What does it mean to be "disabled?"
According to the Social Security Act, "disability" is the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period and not less than 12 months." In simple terms, disability means the inability to do gainful activity for a period of at least 12 months. The disability can be caused from physical, psychological and/or mental health problems.
Do I need an attorney to apply for Social Security disability benefits?
No. An attorney is not necessary to apply for social security disability benefits. You should go to your nearest social security office and file a claim and bring your social security card as well as the names and addresses of your treating doctors with you. Also, the Social Security Administration will probably want family information so it would be helpful to have the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of your minor children and spouse when you go to apply for benefits. You can also file for disability benefits online. However, if you pursue benefits in this manner be sure to obtain a written confirmation that you have filed your claim.
How do workers' compensation benefits affect my disability claim?
If you are currently receiving workers' compensation benefits there will be an offset against the money you would receive under social security disability. The offset of future benefits can be reduced by placing language in the workers' compensation settlement agreement or order from the Commission. Our attorneys are familiar with the offset provisions of the Social Security Act and can assist you in both your workers' compensation case as well as your disability claim.
How do I prove that I am disabled to Social Security?
In order to obtain social security disability benefits a claimant must prove that he is unable to perform substantial gainful employment for a period last at least 12 months. A finding from the Social Security Administration must be based on medical evidence. After the medical evidence is obtained, social security will determine if the Claimant can either return to his prior occupations or perform other jobs in the national economy.
What are the different stages of the disability process?
The Claimant will generally receive a decision within four to six months from his initial application. Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of the cases are approved at the initial level. If denied, the Claimant can file for a reconsideration which takes approximately six months before a decision is rendered. If the Claimant is denied again, he can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. The length of time for this phase varies depending on the location of the hearing. This is perhaps the most important time of the case since an administrative law judge will be present to not only review the medical evidence in the file, but will also listen to the Claimant's testimony. Unfortunately, the treating physicians are generally not present at the hearing. Therefore, a disability representative may be helpful in obtaining additional medical evidence that can be presented at the hearing to the administrative law judge. If the Claimant is denied at the hearing level he can filed for to the Appeals Council and later to the federal courts for further review. Statistically, the highest approval rate is at the hearing level.