taxes do not have any income limits. Hence, all income amounts will be subject to Medicare taxes with marginal rates matching the income. The Medicare tax rates vary between 1.45% (minimum) to a 2.9% (maximum).

There is also a Medicare surcharge tax which must be paid directly by the employee instead of the employer. Any individual earning above $200,000 annually must pay an additional 0.9% of the extra income to the Medicare taxes as surcharge tax.

Let’s face this: Nobody is thrilled to have such huge cuts made through their payrolls. But this is the only engine that drives your social security benefits when you need them. Also, if you or your employer fail to pay these taxes you may not qualify for the social security claims in the first place.

For more information on FICA taxes and social security, you may contact a social security attorney.

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Can you be denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

substantial gainful activity, ssdi denied Denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

The Social Security Disability is an insurance program funded solely by the social security taxes under Federal Insurance Contributions Act, FICA. Although almost every working person paying social security taxes is eligible to file for social security claims, that is not the only way the applications are analyzed for the final approval. You would need to prove to the SSA that your earnings are below the monthly income thresholds stated by the SSA under substantial gainful activity, SGA.

Substantial Gainful Activity

To qualify for social security disability benefits you must be able to prove to the SSA that you are unable to perform work under substantial gainful activity.

Each individual will have their own measure of substantial gainful activity depending on the severity of their impairment. A person will Alzheimer’s will be analyzed on different grounds than a person with lost limbs.

The SSA will also look into national average wage index while calculating your substantial gainful activity. This is because the cost-of-living may vary state to state making it necessary for the SSA to perform cost-of-living assessments, COLA.

The monthly income threshold for statutorily blind individuals for 2019 is $2040. For non-blind individuals the monthly income thresholds under substantial gainful activity, SGA is $1220.

Will you be denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

Yes, if you are working and earn a monthly gross income above the thresholds stated by the SSA then you will straight away be denied without even considering your medical eligibility. This is because income limits is the first thing the SSA takes into account while analyzing an application for the social security claims.

With that being said, there may be some exceptions to the rule such as a low income limit where the person may be able to earn in another type of job that doesn’t needs work in their impairment areas. For instance, a person previously working as a truck driver may not be able to continue sufficient work as the truck driver after a severe accident but may be able to work as a clerk and earn substantial gross income. Similarly, a person earning above income thresholds may not necessarily be considered working under substantial gainful activity, SGA. For instance, a person may be working as an accountant and earning high incomes while on dialysis. In such cases, the person would not be considered working under SGA as they may be highly compensated to complete the task at hand, for example, by providing them permission to take outside help, delay deadlines or hire a freelancer to complete their bookkeeping tasks.

What happens if you have already been approved for SSDI benefits?

You may already be receiving benefits by being eligible for social security medically and non-medically. However, whether you decided to go back to work or started to have improved symptoms of your impairments, you can continue to receive your benefits as long as you earn within the substantial income thresholds. On the other hand, your benefits will be cancelled if your monthly gross income limits exceed as stated under the substantial gainful activity.

You may consult a disability attorney for more details.

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Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed?

Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed? Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed?

The Social Security benefits are governed under the federal rule and are mostly funded by the social security taxes collected through the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, FICA.

The benefits taxable under social security taxes may include but are not limited to monthly retirement, survivor and disability benefits. They would not be considered for benefits you receive on behalf of a dependent, such as an ex spouse collecting benefits for the minor child of the disabled person. Also the supplemental security income, SSI would not be considered for taxation. This is because SSI is granted vigorously on only need-based basis. So people who could not afford taxes are actually those who are mostly granted the SSI in the first place.

How are my benefits taxed?

The amount of benefits on which you are taxed would solely depend on the amount of income you earn. This income would only be considered if it is being earned by you through work or some assets such as mortgage. However, any other income contributed to the household by other means, such as income from another family member or income from a trust named after your children would never be considered for social security taxation.

Also, a tip to reduce the amount of taxes on your social security if you are married is to file your taxes as joint filers instead of as individuals. This means that if you are married and are a joint filer, then the percentage of social security taxation would be almost 10-15% of 50% of your benefits provided that the total annual income for both of you is less than $44,000. Couples with higher incomes such as those with annual income thresholds above $44,000 would be subject to a 30-35% on 85% of the social security benefits.

Similarly, the amount of social security taxation on individual filers would depend on their marginal incomes instead of a direct percentage of their social security benefits. For instance, if you are an individual tax filer with an annual income below $25,000 then you may simply be exempted from social security taxation. For income between $25,000 to $35,000 with an approximate monthly income between $2084 and $2833, you will be taxed almost 30-35% on 50% of your benefits. However, if you have a higher monthly income above $2834 leading to an annual income threshold above $25,000 then you may be subjected to higher taxes such as 30-35% on 85% of your social security benefits.

The tax rates for any of the income thresholds and tax statuses (single filer or joint filer) will be the same as any other federal tax rate.

Higher taxes on lump sums

You may receive a lump sum or backpay payments in instances where you were disabled but not yet approved to receiving benefits. In this case, if you do qualify for social security eventually, you may be facilitated for the months you were not provided the socials security benefits. These benefits will be paid in a single lump sum. Therefore, the larger sum would be subject to a larger taxation. However, the tax rates on the lump sum would be the federal tax rates that applied to other people during the year or months your benefits were not yet granted (due to the reason stated above).

State taxations on social security insurance benefits

Almost every state has its own laws governing social security taxes. While some states may never subject social security disability insurance benefits to taxation. You may consult a social security attorney to find out your state’s taxation policies for social security benefits.

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What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI

What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI you would need to meet the eligibility for both medical and non-medical qualifications for SSDI. The most common reason for denial is not being able to meet the medical qualifications but an inability to meet the non-medical criteria. This happens simply because not many people are aware of it.

While you might be chronically ill and meet all the medical requirements, you may still be denied SSDI claims because you do not have enough work credits or haven’t paid the FICA taxes.

How does your work history affect SSDI qualification?

Ever wondered where does your hard earned money go when you receive deducted net salaries? You must have noticed that often the amount you receive in your monthly paycheck may always be lesser than the amount initially stated on your work contract from the employer. This is because many companies pay the social security taxes on their employees. In short, all individuals who work have FICA taxes deducted from their paychecks automatically.

Since the SSDI is an insurance program it is funded by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, FICA taxes collected from people who work and redistributed to those in need. If you pay FICA taxes, you basically pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance program. To be able to claim your social security you need to have worked and paid enough taxes into the system to retain coverage along with meeting the medical requirements.

How does your income impact your eligibility for SSDI?

The good news is, the SSDI does not consider the number of assets you may have or how much other family members contribute to the household, while analyzing your case for eligibility. The assets and income from other sources are only considered for the supplemental security income, SSI.

On the other hand, the SSA does take into account how much money you earn through your job. You can’t earn an income equal to or more than the income stated in the ‘substantial gainful activity’, or otherwise your claims would be straight away denied.

The specific dollar amount stated as substantial gainful activity in 2019 is $1220 for non-blind claimants  and $2040 for blind claimants. If your income is above the stated threshold, you will not be labeled as disabled by the SSA.

Talk to a social security attorney

An experienced social security attorney will be able to analyze whether you will qualify for social security on your medical and non-medical terms or not. While you can always re-appeal your claims if you think you are denied unjustly on medical basis, you can never re-appeal if you do not qualify under the non-medical requirements.

A disability lawyer can not only determine your eligibility but also guide you on how you can become eligible in certain situations. Hence, it is highly recommended that you consult with a social security attorney while submitting your application.

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Winning your social security disability hearing

Winning your social security disability hearing Winning your social security disability hearing

Almost 10 million Americans depend on social security disability claims each year. Unfortunately although disability applicants are shortlisted exclusively on eligibility requirements, they are awarded on the need-based basis amongst the pool of shortlisted claimants. This means that among the total number of applicants, only around 4.6% are actually awarded the claims.

The good news is, the initial rejection is not final. The SSA provides you various ways to re-appeal to their decision, if you think that your application was denied unjustly. One option to re-appeal is the administrative law judge, ALJ hearing.

Unlike other methods of the re-appeal, the hearing actually gives you a chance for direct representation in front of a local judge. This means that you can fully present your case without any chances of being misinterpreted or denial unjustly. This also imposes a greater responsibility to be the best representative of you to win the case.

Here are some common mistakes you may want to avoid in your ALJ hearing:

  • Over exaggerating

The hearing is the place where you need to fully represent yourself without sounding like a homeless person begging for some pennies for their day time meal. Yet many people simply over exaggerate their symptoms or sufferings that may only hurt their case. Remember, the judge may already have your medical documentations or physician statements, work records and educational documents in front of them. Over exaggerating or twisting those facts may simply lead to a quick denial of your claims due to incredibility of your statements.

  • Under statements

As opposed to over exaggerating, some claimants simply understate their symptoms or hide facts thinking that it may make them sound weak or appear as them whining. This situation may come off as negative in a hearing - such as an inability to wash or bathe themselves, or an inability to go to work being understated by the claimant, ‘Oh, it is not that severe, I can bathe myself if I want to’, ‘I can actually leave the house, my anxiety disorder appears less sometimes’; statements such as these may simply imply to the judge that your are completely fit to lead a normal life and hence deny your social security claims.

  • Inappropriate or naïve statements

The administrative law judge, ALJ may simply ask straight questions which should be answered honestly but also precisely. Providing unsolicited information or naïve statements may not only hurt your case but also deny future possibilities of your family getting any benefits under your record. Statements such as these may harm your case:

  • Oh my spouse is already receiving their benefits;
  • I had a problem with drugs once;
  • I have a small criminal record;
  • I forgot to follow my doctor’s prescriptions;
  • I can’t get to work because I don’t have a car;
  • I want to work in the town branch of my company but they are not hiring;

 

  • Vague or incomplete answers

Also, the ALJ is likely to inquire in-depth details about your impairment such as the density, frequency or time intervals of your symptoms. Answering those questions vaguely may simply lead to a denial. For instance, the ALJ asked you frequency of your panic attacks to which you answered, ‘Oh I get panicked all the time’.

  • Failing to represent yourself

Remember, a hearing is not a job interview where you need to hide your symptoms or overstate your physical disabilities. However, it is also not a peer-to-peer conversation that should be taken lightly. It is your best chance to represent yourself with truest specifics and honest replies to questions related to your situation. Many people fail to come up with an appropriate plan to represent themselves by going at it alone.

Hiring a social security attorney will not only help you prepare for your hearing but they may also represent you on your behalf for a better chance of a winning outcome.

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Social Security Disability benefits – widows, children and dependent parents

Survivor benefits for widows, children and dependent parents Survivor benefits for widows, children and dependent parents

The dependents of a disabled person who could qualify for social security would be eligible to receive social security benefits under survival benefits. The program works as a sub program of the social security disability insurance program under federal rule.

Having a low income budget due to a disabled parent is one thing, but having to wait for each penny after the disabled spouse’s death is too distressing for children or a spouse who couldn’t work. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration enables the dependents of a person who could qualify for social security, receive survival benefits on their record.

To qualify for a deceased spouse’s benefits as survivors (widows or widowers), you would not only need to meet certain requirements but also prove to the SSA that you are unable to gain work under substantial gainful activity, SGA. Whatever the reason for you unable to work, you must be able to prove that medically. Also, the disease or disability should or be expected to last atleast 12 months from the period of its initial onset.

When can you apply for survivor’s benefits?

  • You can file for survivor benefits as soon as the spouse dies provided you meet the requirements as stated above. Although you can apply at any age, if you apply before the age of 60 your benefits will be reduced to a 70% as compared to if you delay the benefits until you reach full retirement age (66 or above, 50 if disabled);
  • You can file for a 100% benefits amount if you are above 50 and disabled;
  • You care for a minor child;

In addition to the benefits, you will also receive a one-time death benefit payment of $255 at the time of death, provided that you were still married with the deceased spouse at the time of death. However, you will not receive any survivor benefits in the first month of death of the deceased due to the SSA’s criteria of determining eligibility of a spouse as eligible survivors.

Also, if you remarry or are divorced and are not caring for any minor or disabled child of the deceased person – then, you may not receive any survivor benefits.

Survivor benefits calculation

If you and your spouse both had begun benefits claims, then the benefit with higher claims will continue as survivor benefits and the lower one will be stopped after the death of the other spouse.

If the couple hadn’t already started the benefits, then the higher earner of the two may wait until they reach 66 or above until age 70 to maximize their benefits. This would turn into a higher survivor benefit after their death.

You may contact a social security attorney for more details.

 

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Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits?

Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits? Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits?

Work credits are your gateway to social security. You earn work credits when you earn sufficient income to translate into a work credit each year, with a limitation of only 4 work credits each year. The amount you earn and the social taxes you pay, enables you to qualify for social security claims when needed.

The number of credits you need to qualify may not always be 40. It also depends on your age and the age in which you become disabled.

How do you earn one work credit?

The Social Security Administration, SSA calculates your work credits based on your income wages and the amount of social security taxes you pay each year. Your wage actually translates into work credits until you have reached a maximum of 40 credits needed at your retirement age (62 or above).

The amount required to earn one work credit is $1360 in 2019, an increase of $40 from year 2018 which was $1320. This means that in 2019, an earning amount of $1360 would translate into one work credit with a maximum of 4 work credits that could be earned each year. Hence to earn a total of 4 work credits in a year, you would need to earn at least $5440 in 2019.

Special rules

Although the rules stated above may stay the same for working people, it may have some relaxation for younger people, survivors of a spouse who had less work credits, veterans, children or people who don’t have retirement benefits.

SSDI eligibility for people between 31 to 42

People born after the year 1929, and between the age 31 to 42 may only need up to 23 work credits as long as half of those credits were earned within the last half of their working years followed up by the disability. For instance, if you are 38 and earned $15000 in the last 10 years, then $7500 need to have been earned within the last 5 years after which you became disabled.

Self-employed

Although not all jobs may qualify for social security benefits, self-employed people may always earn work credits translated through the same process as long they are earning within the federal rules. Also, you can only earn up to 4 work credits each year no matter how much you earn above that amount (as stated above).

Veterans

Military people or veterans would also qualify for work credits the same way as civilians do – although some may even earn extra credits depending on their situation and the SSA’s decision.

 

Other

For people with unconventional occupations or jobs that aren’t listed in the social security disability occupational lists, you would need to contact a Social Security Examiner from the SSA or a social security attorney to provide you legal guidance. Also, it is imperative to note that even if these jobs are unconventional, it doesn’t eliminate you fully from qualifying for social security. There are always exceptions and these jobs may include but are not limited to:

  • Farmers;
  • Poultry workers;
  • Truck drivers;
  • Domestic work;
  • Working for a church;
  • Working for an organization or a non-governmental organization, NGO that doesn’t pay social security taxes;

Whatever your case, you may contact our social security attorney for more queries.

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Disability claimants at age 50-54, will your benefits be denied?

Disability claimants aged 50-54 Disability claimants aged 50-54

Disability claimants at age 50-54, will your benefits be denied?

In addition to looking towards the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of medical impairments, the SSA examiner will also look into a person’s physical incapability such as age, education, relevant skills and work experience in an RFC form to decide their disability case.

However, apart from the above the SSA may also determine your case through the ‘grid rules’ – these are a series of labels or conditions that the SSA would decide on whether to grant or deny a disability claim. For people aged between 50-54 this might not be the best bet but it is an option. Also this is still yet another way to win or lose your claims, this is not the final conclusion – even if the grid denies the disability claims of a person aged 50-54, they might still win the case through the exertion level strategy:

Exertion levels and how are they determined

Since the SSA labels people aged between 50-54 as closely approaching advanced age, they are also analyzed differently for each exertion level. The SSA has specific rules to analyze people in this age group.

For each age group, the grid is divided by exertional levels; that is, what level of work an applicant's RFC (residual functional capacity assessment) states that an applicant can do. The different RFC levels are for work at the following levels:

  • sedentary
  • light
  • medium
  • heavy, and
  • very heavy

Grid Rules for people aged at 50-54

The SSA matches a decision to a person’s skill set and education level accordingly for people aged 50-54 as below:

Sedentary Work RFC

  • Disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with no skills and no work;
  2. Completed 11th grade or less with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  3. High school graduate or higher with no skills and no work;
  4. High school graduate or higher with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  • Not disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with skilled or semiskilled work but transferable skills;
  2. High school graduate or higher with skilled or semi-skilled work but transferable skills;
  3. Recent education that provides entry into higher skilled work, whether semiskilled or skilled work or even transferable or untransferable;

Limited and Medium Work RFC

  • Disabled
  1. Illiterate or unable to communicate in English, unskilled or no work;
  • Not disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with no skills and no work;
  2. Completed 11th grade or less with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  3. High school graduate or higher with no skills and no work;
  4. High school graduate or higher with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  5. Completed 11th grade or less with skilled or semiskilled work but transferable skills;
  6. High school graduate or higher with skilled or semi-skilled work but transferable skills;
  7. Recent education that provides entry into higher skilled work, whether semiskilled or skilled work or even transferable or untransferable;

Heavy Work RFC

If your prior job was a heavy work then subsequently your RFC would also be a heavy work. This means that if you were able to do heavy work then you will also be able to perform medium, light and sedentary work on your skill set. So wining a disability claim on your physical impairments for a heavy work RFC may not be possible.

However, if you are aged between 50-54 and are able to prove to the SSA that you are unable to perform due to other conditions such as inability to focus due to Post-traumatic stress disorder or unable to stoop due to chronic back pain, then you may as well win the claim.

The grid rules may be a tough tool to crack. You may consult a disability attorney for specified help on your case.

 

 

 

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Applying for disability if you are under age 50

Disability benefits for aged under 50 Disability benefits for aged under 50

Applying for disability if you are under age 50

Just like retirement benefits, the disability benefits are also seen as giving maximized benefits after they have matured. Although the Social Security Administrations requires a person to have sufficient work credits (40 work hours) to be eligible to claim the disability benefits, it is very difficult but not impossible to claim the disability benefits at a younger age.

For people under the age of 50, it may be harder to get disability benefits than an older person. However, some exceptions may apply to the rule if the situation is dire enough for the claimant as determined by the Social Security Administration, SSA.

Blue Book medical impairments and eligibility

One of the essential conditions of winning a disability claim is being able to prove that your disability is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book of medical impairments. The Blue Book’s listings are a group of medical impairments that the SSA will approve automatically for disability as long as the requirements of the listing are fully met.

If you meet the requirements of a listing (for instance, you have childhood cancer or lost limbs), it doesn't matter what age you are -- you can get disability benefits. However, winning a claim based on the listing can be difficult because of the detailed requirements needed to meet the listings.

 Falling under the SSA ‘grids’

Grids are SSA’s criteria of determining if a person can be labeled as disabled due to physical impairments other than medical conditions. The SSA determines this by looking at the person’s age, education, prior work experience and skills sets through an RFC form. If these physical impairments or conditions limit a person’s ability to perform work then they may be considered eligible under disability claims regardless of their age.

However, even if a person is granted the status of completely fit through their RFC, they can still be considered under the level of education. If you are younger than 50 and have limited or no education or if you or your loved one is unable to speak or communicate in English then they may be granted the disability benefits depending on their situation.

Challenging the SSA ‘grids’

For individuals younger than 50 between the age 18-49, they would directly be labeled as not disabled under the ‘grids’ methods. However, this is not the final conclusion. You can still win your disability claims if your attorneys present your case well. If you have any of these impairments then you can appeal for reconsideration for your case through the help of an attorney:

Exertional impairments

Limitations such as these can signicantly limit your ability to learn new skills or perform sufficient work under substantial gainful activity:

  • lift
  • carry
  • push
  • pull
  • stand
  • walk, or
  • sit.

Non-Exertional impairments

Activities or mental activities, such as using your fingers, bending, stooping, following directions, or getting along with others are considered under non-exertional impairments. Although they are not necessarily physical, they do affect a person’s capabilities sufficiently. If you have a non-exertional impairment that relates to your mental function, the SSA will prepare a mental RFC.

If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s and think that you deserve to be granted disability benefits for your impairments, you may contact an attorney to help you on the case.

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How limited education or illiteracy may be considered as eligibility for disability claims

Levels of education and disability claims Levels of education and disability claims

Many people in America never consider of their education as a privilege. Although it is an ingrained right to every citizen, some people may not be educated due to many unavoidable circumstances such as insufficient resources, disease, sickness, family business such as farmers or abusive childhoods such as trafficking or parents not letting the child go to school.

Some disability applicants, although older come to us with no disease but an inability to get jobs to support themselves due to illiteracy or not enough education. Even when these people could perform some king of work in ‘undemanding jobs’, it may not be enough for them to run the household or care for a child (if any).

Most of these type of applicants do not possess high school diplomas, cannot read or write or cannot even communicate in English such as immigrants from urban towns of Europe since world war II.

When considering an applicant’s claim, the first step of the SSA examiner is to look for ‘medical disabilities’. If the claimant does not meet the list of impairments, the SSA would look further to see if the applicant’s physical health prohibits them from performing sufficient work. The SSA would calculate the claimant’s residual functional capacity to see whether they fit into the category of disabled.

Educational levels of claimants

These are the most common educational levels used by the SSA to decide a person’s capability in RFC:

  • Limited or little education;

If the claimant attended school up to the grades between 7th and 11th grade, the SSA labels their education as limited. A person with limited educational background will have some skills such as reasoning, math ability and language skills but do not possess the necessary qualifications to gain a full time job. For instance, a 54 year old man was granted disability benefits on his claims on arthritis and insufficient education. Though he worked prior to the arthritis in a marble factory, his disability and illiteracy now made it impossible to gain a standard job to fulfill his needs.

  • Mediocre or marginal;

If the claimant’s did not study further than grade 6, their education level is defined as marginal by the SSA. A person with marginal education can only perform in unskilled jobs.

  • Illiterate or no education;

A claimant with no education or an ability to read or write anything let alone their own name are considered as illiterate by the SSA. Although an illiterate person can find work in sedentary jobs or ‘undemanding fields’ such as coal mines, crane drivers etc, the illiteracy combined with some kind of minor disability such as lumbar pain makes it impossible for them to perform work.

  • Unable to speak or communicate in English;

Since English is the national and official language in the US, almost every job requires a person to be able to speak English to be able to perform at work. A claimant unable to read, write or speak in English may be considered for disability benefits by the SSA but it doesn’t guarantee that their claim would always be approved.

The SSA would look into how far the claimant went to school, their educational levels and high school grades, teacher’s remarks (if any) etc. If the claimant was a special child, it would be necessary to be able to provide documental proof to the SSA that the child attended a special education program.

This is just an overview of how a limited or no education may enable a person to claim disability benefits. You can consult a professional disability attorney for more guidance.

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Disability Advocates Group is a law firm dedicated to serving individuals who have become disabled and are seeking to obtain the benefits they need and deserve. At Disability Advocates Group, we specialize in representing disabled clients in their claims for Social Security Disability Benefits.

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