Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Understanding Social Security’s Definition of Disability

The word disability can mean a number of different things. For example, a person could have a disability placard for their car but not be disabled according to Social Security. The key to obtaining disability benefits through Social Security depends on whether or not you meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.

The Social Security Act defines disability as:

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 which lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

That’s a complicated definition! Let’s break it down piece by piece:

Inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is determined by a dollar amount, which is $1,000 in 2011. If you are able to earn more than this amount, then you are not considered disabled under Social Security’s standards.

By reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment

The key phrase here is “medically determinable”. Your disability must be supported by medical records. If you have not actually been diagnosed with a condition by a licensed medical professional, then you cannot allege that you are disabled due to that condition.

Specifically, an impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings.

Which can be expected to result in death or which lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months

Social Security awards benefits only in the case of a total disability. There are no benefits for partial or short-term disabilities. You must be disabled for at least a year before you can become eligible for benefits. The only exception is if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

If Social Security’s definition of disability seems to apply in your case, you may be entitled to benefits. Many people may find it difficult to know whether or not their impairment is medically determinable. You can benefit from the experience of an attorney who understands the Social Security process in further detail and knows exactly what type of medical evidence is required to establish your disability. Hiring an attorney to help you with your claim is the best way to ensure that all of Social Security’s requests are complied with and no delays are placed on your case.For more information, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Live in San Francisco and Want to Apply for Disability Benefits- What Does the Initial Application Consist of?

I Live in San Francisco and Want to Apply for Disability Benefits- What Does the Initial Application Consist of?

If you reside in San Francisco are considering applying for disability benefits, it is helpful to know what the initial application consists of. Much of the disability application process is composed of paperwork and applications that are detailed and must be filled out thoroughly so that Social Security is able to obtain as much information as possible in order to make a fair decision on your case. Here is a description of the four forms required when first applying.

Adult Disability Report

The Adult Disability Report, or the 3368, is the main part of the initial application. This form first asks you for all of your basic information, including contact information for yourself and an alternate contact. It then asks you to list your medical conditions and requires you to provide a list of all the doctors you have seen for your disability, along with their address, phone number, and the dates you have seen them. After the medical information is completed, the application will move onto your work history. You will need to list all the jobs you have had for the past 15 years along with the dates worked at each job. Social Security requires this information so that they can judge not only the severity of your conditions but also whether you are able to go back to any type of past work.

Disability Benefit Application

The Adult Disability Application, also known as the SSA-16, is the second part of the process. This form is slightly shorter than the Disability Report. The Disability Benefit Application will ask you questions about your spouse and any past marriages, any children you may have, the date you became disabled, along with questions about how much you have earned recently and if you have paid into any type of federal program before. The purpose of this application is to determine how much you are eligible to receive if you are awarded benefits.

Supplemental Security Income Application

This application, also called the 8001, is required for those who are applying for disability benefits based on their limited income and resources instead of their past work history. The application is roughly 10 pages long and will require you to again list your contact information, your conditions, your onset date (the date you became disabled) and then will go into detail about any form of income you have coming in, and any resources such as cars, houses, or bank accounts that you may have. To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, your income and resources must fall below a certain limit. To find out more, click here.

Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration

This form, knows as the 827, is the last piece of the initial application process. It is a simple form that you merely need to date and sign, but it is important because it gives Social Security permission to access all the information needed to make a decision on your case. Once all of these forms are filled out (which can be done online at www.ssa.gov, over the phone with a Social Security representative, or at your local Social Security office), your Initial Application is complete.

With disability processing times often at well over a year, it is essential that you ensure your claim is being processed correctly. Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to handle your case will guarantee that no mistakes are made and no further delays are placed on your case. To find our more, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

I Live in San Francisco- Why Does It Take so Long for a Decision to be Made on my Case?

I Live in San Francisco- Why Does It Take so Long for a Decision to be Made on my Case?

If you live in San Francisco and have applied for disability benefits, you are probably aware that it usually takes several months to receive an initial decision on your case. This is not uncommon- there are several reasons why it takes 4-6 months to receive your first decision and up to a year or more after that if you are denied the first time.

1. Social Security is very backlogged with disability applications, appeals, and hearings. The Baby Boomer generation has caused many more applications to be filed recently. As the number of Social Security offices has remained the same, along with funding, this has caused a backlog in case processing. In some states, it can take almost two years to have a hearing date set, and this is after the initial application and reconsideration appeal have been filed.

2. In order to make a fair decision, Social Security must obtain all the information needed to process your case. This not only includes basic paperwork, but all your medical records relating to your disability, including those that are up to 15 years old. Often, many doctors do not comply with Social Security’s requests for records and thus your case can be delayed several months if your medical records are not received from your doctors and hospitals in a timely manner. It is often helpful for you to obtain as many records as possible before applying for disability benefits to prevent this delay. If you hire a lawyer, they will also help you with this.

3. A certain amount of cases each month are sent to Quality Review. Quality Review is a process that the federal Social Security office uses to ensure that the state offices have made the correct decision on your case. If you case is selected, it can mean an extra 1-2 months to hear a decision.

As you can see, there are a number of factors that cause Social Security to take several months to make a decision on your case. This is not something SSA does purposely but merely a result of their immense backlog. The only way to guarantee to have a case expedited is if you have a terminal illness. Sometimes, if you are in a very dire financial situation and can prove it, Social Security will attempt to expedite your case as well but this is also rare. The best way to ensure that no further delays are placed on your case is to hire a lawyer to help you out- they will keep up with all Social Security requests and paperwork and make sure all your medical records are received in a timely manner. For more information, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits -- And How To Avoid Them!

1) Incomplete Records- One of the most important, if not the most important, piece of information you and your representative will provide to the Social Security Administration is your medical records. It is important that you frequently see your treating physician(s) and obtain documentation related to your visits. A representative can help you both obtain your medical records and ensure that they are forwarded during any stage of your application.

2) Lack of Specificity- Many claimants will say something in their application like, “I just sit and watch TV all day.” While this statement seems reasonable, it will be interpreted by the Social Security Administration to mean that you could sit and answer phones all day instead for gainful employment. It is important on your application to be as specific as possible related to what you can actually do. So instead of saying, “I sit and watch TV all day” you should explain how long you can sit in one place without having to lay down, stand up, or readjust.

3) Loss of Contact With The Social Security Administration- Many applications are denied simply because The Social Security Administration is unable to find the claimant. It is very important that you notify your representation and the SSA of any change of address or contact information or you may be denied Disability Benefits simply because you missed some form or update.

4) Drug and Alcohol Abuse- You may be denied Social Security Disability Benefits if drug or alcohol is a contributing factor to your disability. It is important that you do not abuse substances in order to qualify for benefits.

5) Giving Up- Unfortunately the process of applying and obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits is often times a long one. Often it will take over 2 years from the time of initial application until benefits are awarded! Even if your initial application is denied, with the help of your representation you will have many more chances of being awarded benefits (including an official appeals process and eventually the opportunity to state your case in front of an Administrative Law Judge). It is very important you continue to stay in contact with your representative and the SSA as well as continue to see your doctors, though the process may be long eventually you will be able to win your benefits!

Disability Group Inc was founded on the principles of dignity and respect. We are a national law

firm focused exclusively on helping people receive the Social Security Disability benefits they

deserve. For more information about Social Security, or to see if you qualify for benefits, visit us

at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The 5 Biggest Mistakes When Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits -- And How To Avoid Them!

Are you pursuing a Social Security disability claim in San Francisco? The process of applying for disability can be a lengthy process, avoid these 5 costly mistakes so you don't end up dragging your case out further, or even worse, getting denied!

1) Incomplete Records- One of the most important, if not the most important, piece of information you and your representative will provide to the Social Security Administration is your medical records. It is important that you frequently see your treating physician(s) and obtain documentation related to your visits. A representative can help you both obtain your medical records and ensure that they are forwarded during any stage of your application.

2) Lack of Specificity- Many claimants will say something in their application like, “I just sit and watch TV all day.” While this statement seems reasonable, it will be interpreted by the Social Security Administration to mean that you could sit and answer phones all day instead for gainful employment. It is important on your application to be as specific as possible related to what you can actually do. So instead of saying, “I sit and watch TV all day” you should explain how long you can sit in one place without having to lay down, stand up, or readjust.

3) Loss of Contact With The Social Security Administration- Many applications are denied simply because The Social Security Administration is unable to find the claimant. It is very important that you notify your representation and the SSA of any change of address or contact information or you may be denied Disability Benefits simply because you missed some form or update.

4) Drug and Alcohol Abuse- You may be denied Social Security Disability Benefits if drug or alcohol is a contributing factor to your disability. It is important that you do not abuse substances in order to qualify for benefits.

5) Giving Up- Unfortunately the process of applying and obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits is often times a long one. Often it will take over 2 years from the time of initial application until benefits are awarded! Even if your initial application is denied, with the help of your representation you will have many more chances of being awarded benefits (including an official appeals process and eventually the opportunity to state your case in front of an Administrative Law Judge). It is very important you continue to stay in contact with your representative and the SSA as well as continue to see your doctors, though the process may be long eventually you will be able to win your benefits!

· The best way to ensure that your claim is handled properly is to hire an attorney. Your disability attorney will stay on top of all paperwork and requests from Social Security and make sure that all your medical records have been received. For more information, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.