If you are interested in applying for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, it is important to understand what is involved and whether you may be eligible for benefits in the first place. To help guide you through the process, our Las Vegas Social Security disability attorneys have compiled several frequently asked questions and answers regarding this important subject. In addition to reviewing these, you are always welcome to call our offices for a confidential and free evaluation of your case.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), often referred to as Social Security disability or SSD, is an income tax-funded program that pays benefits to workers and certain members of their families if they become disabled and are no longer able to work. You must meet work and disability requirements to qualify for SSD benefits.
You can apply online for disability benefits using the Social Security Administration (SSA) website: www.ssa.gov/disability/. The SSA website contains helpful information regarding what you need to apply online, which may take one to two hours, according to the site. You can also use the SSA website to check on the status of a claim. In addition to applying online, you may be able to fill out and file an application by mail or can call the SSA for help. Applying can be an arduous process, and it is important to be sure that you include all applicable information as accurately as you can. Missing documents and false information can result in a delay or denial of your claim.
What work requirements must I meet to qualify?
To qualify for SSD, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to be considered “insured” under the program. You qualify by earning work credits in the years you are gainfully employed. In 2014, for example, a worker earns 1 credit for each $1,200 in wages earned, to a maximum of 4 credits in a year. The amount of work credits you need will vary depending on your age and when you became disabled, though the general amount is 40 credits, with 20 earned in the last 10 years. Younger workers, for example, may be eligible for SSD benefits with fewer work credits.
How do I know if my medical condition is considered a qualifying disability?
The SSA uses a specific process to determine whether a worker has a qualifying disability. It is important to remember that Social Security disability benefits are only available for total disabilities that are expected to last at least one year or result in death. Your condition may qualify if you cannot do the work you did before and you cannot perform other work or be gainfully employed. The SSA also maintains a list of impairments that are so severe that a worker is automatically considered disabled.
What happens if my initial SSD application is denied?
If you file a claim for SSD benefits and it is denied, you can file a request for reconsideration. This is the first step in the appeals process and involves a new and complete review of your claim by someone other than the person who made the first decision. You can include additional information in your request for reconsideration, to aid the SSA representative in making a decision.
What can I do if my request for reconsideration was denied?
If you file a request for reconsideration and your claim is denied again, you can request a hearing. This hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge who works for the SSA. Most hearings are conducted in person, though they may take place over video if needed. You and your attorney, if you have one, can present your case to the judge, who will make a decision on the matter.
What other options are available to me in appealing a denied SSD claim?
If your SSD hearing had a negative result, you have other options. You can request an assessment by the SSA Appeals Council, which will consider your case and whether the decision reached by the administrative law judge was accurate or made in error. The Appeals Council may uphold or change this decision. If, upon requesting an evaluation by the Appeals Council, you disagree with their decision, you may file a lawsuit in federal district court. This is the last line of appeal available to a SSD applicant.
Do I need an attorney?
You are not required to hire an attorney to represent you in filing a SSD claim, request for consideration, hearing or Appeals Council review. It is important to remember, however, that these proceedings can be quite complex, particularly when you are appealing a denied claim. An attorney who is experienced in the Social Security disability claims and appeals processes will be able to know what must be done to protect your rights and seek the benefits you need. Your chances of a positive result are often far better with legal counsel.
Ready to find out what can be done to properly handle your SSD claim? Now is the time to schedule a free case review with a Las Vegas Social Security disability lawyer at our firm. We can help you determine how to address a delayed or denied claim and can help you file your initial application to seek the benefits you need. Call today to get started.