Matt Lewis Law, Social Security Disability Lawyer
Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two Federal programs designed to provide income to people who are unable to work. It doesn’t matter why you are unable to work or how you became disabled – car wreck, work injury, disease, or illness – but there are eligibility criteria to obtain these benefits.
SSDI and SSI are not handouts or welfare. You have already paid for these benefits. Every time you got a paycheck, money was withheld by your employer and paid to the government to fund these programs. It’s just like how you pay insurance premiums for your car or health care. Since you have already paid for the benefits, you should take advantage of the program if you need it.
Many people find it useful to get help when they file for social security benefits. Sometimes they hire non-lawyers (like a service provided by long term disability insurance companies), and sometimes they are more comfortable hiring actual lawyers. Either way the cost is the same because it is a fee set by the government. I generally recommend hiring a social security disability lawyer because you get a lawyer at a fee that non-lawyers charge, and you get someone who has experience making a living negotiating and litigating the types of issues that come up in a social security disability case. Lawyers are regulated and have certain education and competence standards that non-lawyers don’t have, so you get some satisfaction knowing that you have hired someone with proven abilities.
What Are The Eligibility Requirements For Social Security Disability Benefits?
In order to qualify for social security disability benefits, you must:
- Not be older than 65 years old when you become disabled
- Have worked at least five out of the last ten years
- Have a physical or mental condition significant enough to keep you from being able to work or perform “substantial gainful activity”
- Have a condition with the right symptoms to automatically qualify
- Not be able to perform the kind of work that you have done in the past 15 years
- Not be able to perform work generally at the physical demand level your age and circumstances dictate for review by the SSA.
There’s no way for most people to know whether or not they meet this criteria. Even if someone at the social security office tells you that you don’t meet the criteria, they are most likely not the right person to make that assessment either. You need to discuss the details of your situation with an experienced social security disability attorney so that all possibilities can be taken into account, including the exceptions to the rules.
“Social Security…is not a dole or a device for giving everybody something for nothing. True Social Security must consist of rights which are earned rights – guaranteed by the law of the land.”
- Harry S. Truman, August 13, 1945
More About Disability and Supplemental Security Income
What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI is a benefit designed to help someone who does not meet the criteria for SSDI above. It is for people who can’t work because of a physical or mental condition, but beyond that, the applicant has to show that they do not have assets and income above the threshold established by SSA. Exceptions apply to these standards so it is important to discuss eligibility with a good social security disability attorney.
What does it cost to hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?
We do not charge an attorney fee up front. No attorney fees are paid until the case is won! No money for you means no money for us. Attorney fees in these cases are generally limited to 25% of the back pay award or $6,000, whichever is LESS.
What Is The Process To Get Social Security Disability?
It all starts with an application. This is filled out online, generally, on the Social Security Administration’s webpage, www.ssa.gov. You can do this yourself or with the help of a lawyer. Some people go down to the social security office and fill out an application there. Others hire a lawyer to make sure the best application that can be filed gets filed.
You will generally be interviewed by the SSA after filing an application before a decision is made. The SSA requests copies of all of your medical records from the doctors you list on your application and review your eligibility. About two-thirds of all applicants are denied at this stage of the process.
Many states then offer the chance to request a reconsideration of the initial denial. This is done by filing a request for reconsideration online with an updated disability questionnaire. A different person takes a look at the application and issues a new decision.
If you are denied at the request for reconsideration stage, then a hearing is scheduled in front of a judge called an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. There are many ways to do things to increase your chances at this stage of the process that require the knowledge and ability of a social security disability attorney. You should not go into any legal proceeding in life without an attorney. This is one of those times.
After the hearing stage, there is an administrative appeal and the opportunity to appeal the case into Federal court. All of these stages come with deadlines. You can talk to your attorney at each stage about what the deadlines are and confirm that they have been met.