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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.


How to Avoid Losing SSDI Benefits After You're Approved

Getting approved to receive Social Security Disability benefits can be a months-long process, which often requires the help of a Los Angeles Social Security Disability attorney.  More than half of all applications are denied, and many people need to go through a lengthy appeals process just to get the benefits that they need to provide for themselves and their families when a disability prevents them from working. 

If you have finally been successful at getting your disability claim approved, it is imperative that you do not do anything to risk your ability to continue getting benefits. As a result, you need to know what the rules are for continuing to receive disability income and must avoid taking actions which could result in a loss of benefits. If you have any concerns about whether something you may do could result in your benefits being stopped, talk with a SSD benefits lawyer in LA before you act. 

How to Avoid Losing Social Security Disability Benefits

There are a few key things you need to do to avoid losing access to Social Security Disability benefits:

  • Know the rules for earning income: Both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability benefits are intended to go to people who cannot work. While there are trial work programs, you could potentially face the loss of some of your income and even the permanent end of your benefits once you begin working and earning over a certain level. Your attorney can explain to you what the trial work rules are, based on whether you are receiving SSI or SSDI. 
  • Know the rules for continuing disability review: There are periodic reviews of your case to determine if you are still disabled. You will need to provide medical documentation and information about your disability as requested.  You may also need to undergo an exam to determine if your condition has improved enough you are no longer considered disabled. 
  • Understand the rules for inheritances and gifts. SSI is means-tested and limited to people with few household resources. If you are going to inherit or be given a gift, it may be important for the money or property to be placed into a special needs trust rather than given to you directly. 

A Los Angeles Social Security Disability attorney can help you to avoid losing access to important benefits. Call before you act if you are concerned about the possible loss of Social Security income. 

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How Many Doctors' Statements Should You Submit in your Social Security Disability Application?

The most important factor the Social Security Administration uses to determine if you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits is your medical history.  The SSA is going to carefully review your medical records, including the length of treatment, the diagnoses you have received, the testing you have undergone, and the treatment protocols that you have been put into place. The SSA will be looking for conclusive proof that you have a qualifying severe medical condition that affects your ability to earn a living. 

Since more than half of all applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are denied, it is imperative you make sure your medical records are as comprehensive and as convincing as possible.  The need for a comprehensive application can lead to questions from applicants, including how many statements from different doctors should be submitted to the Social Security Administration with your disability benefits application. 

How Many Doctors' Statements Should You Submit in your Social Security Disability Application?


In general, you can- and should- submit as many doctors' statements to the Social Security Administration as you need to in order to prove the extent of your disabling condition. These statements, referred to as evidence statements or medical source statements should come from doctors who are specialists in the particular condition or ailments you are experiencing. For example, if you are applying to receive SSI or SSDI benefits on the basis of a heart condition, at least one statement should come from a licensed, professional cardiologist.  

If you are claiming multiple impairments making you eligible for disability, such as a heart problem and an anxiety problem, a statement should be provided from each doctor providing treatment for each separate condition (in this case, a cardiologist and a psychiatrist or psychologist would be ideal). 

You should be sure each statement comes from a physician who is treating you regularly, as statements from a doctor with an ongoing relationship with you are going to carry much more weight. You should also ensure the statements are specific about your functional limitations and about how the disability affects you, as vague statements are not going to be effective at convincing the SSA to award benefits. 

Because every application should be tailored to the specific disabilities and symptoms you have, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer when preparing your specific benefits application. Call today to learn how an attorney can help you to prepare evidence of disability to present to the SSA. 

 

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What Should You Tell Your Doctor if You Are Applying for SSD Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires medical evidence (including medical records) showing that you have a condition that the SSA considers to be long-term and severely impairing. The SSA has a "Blue Book" listing specific conditions that should qualify you, with symptoms that you must experience outlined for each particular condition.  

You are going to need to provide access to medical records from a licensed and treating physician showing that you have the particular medical ailment you claim to have, as well as demonstrating the extent of the ailment. Ideally, the licensed medical care provider whose records are provided to the SSA will be an expert in the particular area of medicine that treats your condition. For example, if you are applying based on heart problems, you want to provide information from a cardiologist to the Social Security Administration. 

Because it is imperative that you have your doctor on board, you need to make smart and informed choices about what to discuss with your doctor and when. 

What Should You Tell Your Doctor if You Are Applying for SSD Benefits?


You should begin to talk with your doctor as soon as it becomes apparent you have a medical condition that is affecting your job ability. Talk with your doctor about what symptoms you are experiencing, the frequency of the symptoms, and how they are affecting your work life. You should alert your doctor to the fact you are applying for Social Security Disability and should provide information on what specific condition you are claiming as justification for your disability status.  Your doctor can help you to determine if he or she believes you are actually disabled enough to stop working, as being unable to do your job due to your condition is a key prerequisite to securing benefits. 

You may also wish to ask your doctor to complete a detailed statement about your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your doctor should address things like your ability to sit, stand, walk, stoop or bend, crouch, and grip. Your doctor should also offer information about your reflexes, mobility, and range of motion. The more your doctor knows about your symptoms and limitations, the more accurate your doctor can be in completing your RFC and the better the chances you will be eligible for benefits. 

An experienced Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer can help you to determine what your doctor needs to know about your condition and can help you to make sure you submit the most convincing and compelling evidence to the SSA to maximize the chances of a disability benefits claim being approved. Call now to learn more. 

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Are Social Security Disability Benefits Recipients Entitled to a COLA?

Inflation causes the price of consumer goods to rise each year. Individuals who work are able to get raises from their employers so their incomes keep pace with inflation and so their purchasing power does not erode. Unfortunately, people receiving Social Security Disability benefits are not able to work, so they do not get annual raises from an employer. The income for most disabled people comes from either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). When you are dependent upon one of these programs as the source for your income, you also need a periodic raise to make sure you are still bringing in enough money to pay for the necessities of life. 

The increase in SSDI and SSI benefits that you will receive (the raise) is referred to as a Cost of Living increase. It is calculated using a specific formula. Each year, the Social Security Administration publishes information on whether a Cost of Living increase is available or not. If you are entitled to a Cost of Living Increase, your benefits will increase automatically. You do not need to do anything to secure higher benefits. 

Are SSDI and SSI Benefit Recipients Entitled to a Cost of Living Increase?


To determine if there should be a cost of living increase, the Social Security Administration looks at the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a part of the Department of Labor, determines what the CPI-W is based on many factors used to assess what it actually costs someone to pay rent, buy food, and pay for other necessities. 

If the CPI-W has increased in the current year as compared with the CPI-W in the third quarter of the prior year, then a cost of living adjustment is necessary. If the CPI-W has not increased from one year to the next, then there is no COLA for SSI and SSDI beneficiaries.  

This year, the CPI-W did not increase. As a result, there will be no COLA for SSDI and SSI recipients. However, this calculation is re-done each year and Social Security disability beneficiaries may receive a cost of living adjustment in future years. An experienced Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can provide important information on when benefits will increase and on what benefits you may be entitled to. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more. 

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What if Death Occurs Before Social Security Disability Benefits are Approved?

People who apply for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability benefits are usually profoundly ill or severely injured, since the qualifying process for receiving benefits is so strict. Despite the fact that so many people who apply have serious medical conditions, the Social Security Administration takes a long time to review applications for benefits and to determine if a disabled individual is eligible. The SSA also denies a huge number of applications for benefits even from people with serious conditions, so someone who is badly injured or sick may end up stuck in the appeals process for many years... not getting deserved benefits. 

In some tragic instances, people who are waiting for the approval of their claim or the processing of their appeal end up dying before a determination is made that they were entitled to benefits. When this happens, it does not necessarily mean the Social Security Administration's obligations disappear. 

What Happens if a Disabled Individual Dies Before a SSD Benefits Claim is Approved?


When a disabled individual dies before the Social Security Administration approves a claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the SSA may owe money to the person who has passed on.  The disabled worker is entitled to back pay for benefits that were owed during the time it took for a claim to be approved or an appeal to be processed.  

For those eligible for SSDI benefits, the disabled worker is entitled to back pay beginning five months from the established onset date of the disability (the date at which the condition should have been recognized as a covered disability by the SSA).  For those eligible for SSI benefits, back pay may be owed to the date of the benefits application.  The disabled worker is still entitled to those benefits even if he has passed away before they could be paid. However, the estate will need to pursue the benefits claim to get the money due. 

An experienced Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyer understands the process of continuing a Social Security disability claim after the disabled individual has died.  To learn more about how we can help you to secure the benefits your family member was owed upon his or her death, give us a call today. 

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Benefits for Dependents of Disabled Workers

Disabled workers are eligible for Social Security Disability income if they have a qualifying medical condition affecting their ability to work. For those who have paid into the Social Security Disability system through payroll tax deductions, benefits are provided through Social Security Disability Insurance and are based on salary over the course of the disabled individual's working life. 

These SSDI benefits may not only provide income to the disabled person who cannot work, but may also provide benefits to dependents, including spouses and children.  It is important for those whose loved one becomes disabled to understand what benefits may be available so the dependents and the family as a whole can maximize the income they have coming in. 

Benefits for Dependents of Disabled Workers

If you are married to someone and your spouse becomes disabled after earning enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you may be eligible to receive benefits if you are at least 62 years of age or if you are providing care for a child who is disabled or who is under 16 and who is eligible for SSDI dependents' benefits. 

If you are divorced from a disabled worker but were married for at least 10 years, you should be eligible for dependent benefits if you are age 62 or older, you are not remarried, your ex-spouse has become eligible for SSDI benefits, and the benefits you would receive based on your own work history are lower than the SSDI dependent benefits. 

If you are the child of a disabled worker and you are under 18 and not married, you may also be eligible for dependent benefits if your mother or father is collecting SSDI.  Adult children who are enrolled full-time in secondary school may also be eligible for continuing dependent benefits until the earlier of the child's 19th birthday or until two months after graduation. College is not considered a secondary school when determining eligibility for these dependent benefits.

There may also be other situations where dependents are eligible for benefits as well, as a result of their relationship to a disabled worker. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney in Los Angeles can provide guidance on when dependents are eligible for benefits and on how to maximize the benefits you and your family are receiving. Call today to learn more.  

 

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Are There Exceptions to the SSDI Five-Month Waiting Period?

Those who are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will begin receiving their monthly income from the Social Security Administration (SSA) five months after their established onset date (the date at which they first qualified as disabled).  This five month waiting period can leave a disabled individual without income for a long time, as most applicants for benefits have to quit their jobs because of their condition and/or to ensure eligibility for benefits. 

Because you are likely concerned about how you will pay for bills and costs of living during the time you wait for benefits to begin, many applicants wonder whether there are any exceptions to the SSDI five-month waiting period. 

Are There Exceptions to the Five-Month Waiting Period for SSDI Benefits?


There are two exceptions to the five-month waiting period before SSDI benefits can begin. The first exception is for benefits available to dependents. If you are the dependent of a disabled worker and are seeking benefits, you will not be subject to the five month waiting period. The second exception exists for people who are applying for reinstatement of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. If you were receiving SSDI benefits and you subsequently went back to work, you will be eligible for expedited reinstatement of disability benefits. This not only means that you are not subject to the five-month waiting period, but also that you are going to be eligible for benefits without going through the entire application process again. 

Outside of these situations, there are no exceptions to the five-month waiting period. Everyone who receives SSDI benefits is subject to it, even people who have a compassionate allowance condition (CAL) and who are thus eligible for prompt processing of their benefits claim.  Applicants for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, are not subject to a waiting period and their benefits can begin immediately. This means that if you have limited or no income and few assets, you may wish to consider an SSI application. 

An experienced Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer can help you to determine if you fall within an exception to the five-month waiting period and can provide guidance on your options for sources of interim income when you wait for a benefits claim to be approved and the Social Security Administration to begin paying. Call today to learn more about your options. 

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What Does the Five-Month Waiting Period Mean for Social Security Disability?

When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI benefits), you need to determine the estimated date when you first become disabled enough to be eligible for benefits. This is called your disability onset date. The disability onset date determines when your benefit payments will begin.  With SSDI benefits, your benefits do not begin right away. Instead, they begin after a five-month waiting period. 

What Does the Five-Month Waiting Period Mean?

The five month waiting period applies to applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance only; applicants seeking Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not subject to the waiting period. The waiting period indicates that your benefits begin five months from your established onset date (the date the Social Security Administration agrees is the first day you were too disabled to work).  Back pay will not be provided for those five months, or benefits will not be paid for those five months if your claim is approved quickly.  You become eligible to begin receiving income from the Social Security Administration only after the five months have passed. 

It is not 100 percent clear why the Social Security Administration requires disabled people who cannot work to wait for five months before receiving disability benefits that they have paid for through their payroll taxes. One possible reason for the waiting period, however, is that it is part of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) efforts to discourage applications for benefits from people who are not truly suffering from a long-term disabling condition. 

Regardless of the reason why the waiting period exists, it can be a burden for those who are subject to it. You may wish to explore the possibility of making a short-term disability claim under a private or public policy in California to provide you with income during the five month period of time when you cannot work and also are not eligible for SSDI. 

Because of the five month waiting period, it is imperative you ensure your established onset date is correct so you do not have to wait even longer for benefits due to the SSA deciding you did not become disabled at the time you believe you did.  An experienced Los Angeles SSDI lawyer can help you to establish your onset date and to fight to receive benefits as quickly as possible. Call today to get started. 

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Should You Quit Your Job Before Applying for Social Security Disability?

If you have begun to struggle with a disabling condition, you may find that you are no longer able to work.  When this happens to you, you should apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Depending upon your work history, family income, and available assets, you may qualify for benefits either through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or through Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both of these benefits programs can provide you with money coming in when holding a job is impossible due to an illness or injury. 

Many people who become disabled and begin having difficulty working are concerned about whether they should quit their job before beginning the process of applying for SSI or SSDI. It can be frightening to make the leap towards giving up work when you do not yet have your benefits coming in. Although it is a risk, however, you generally will need to stop working prior to actually getting a benefits claim approved. 

Why Do You Need to Quit Your Job Before Applying for Social Security Disability?


The primary reason you need to quit your job before applying for Social Security Disability is because having a job can make you ineligible for either SSDI or SSI benefits. 

The availability of SSI benefits is dependent upon your income level. If you make too much money, you will be unable to qualify for these benefits. Even if you plan to quit your job once you have begun receiving SSI, you will not get through the initial application screening process because the income you are currently earning will count. 

SSDI benefits are not means-tested or income-based. However, the benefits are restricted only to people who are too disabled to work. As a result, one of the qualifying criteria is defined as not engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial gainful activity is defined as earning $1130 per month if you are not blind, or earning $1820 per month if you are blind. If you continue working and earn above this amount, your benefits claim can be denied (even if you were planning to quit once your benefits claim was approved).

Quitting your job is a big deal, especially when more than half of all disability benefits applications are denied. Before you decide to give up work so you can become eligible for SSI or SSDI benefits, it is important to speak with an experienced Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer. Call today to get an evaluation of your case and to get advice on how to protect your finances as you seek benefits from Social Security disability.

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Am I Eligible for Presumptive Disability Benefits from Social Security?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available for people who have a qualifying disabling condition. SSI benefits are needs-based and means-tested, which means you can qualify for this type of Social Security Disability income only if you have very limited income and few assets. Many people who need SSI benefits struggle greatly with paying basic bills and covering the routine costs of daily living. This is why it is such a major problem that it can take months for the Social Security Administration to approve claims. The good news is, presumptive disability benefits may be made available in some cases.

Do You Qualify for Presumptive SSI Disability Benefits?

Presumptive disability benefits are designed to provide necessary income to applicants for SSI benefits while the review process is ongoing and the benefits application is pending. The Social Security Administration provides presumptive disability benefits in cases where you meet the specific criteria set forth for eligibility. This includes having a very serious impairment such that you are presumed to be disabled.

Some examples of conditions where it is possible to qualify for presumptive disability benefits include:

  • Aids or symptomatic HIV
  • Total and complete deafness or blindness
  • Amputation of one leg at the hip, or of at least two limbs
  • A spinal cord injury causing at least partial paralysis
  • Down syndrome
  • A stroke that occurred at least three months prior and that has caused difficulty walking or moving either hand or arm
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Muscular atrophy causing impaired movements, impaired walking, or speech impairment
  • Severe mental retardation if you are age seven or older
  • End-stage kidney disease that necessitates chronic dialysis
  • Lou Gehrig's disease
  • Terminal illness resulting in referral to hospice care with six or fewer months to live

These are just some of the many conditions considered severe enough to qualify you for presumptive Supplemental Security Income benefits on the basis of a disability.

An experienced Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer can provide assistance in helping you to determine if you qualify for presumptive SSI benefits and can assist you in moving forward with the process of applying for benefits so you can begin to obtain the income necessary to support yourself. Call an attorney today to get started as soon as possible.  

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How Often Should You Check on the Status of a Social Security Disability Benefits Claim?

When you submit a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, it can take several weeks or even several months to hear back from the Social Security Administration.  If your initial claim is denied and you must go through the stages of appeal, the process can take years. It can be very frustrating to wait for benefits that you need. As you do wait to get your application approved or your appeal heard, it is very important to regularly check on the status of your Social Security Disability benefits claim. 

How Often Should You Check on The Status of Your SSD Benefits Claim?


You should check on the status of both your initial claim and your appeals every few months, at the latest, when you have applied for Social Security Disability benefits.  An initial decision on an application you submitted for the first time usually takes around three to four months. If you have not heard back by this time, it is a good idea to request information on the status of your application.  If your application is still pending, you should wait another several months before you check on the status again. It is also a good rule of thumb to check on a pending appeal every few months.

Checking on the status of your claim is important for many reasons. First and foremost, you do not want to miss a deadline. If your claim is denied and you must appeal, you typically need to file the appeal within a maximum of 65 days of receiving the notice of denial (you have 60 days to file the appeal and five days for it to be mailed).  If you did not receive the notice of the denial in a timely manner, or if you never received it at all, you may not file the appeal in time and would need to go back to the beginning of the process. 

You also want to make sure you quickly find out if any paperwork or documentation is missing. If you do not provide the necessary information, the processing of your claim could grind to a halt and you could face further significant delays as you wait for benefits you need. 

A Los Angeles Social Security Disability benefits lawyer can provide assistance in checking on your claim status and in moving your case forward as quickly as possible so you minimize the wait for benefits you may be counting on. 

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SSDI Benefit Cuts Prevented Due to Funds Transfer

The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) is funded through a trust fund, with SSDI and old age retirement programs having different trust funds. Payroll taxes are collected to fund both disability and old age retirement benefits. The collected taxes are put into these trust funds, which are also kept separate from other federal funds, so the money is available to pay out claims for each program.

Unfortunately, the SSDI trust fund was scheduled to run out in 2016, and the program would have become pay-as-you-go. This means benefits could be paid out only from the money coming in through current payroll taxes. This would have resulted in 11 million people facing a 20 percent across the board cut in Social Security disability benefits.

Fortunately, reform has occurred and cuts have been prevented as part of the bipartisan budget deal created by federal legislatures.

The New Federal Budget Deal Helps to Prevent SSDI Benefit Cuts

The new budget deal allows for a shift of funds from the old age retirement program into the disability fund. Beginning next year, .57 percent of the 12.4 percent payroll taxes that are collected will be diverted from Social Security's retirement fund into the disability fund. This means the disability fund will now receive 2.37 percent total from payroll taxes collected. This change was sufficient to provide money for benefits until 2022. 

The budget also imposes some potential reforms to SSDI that aims to make the program solvent for longer. The reforms include expanded use of investigation units to track down fraud, and an increase in penalties for fraud. Additionally, a medical review of applications will now be required before benefits are awarded.

This change marks a big shift, and is the first significant reform since 1983. While it is good news that the benefit cuts were prevented, however, it is bad news that lawmakers made it even more difficult for people to collect Social Security benefits. Getting approved is already extremely difficult for applicants, and now the additional medical review requirement presents yet another hurdle. Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyers should be consulted for advice about what the medical review will entail and for assistance in successfully completing applications so you can maximize the chances of being awarded benefits.  

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Refusing Medical Treatment and SSD Benefits

The Social Security Administration allows you to receive disability income from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) only if your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from having a job that allows you to make a substantial gainful income.  Your medical records are carefully reviewed to determine if you can receive benefits.  If your medical records show you have refused surgery or other treatments that could improve your condition enough to make it possible for you to work, then your claim for benefits may be denied or your benefits may be stopped. 

Can Refusing Treatment Affect Disability Benefits?

If you refuse medical treatment, this could jeopardize your claim for disability benefits or could result in you no longer being eligible for the benefits you have been receiving. However, there are exceptions to this.

  • If you have a religious objection to the proposed treatment, you may not be required to undergo it. You will need to provide documented proof of your objection and of your affiliation with a religion which has a long-standing or well-established objection to the particular type of treatment. 
  • If you have a substantial fear of the treatment and you and your doctor can prove your fear is so intense it would do more harm than good to undergo the treatment, you may not be required to attempt that particular method of improving your health. 
  • If there are conflicting medical opinions on the necessity or effectiveness of a treatment, you may not be required to undergo it as a condition of getting or remaining eligible for benefits. 
  • If there is a substantial risk of side effects or complications associated with the treatment, then you can generally opt out without affecting benefits eligibility. 
  • If you have previously undergone the suggested treatment and it was unsuccessful, you typically will not be required to try again. 

If you are thinking about refusing recommended medical treatment while applying for or receiving SSD benefits, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney about the impact this decision can have.  Call a Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer before you refuse treatment so you can better understand how your benefits will be affected and so your lawyer can help you to fight for eligibility for SSD even with your refusal. 

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Who Decides if I Should Get Disability Benefits?

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you submit your claim to the Social Security Administration. The SSA will review all of your records to determine if you meet the agency's narrow definition of disabled and are eligible to receive disability income.  It is important to understand how this decision is made, which means learning more about who actually gets to decide whether you should receive the disability income you may be depending upon if you cannot work. 

Who Decides If You Get Disability Benefits?

When you initially submit your Social Security Disability benefits claim, a review is done by the local Social Security Administration office to make sure you have a sufficient number of work credits (for Social Security Disability Insurance) or to make sure your income and resources are sufficiently limited (for Supplemental Security Income). 

If you meet the basic eligibility criteria, it becomes necessary to determine if you are sufficiently afflicted by a long-term disabling medical condition that entitles you to receive disability income.  Your application goes to disability determination services (DDS) where it is reviewed by a disability claims examiner. This examiner is going to look at your medical records and other information you have submitted to assess whether you meet the criteria to be considered disabled.  The goal is to assess whether you have a qualifying condition listed in the Blue Book, along with the requisite symptoms, or whether you have a qualifying condition equal in severity to those listed that prevents you from having a job you are qualified for. 

The disability claims examiner is going to make the decision on whether you should get benefits. However, if the claim is denied, you can make a request for reconsideration and a new disability claims examiner is going to review your case again with fresh eyes.  If a denial occurs again, then an administrative law judge will get your case and decide if mistakes were made or not. Finally, in the last stage of appeal, your case could go before a federal appellate court judge. 

This means that the decision on whether you should get benefits or not is going to be made by a different person depending upon whether your initial application is approved or whether you must appeal.  A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer will help you to try to put together a solid application to maximize the chance a disability examiner initially approves your claim on the first try.  

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Can Any Lawyer Help with My Disability Benefits Claim?

Most applicants for Social Security Disability benefits should have a lawyer to help them. There are many reasons to get an attorney. Your lawyer can help to determine if you will actually qualify for Social Security Disability benefits since there is a very restrictive definition of what it means to be disabled. Your attorney can also help you to determine if you should apply for SSI or SSDI, and can guide you through preparing the evidence required for your application. With more than half of all people who apply for benefits finding themselves with a denied claim, you want to have a qualified and skilled professional assisting you so you can maximize the chances of getting disability income. 

Once you have decided you need legal advice, you may not be sure of exactly what your next steps are.  One question many people have is whether any lawyer can assist them in making a claim for Social Security disability benefits or whether they should look for a particular kind of lawyer. 

Can Any Lawyer Help Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Lawyers, like doctors, have different areas where they have dedicated their careers.  You should not ask a general attorney or a lawyer who specializes in some other area of law to handle your Social Security Disability claim any more than you would ask an optometrist to operate on your heart or a brain surgeon to help you solve a problem with your knees.  When you hire a legal professional, you want someone with extensive knowledge of how the Social Security Disability benefits system works.  This means finding an attorney who has based a practice around helping the disabled to get benefits. 

With such a high denial rate for Social Security Disability benefits applications, there is a good chance you will end up needing to appeal an initial denial of your application. Having an attorney with experience in Social Security Disability cases becomes even more important at this point because there are multiple steps in the administrative appeals process and there are strict deadlines for being able to appeal.  You will also need to be able to make a very compelling argument if your case gets to the third appeals stage and you come before an administrative law judge. 

A qualified attorney can provide invaluable assistance as you fight for benefits. Contact a Social Security Disability benefits lawyer today for assistance.

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Do You Have to Attend a Disability Appeal in Person?

If your initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits was denied, there are multiple steps you can go through to try to appeal. The first stage of appeals, a request for reconsideration, simply requires submitting paperwork asking the Social Security Administration to look again at your claim. The second stage, however, requires a hearing before an administrative law judge.  

The Social Security Administration is going to have a representative at the hearing to explain the agency's position on your application and to try to convince the judge the decision denying your benefits is appropriate. You do not want to be unrepresented.  However, it may sometimes be difficult for you to travel to the location where the appeals hearing will take place. As a result, you need to consider carefully whether to appear at your hearing in person or whether you should instead have a video hearing. 

Should You Attend a Disability Appeal In Person?

Video hearings have become a popular tool used by the Social Security Administration to try to deal with a backlog of cases.  You may be able to have a video hearing if you live far away from a location where the disability hearings take place and/or if it is difficult or impossible for you to attend a hearing in person. 

A video hearing generally requires you to go to a designated location (usually your local Social Security Administration office) where you will then present your case to the administrative law judge over video conferencing. While this can save you time and travel, however, you may not be able to make the same level of personal connection as you would if you attended the hearing in person. 

A Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer should be consulted to represent you in your appeals hearing, regardless of whether you have a video hearing or whether you appear in person or not.  Your attorney can provide you with assistance in determining whether a video hearing is a good option for you or whether you would be better off actually going to your disability benefits hearing in person. Call your lawyer as soon as your claim is denied for assistance with this choice and with other strategic decisions throughout the process of appealing a disability benefits denial. 

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Why You Should See a Specialist If You Are Applying for Social Security Disability

Getting the Social Security Administration to approve your claim for disability benefits can be very difficult. In fact, more than half of people who submit a benefits claim will initially have their application denied. 

You can maximize your chances of getting your Social Security disability application approved by submitting substantial medical proof of your disabling condition and your symptoms.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has clear guidelines regarding the type of medical proof accepted and detailing how the agency determines how much weight to give to a medical opinion. A Los Angeles Social Security disability attorney can explain the guidelines to you so you can put together as strong an application as possible. 

Why See a Specialist When Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

Section 404.1527 of the Code of Federal Regulations addresses the rule the SSA uses when evaluating opinions from medical professionals to determine if your benefits claim should be approved. 

The SSA makes clear that it gives more weight to evidence submitted by a provider who treats you on a regular basis.  The SSA also states in 404.1527(c)(5) that it gives “more weight to the opinion of a specialist about medical issues related to his or her area of specialty than to the opinion of a source who is not a specialist. “  

The length of the treatment relationship the doctor has with you, and the frequency with which you see the medical professional are also factored in by the SSA when considering how much consideration to give a medical opinion about your condition. 

Because you want the SSA to take the medical evidence you submit seriously, you should try to see a specialist as soon as possible when you believe you have a condition that could qualify you for benefits. This way, you can establish a treatment relationship and have a long and documented history with a medical care provider the SSA should trust.  

A Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyer will help you to determine how to best assemble the strong evidence you need to get a disability benefits claim approved. Call today to speak with an attorney to get started.

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How Does SSA Determine Your Credibility When You Apply for Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to ensure that Social Security Disability benefits are only provided to people who need them most. This means the SSA looks at every application for possible signs of fraud. Only an application that shows credible proof of a severe disabling condition is likely to be approved for benefits.  

How Does the SSA Determine Credibility in a Disability Application

Some conditions are clearly diagnosable and there is objective medical evidence to prove you have a qualifying health problem. For example, you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for conditions like metastatic cancer or severe kidney failure. If you have a condition listed in the Social Security Administration’s blue book listing of impairments and you provide objective medical proof that you have the required symptoms to go with that condition, you should not have difficulty getting benefits.

In some cases, however, you will have a condition not listed in the blue book and will need to prove it is medically equivalent in seriousness to the listed ailments, and/or you will have a condition that is listed but that cannot be diagnosed or proved with an objective medical test.   When this happens, you need to be able to provide a lot of clear proof of a legitimate medical condition that truly prevents you from working.  

The SSA is going to look at different factors to determine how credible your claim of disability is.  One of the biggest things that will be considered is your medical history.  You should be able to demonstrate that you have seen a medical professional who specializes in the particular ailment you have. For example, if you are claiming to have an anxiety disorder, it is important to have seen a psychiatrist.  You should also provide proof you have complied with medical recommendations made by your provider and undergone treatment recommended.  

The SSA may also speak with employers, and may even talk to other people you know about how your condition affects you.  If you are concerned about being able to credibly prove that you have a medical condition, you should speak with an experienced Los Angeles social security disability lawyer about how the SSA determines credibility and about how you can put together a strong disability application. Call as soon as possible so you can begin getting the medical proof and other evidence you need right away.

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SSD Benefit Cuts Could be Coming Without a Fix

Social Security Disability (SSD) and Social Security retirement income are both funded by trust funds. Taxes collected to fund these important programs is supposed to go into the trust fund and be paid out to provide benefits to those who are either disabled or who are retired. There are two separate trust funds, one for each program.  Unfortunately, by the end of 2016, the Social Security Disability trust fund is likely going to run out of money unless there is something done soon to shore up this fund.  

As the Washington Post reports, the trust fund running out of money could mean a big benefits cut for people receiving Social Security Disability. Without money in the fund, payments could be made only out of new cash coming in.  The income coming in to the trust find is only enough to pay 81 percent of current benefits, so the disabled could see a 19 percent cut in the money they get from the Social Security Administration.

Social Security Disability Benefits Could Be Cut Without Congressional Action

It is very important that this benefits cut not take effect because there are too many individuals and families who are disabled and who rely on income from the Social Security Administration to pay their bills. There are few people anywhere in America who could withstand a sudden 20 percent drop in their pay, but the disabled are likely to be the least capable of dealing with such a decline in their income.  A person who has qualified for social security disability benefits has gone through a rigorous application process to convince the Social Security Administration they are severely disabled enough to get SSD benefits. This means if you are receiving these benefits, you likely really have no ability to get a job to make up for a 20 percent benefit cut. 

Politicians from both political parties seem to be in agreement that this arbitrary cut to benefits should not go through. However, there is conflict over what approach will be taken to solve the problem and prevent a cut to the income the disabled need.  Money has been transferred back and forth between the retirement trust fund and disability trust fund in the past, so this is one possible option. There are also proposals for longer-term fixes to the system.

Those relying on Social Security disability benefits and their advocates will need to watch proposals carefully and should make contact with their representatives in Congress to stress the importance of coming to a deal that does not jeopardize Social Security Disability income for those who need it most. 

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Social Security Disability for Mental Health Conditions

Mental disorders may cause you to be unable to hold down a job.  If this happens to you, you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits as long as you can convince the Social Security Administration (SSA) that your mental health issues are long-term (have or will last for a year) and are severe enough to prevent you from doing work that you are qualified for based on education and experience. 

Sometimes, it can be hard to show that you have mental health problems since there may be no objective tests like an x-ray or an MRI to demonstrate just how bad your symptoms are. You will need clear medical evidence from a physiatrist or other mental health professional who is licensed in the field. You should also consider getting help putting together a strong application. A Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer can assist you in convincing the SSA that your mental health problems really are bad enough to make you eligible for disability benefits. 

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits Due to Mental Health Issues

The Social Security Administration has a “Blue Book,” which lists qualifying medical conditions for which you will become eligible for benefits (provided you have the symptoms of the condition you claim to have in your application). 

Mental impairments are addressed in Section 12 of the Blue Book.  Some of the listed conditions that are within this Section which can make you eligible to receive Social Security Disability income include: 

  • Organic mental disorders, including psychological or behavioral abnormalities which occur as a result of brain dysfunction. 
  • Schizophrenia
  • Paranoia and other psychotic disorders
  • Affective disorders, which can include manic depression as well as other full or partial manic or depressive syndromes
  • Intellectual disabilities, including significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning and/or deficits in adaptive functioning (these conditions usually must manifest during the developmental period before age 22)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Somatoform disorders, or physical symptoms that there is no demonstrable organic findings of or no known physiological causes of
  • Personality disorders, including signifiant maladaptive personality traits
  • Autistic disorders
  • Pervasive developmental disorders affecting the development of social skills 

For each specific condition, you must have demonstrable proof of symptoms that occur in the frequency and with the severity required by the SSA.  A Los Angeles Social Security Disability lawyer can help you to show you have a mental health condition that should qualify you for benefits.  Call an attorney today to learn more.

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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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