|Bill Ogletree||Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability is a federal program that pays income benefits if you’re disabled and unable to earn income on your own. Benefits are based on money that you have contributed to the program throughout your employment history.
About one-half of all claims for Social Security Disability are denied and about one-half of those are appealed and won. Do not give up if you lost the first time around. As a matter of fact, please call us if you’ve already lost one appeal.
The Ogletree Abbott Law Firm is a Social Security Disability Law Firm that handles appeals for those whose claim has been denied. We represent clients for a percentage of what we can recover for you. You do not need money to hire us. If we do not recover benefits, you owe us nothing.
There is no cost or obligation to speak with us about your appeal. The actual representation begins when you give us written authorization to begin work on your case. Contact us today by telephone, email or by our LiveChat website feature.
How to File For Social Security – Haven’t yet filed for Social Security Disability? You can easily apply over the phone or even online. Don’t wait. File today!
If you have been denied, do not listen to the people at the Social Security office if they say that you are not entitled to benefits or if they try to discourage you from talking to a Social Security Disability lawyer to appeal the decision. Remember, we only get paid if we win the appeal, so let us make the decision as to whether or not you have a good chance at winning your appeal.
You should hire a Social Security Disability attorney for the appeals process due to the complexities of the law, changing Social Security rules, the ability of an attorney to choose which evidence is heard and that which does not need to be heard, and because an attorney can quickly react to questions by the hearing examiner due to his or her knowledge and experience. Claimants have little or no experience with Social Security Disability Appeals.
If your Social Security Disability attorneys are successful, they are paid from the award. This may bother you somewhat but it’s better than walking away with nothing. Social Security Disability Attorney’s fees are set by the Social Security Administration as follows: “No attorney’s fees are collected if your social security disability claim is not won. The attorney’s fees are always 25% of all past due benefits subject to a maximum amount determined by the Social Security Administration.
Do not be discouraged if your lawyer lost your claim. Not all lawyers are created equal. This time choose a law firm that handles Social Security Disability appeals. Call or email the Ogletree Abbott Law Firm this time. We are Social Security Disability lawyers who represent working men and women who have been wrongfully denied benefits. We want for you to have a fair hearing with competent legal representation. Call us today at 1-800-779-4950. Or, if you prefer, email us at Info@Ogletreeabbott.com and we will contact you right away. Let us help you today. What do you have to lose?
|Bill Abbott||Social Security Disability And Social Security Insurance:
An Introduction To Your Rights
The Basics of Social Security Disability
When people think of “Social Security disability” and SSDI, they are really usually talking about several different programs, all from what is actually the Social Security Act. The three largest programs within the Social Security Disability Act are:
Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Health Insurance (RSDHI);
Supplemental Security Income (SSI); SSDI, and Medicaid.
RSDHI is the acronym for the federal government’s benefits program for workers and retirees. RSDHI itself is broken up into three separate programs…for (a) retirement, (b) Social Security disability, and (c) health insurance (called Medicare, which is not discussed here).
These three largest Social Security Administration (SSA) programs are extremely complicated. Very few potential claimants can successfully navigate these waters without professional, legal experience in the Social Security disabilities field: meaning, especially hiring a Social Security disability lawyer.
Who Are the People who file for social security disability or who apply for SSI disability?
A decision as to whether or not a claim will be for either SSD or SSI is almost always determined at the time of application, and will be based on a claimant’s (or their spouse’s) earnings record during their lifetime.
Both RSDHI and SSI programs define a disability as being an:
“(I)nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determined physical or mental impairment, which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
A disability must be more than inconvenient. The physical or mental disability must be “of such severity” that a claimant’s lawyer will help prove the claimant is not only unable to do the work they had previously done, or were trained to do, but they must be unable to engage in any kind of gainful work for at least a year into the future.
It is usually not enough to simply believe the disability is self-evident and speaks for itself. Virtually every claimant’s Social Security Disability lawyer for either will help to meet the burden of proving, by use of medical evidence, that the claimant is disabled or blind. Furthermore, almost all disability claimants must wait at least five full months before their disability benefits can start. This does not mean a claimant should wait five months before seeking the advice of a Social Security Disability lawyer, however…just the opposite. This five month waiting period should also be a planning period for a Social Security disability and SSDI claim. And after benefits begin, each claimant’s case will be reviewed periodically to find out whether their condition might have possibly improved, to a point where they might be able to resume work.
RSDHI Disability Insurance: For Workers
RSDHI Disability Insurance provides benefits for workers with a substantial work history. Their work must have been in “covered employment.” The claimant must also be unable to continue working because they have become disabled before reaching age twenty-five. The term “covered employment” will include most types of work, though Social Security Disability attorneys are seeing increasing numbers of challenges from self-employed claimants. The disabled worker (as well as any of their dependents) is usually eligible for RSDHI disability benefits. Additionally, at least in some cases, a Social Security disability lawyer may even be able to win benefits for the survivors or heirs of a deceased, insured worker, too.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Based on Financial Need
SSI is based on need. The program is a national program, designed to provide income maintenance. Yet, even though Social Security disability and SSDI are national programs, it is important for claimants to work with Social Security lawyers who know Texas disability laws. SSDI eligibility is first based on having limited income or assets, as well as being either elderly, blind, or disabled. Most people do not know that although SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration, it is not funded by Social Security taxes. Whereas Social Security retirement is based on contributions during a lifetime, SSI is based on a claimant’s need for assistance. A person’s work record is not a factor in determining their eligibility for SSI. Thus, a disabled person under age sixty-five, and who has not worked enough to qualify for RSDHI disability, may still very possibly be eligible to receive SSI disability.
There is a formula for determining Social Security disability and SSDI eligibility, and the benefits calculation will include both income level and personal assets. When determining a person’s assets, the government will count: earnings; Social Security benefits; payments from pensions; any non-cash items such as food, clothing, or shelter and all personal items a claimant may own. Some things, however, will be claimed as exempt by the claimant’s lawyer, including:
Though infrequent, there are many people who are not citizens, who may still be eligible to receive Social Security disability and SSDI. Social Security attorneys recognize the limited number of exceptions and can also provide useful advice on the extensive paperwork required by SSA.
Distinctions Between Impairment and Disability
People often use terms that seem obvious enough. But, in understanding all of your legal rights in consulting with a Social Security disability lawyer, the rules used by the SSA may become matters of making beneficial ‘fine lines’ between certain meanings. One set of words points out just how important is a claimant’s medical evidence: differences between “impairments” and “disabilities.” An expert Social Security lawyer will be able to discuss the ways impairments and disabilities are evaluated, for purposes of presenting the strongest, most accurate case.
Though a claimant does not need to be a doctor, they certainly have every right to be sure their medical record is accurate…and above all, useful in a claimant’s diagnosis and treatment. There are too many instances when Social Security disability and SSDI are not properly used by eligible claimant’s physicians. Many times, then, a lawyer is as important as a doctor in obtaining the best medical treatment.
The American Medical Association (AMA) publishes a widely-used “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.” The Guides define”impairment” as being:
The SSA, disability attorneys worry, arguably places the emphasis on defining”impairment” more as a matter of proof than diagnosis.
Unlike treatment by a doctor, who relies on what a patient tells them, the SSA leans toward what it views as more objective “evidence.” So the SSA also requires the claimant’s physical or mental impairment to be “established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings—not only by the individual’s statement of symptoms.” A claimant’s Social Security lawyer does not labor under these limits: their first and last priority is their client and Social Security disability.
There are also key terms in these proofs, which are often key to the arguments made by disability attorneys. For example, AMA Guides say that impairments are to be rated as being permanent impairments. This leads to the idea of whether a claimant has shown maximum medical improvement (MMI). A claimant’s Social Security attorney will build a case to show the MMI has become well-stabilized and unlikely to change significantly in the coming year, “with or without medical treatment.” Lawyers note these are terms of art, and should be used to help a disabled claimant…not impede program assistance.
There are some similarities, but disability also may require different evidence from impairments.
Establishing the differences between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’ can be all-important in a Social Security lawyer’s work. One individual can be impaired significantly, with no disability, while another person can be quite disabled with only limited impairment. As an example, a wheelchair-bound claimant with paraplegia can be successfully working fulltime…perhaps as an attorney or accountant. This means they probably would not have met the SSA’s definition of “disability.” Conversely, a professional golfer could have what seems to be a comparatively minor injury (perhaps damage to a nerve) that has the effect of severely limiting the ability to perform their normal, basic work activities (playing on the professional golf circuit). The golfer, then, is likely to be found to be disabled under SSA criteria.
According to the AMA Guides, disability is defined as “an alteration of an individual’s capacity to meet personal, social, or occupational demands because of impairment.” A broader, but not uncommon, definition of a disability is a limit on someone’s activity that creates a difficulty in the performance or completion of an activity in a usual manner, or in the range considered ‘normal’ for a person. Lawyers have successfully argued for Social Security disability by noting that “difficulty” may often encompass any of the many ways in which performance of the activity is normally accomplished. The advocacy of a disability lawyer makes these “difficult” distinctions applicable to a claimant’s case.
The SSA, once again, may use a very different standard to measure the results of the disability. In this case, the SSDI rules also add the impact in employment opportunities as measured in an amount of time: “(T)he inability to engage in any substantial, gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s), which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
As a comparison, Texas’s workers’ compensation system may define a significant “disability” as being a reduction in wage-earning capacity. Such a decrease in wages may occur because of an injury, illness or occupational disease, occurring in the course of work. In many disability cases, a claimant and their attorney has reason to feel they fit this definition…but they require the help of a Social Security attorney to make their explanation fit the meanings of the SSA’s rules.
The rules are also affecting how many doctors view SSA applications. Because of these sometimes very slight differences, between defining an impairment or a disability, medical physicians may feel pressure to rate impairments differently. Sometimes, based upon impact on the performance of activities of daily living (ADL); at other times, on the performance of work-related tasks.
Nor do all of the Social Security disability guidelines used to rate disabilities necessarily want to take a position favorable to a fair review of a claimant’s disability. For example, the AMA Guides themselves state they are not “intended for use as direct determinants of work disability.” Interestingly, and as Social Security attorneys know, many professionals and institutions do actually use the AMA Guides for direct measurements of claimant disability. Most states also recognize the impairment ratings determined by the AMA Guides as direct measures of disability, despite the Guide’s own caveat.
Sometimes, this ambiguity may work to a claimant’s advantage. For example, a Social Security lawyer may address the problems created if an insurer seeks to obscure a medical evaluation. The bottom line is that a disability claimant almost always needs an expert in the field of Social Security disability law in knowing what standards of disability are being applied.
Issues of “Partial” or “Temporary” Disability
Social Security disability can be temporary or permanent, as well as either partial or total. Thus, various disability programs have various categories of disability. An individual can be temporarily unable to perform work activity for pay or profit. It is not uncommon for a temporary condition to exist after a major psychological or physical trauma, especially if it results in surgery, or some form of residential care or treatment. Further complicating a claimant’s statement of an SSDI case, they may already have been classified as disabled under some state disability programs. This is another reason it is important to have a Social Security lawyer who is well-versed in the state’s laws, as well as general Social Security disability rules.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may further confuse the definition of disability,. According to the ADA, disability is present if at least one of the following requirements has been fulfilled:
These potentially differing rules account in part for why differing Social Security hearings are sometimes criticized by disability attorneys for inconsistency. Worse, to an unrepresented claimant, an element of unpredictability is allowed to enter their disability evaluation. The fact is that claimants with legal help tend to receive more equitable treatment, by virtue of a Social Security attorney’s knowledge of the system and its practices. More details about the possibility of the hearings process itself (in the event a claim is denied) will be discussed in Section III.
With these broad definitions of what constitutes a “disability,” virtually everyone with a serious health problem, at some time in their life, will very possibly be able to establish that they have a disability. But, as lawyers know, establishing a valid SSDI disability claim is a different matter.
Arriving at one single definition of impairment or a disability is virtually impossible. As noted, however, it is important that one person’s case receive full, unbiased attention from a disability attorney. One of the principles of a Social Security attorney is to keep the “system” from treating every claimant in a cookie-cutter fashion…while simultaneously assuring that the system also treats all cases impartially.
Using Different Systems to Measure or “Rate” for Disability
Unlike many purely medical ratings system, the SSA will also consider age and education in its vocational analysis. These obstacles need to be discussed with a Social Security lawyer. For example, if a 34-year-old man with a severe, permanent leg injury has a strong educational background and a sedentary job, he could be denied the classification of “disabled” based on his educational background. The opposite result would probably occur with a 54-year-old man with the same diagnosis…if the older man’s work experience is solely as an unskilled manual laborer. The difference to the SSA is based on the 54-year-old’s having a minimal educational background.
Changes to the SSA ratings system do occur: Social Security Disability attorneys sometimes require medical experts to explain how some medical conditions were previously reported. One example of these wrinkles is The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICIDH) system. ICIDH is rarely used by the SSA, but is somewhat common among some medical professionals.
Many states are also currently working to streamline and improve new sets of impairment rating criteria. Social Security attorneys are especially pushing for more consistency: Texas has been included in a series of SSDI pilot projects to improve services and reduce delays. Having said that, one obstacle routinely tackled by disability attorneys remains distinguishing different disability systems.
After measuring impairment levels, the process will move to the next step: determining the extent of impact on the claimant’s ADL. Various ratings systems are in place to provide compensation based on these impacts. From a legal perspective, after a Social Security lawyer has reviewed claimant medical records, and as much as possible, correlated them with SSA criteria (from the Blue Book, to be discussed in a moment), it’s time to consider filing for disability.
II. What To Expect When You File
The processing period for a disability claim may, without any delays or extreme SSA area backlogs, take from a few weeks to six months to get an initial decision. One of the most common reactions for a claimant is to ask their Social Security attorney: “Can it go any faster?”
Proving An “Emergency”
Establishing an emergency need undoubtedly seems a contradiction: simply applying for SSI/SSDI is usually itself an obvious statement of an “emergency.” But the rules from SSA treat an emergency need quite differently. Social Security disability attorneys also understand how to deal with these extremely fragile, time-sensitive priorities…especially when the system seems to be moving with glacial slowness.
The path to establishing an emergency need has two paths: Presumptive SSI and Emergency Advance Payments. The Presumptive Disability Program actually allows a claimant to begin receiving payments from SSA. Emergency Advance Payments and Presumptive Disability program payments for SSDI have much in common. The critical need of ascertaining a claimant’s verifiable need for these programs makes obtaining the immediate aid of a Social Security attorney vital.
The SSA Blue Book and Disability Criteria: Presenting The Best Evidence
The SSA Blue Book is used to establish and publish written criteria. The Blue Book is well known to treating physicians. It is also a standard reference to Social Security attorneys. There are instances where the disability is not precisely written in the Blue Book, but a physician may determine the conditions meet or equal the Blue Book criteria. If the physician determines the criteria are not met, then the next deciding item for eligibility in the process will be considered.
A claimant’s disability attorney is instrumental in being sure the medical treatment and opinions are accurate, unbiased, and helpful. If there seems to be grounds to suspect medical treatment is biased or unfair, there is a process for obtaining another medical evaluation.
Claimants acting without the help of a Social Security attorney are often surprised to find some disabilities have changed, or even been omitted from the Blue Book: e.g., morbid obesity has been removed as a disability and Asperger’s syndrome has been folded into a related psychological condition. This does not mean they cannot receive disability for complications caused by these underlying conditions, however.