Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a lifeline for those who need them. While it is not pleasant to think about, the reality is that the average 20-year-old worker has about a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before he or she reaches retirement age.
If disability strikes, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can often offer critical financial protection. The program is designed to protect American workers and their families should an eligible worker experience a disability or illness that is expected to prevent substantial work for at least 12 months or result in death.
SSD benefits can play a critical role in boosting the economic security of those who receive it, and for 8 out of 10 individuals who receive SSD benefits, it is their main or only source of income.
SSD Benefit Eligibility Criteria Are Extremely Strict And Can Be Complicated
While SSD benefits can be a lifeline to those in need, some studies have shown that the SSD program’s eligibility criteria are among the strictest in the world. Their numbers show that most applicants are initially denied benefits, with fewer than 4 in 10 being approved, which is why it is important to have an experienced Social Security Disability attorney help you with your initial SSD application. Also, because denials can be appealed, having legal representation during the appeal process makes it more likely that benefits will ultimately be awarded. However, having an experienced Social Security Disability attorney on your side can greatly increase your chances for winning approval of your request for benefits.
“Disabled” For Purposes Of SSD
One of the reasons obtaining SSD can be difficult is because of the narrow definition that the program uses for determining whether someone is “disabled.” The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process for determining whether an individual is disabled for purposes of receiving SSD benefits. The five questions the agency asks are:
- Are you working? If an individual is able to work and perform substantial gainful activity, then he or she is unlikely to meet the definition of disabled for SSD purposes. In 2014, the earnings limit was $1070/month after taxes. There are some exceptions to the work rule, and an experienced attorney can explain them.
- Do you have a severe medical condition or impairment? A severe medical condition or impairment is one that significantly limits an individual’s physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities for at least one year or to end in death. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you gather the necessary medical information that will be beneficial in supporting your application for benefits or appealing a benefits denial.
- Is the medical condition or impairment on the list of conditions automatically deemed severe? The state office that determines SSD eligibility maintains a list of medical conditions (or combination of conditions), called the “Listing of Impairments,” which are considered so severe that having the condition or impairment automatically qualifies an individual who has it as being disabled as defined by law. If an individual’s condition or impairment is not on the list, the agency then considers whether the individual’s medical condition(s) or impairment(s) is/are at least as serious as those on the automatic determination list. If an individual’s medical condition meets or exceeds the severity of those on the list, the state will decided that the individual is disabled. An important reason to hire a knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorney is that they have experience in helping clients obtain and collect the medical information that can be necessary to show that an individual’s medical condition or impairment meets or exceeds the severity of those contained on the Listing of Impairments.
- Can you do the work you did before becoming disabled? At this step, a determination is made as to whether the individual is able to do work similar to what the individual did in the past. The analysis looks at an individual’s “residual functional capacity” to see whether the individual can still physically and mentally perform the way he or she used to before developing the medical condition or impairment. Skills and abilities that are considered include a comparison of the individual’s ability to see, hear, lift, carry, stand, walk, sit, reach, concentrate, understand, follow directions, accept supervision, and work with others. An experienced disability attorney can help make sure that the SSA does not make an inappropriate determination regarding an individual’s ability to perform a job that was previously held when the individual is truly unable to meet the physical and mental demands of past employment.
- Are you able to do other work? If an individual is unable to perform past work, the agency considers whether the individual can perform other types of work, depending on the person’s age, education, and prior work skills.
An experienced Social Security attorney can help to make sure that proper medical and work-related documentation is provided to clarify the precise level of functioning an individual has. For example, an individual may be able to perform an activity or task once or on a limited basis, but may not be able to repeatedly do the activity or maintain the activity for any length of time to be employable.
Experienced SSD Lawyers In Broward, Monroe, And Dade County, Florida
If you are injured or disabled in Florida and cannot work, it is important to seek experienced legal help right away. If you have questions about obtaining financial help through Social Security Disability benefits, the friendly and knowledgeable SSD attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. are available to help you get the benefits you deserve. Contact Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. today for a free consultation to discuss your personal situation. For strong legal help right away, call us at (305) 653-5555 or use our convenient online contact form to tell us how we can help you.