Friday, December 30, 2011

The Process of a Claim in San Francisco: SSA vs. DDS

Many people who apply for disability benefits are unsure of who exactly handles their claim, and where it is handled in San Francisco. The two offices in charge of handling disability claims are the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Disability Determination Services (DDS). These offices both have very different yet equally important roles in making a decision on a claim.

Social Security Administration

As soon as a disability claim is filed, it is sent to the local SSA office, where the paperwork is processed and where a technical approval must be made. If a claimant has filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they must have a limited income and resources. If a claimant has filed for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), they must have earned enough work credits recently enough. Once SSA determines that the claimant is technically eligible for at least SSI or DIB, they send the claim on to DDS. If a claimant does not meet either technical requirement, the claim is denied here.

Disability Determination Services

DDS is where the claim resides for the majority of the time. This is where the medical decision is made about whether the claimant is disabled or not. Once it arrives at DDS, the claim is assigned to an adjudicator. The adjudicator is in charge of requesting all the claimant’s medical records and sending forms to the claimant to fill out, and then making a medical decision based on all the received evidence. If the adjudicator does not receive enough evidence, they will schedule a Consultative Exam (CE) for the claimant.

Once the adjudicator makes a medical determination, the claim is sent back to SSA, and the decision notice is then mailed to the claimant. The overall time it takes for SSA and DDS to make this decision is roughly 4-6 months from the time the initial application is filed. However, many claimants are denied at this initial level and must appeal their claim to the next step.

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 out more, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SSDI Benefits for Family Members in San Francisco

If you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in San Francisco, certain members of your family may also be entitled to payments; auxiliary benefits may be available for your spouse, your former spouse, and your children.

Auxiliary Benefits for Your Spouse

Your spouse may be eligible for payments upon your award of SSDI benefits, if the spouse is (i) caring for your child, or (ii) age 62 or older.

To receive benefits for caring for your child, the child must either be under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits. Benefits for a spouse caring for your child under age 16 will end once that child reaches age 16.

Similarly, when your spouse reaches age 62, he/she will be eligible for benefits based on your earnings record. However, the monthly amount your spouse will receive at age 62 will be less than if he/she waits until full retirement age to receive the benefit.

If your spouse is eligible for SSDI benefits based on his/her own earnings record, your spouse will receive either that amount or the amount based on your record, whichever is higher.

Auxiliary Benefits for Your Former Spouse

A spouse you have divorced will be eligible for SSDI benefits based on your earnings if he/she is (i) at least 62 years old; (ii) unmarried; (iii) was married to you for at least 10 years; and (iv) is not eligible for a higher benefit amount on his/her own.

Auxiliary Benefits for Your Children

Your child will be eligible for SSDI benefits if the child is unmarried and (i) under age 18; or (ii) 18 or 19 and a full-time elementary or high school student; or (iii) 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

For the child under age 18, the benefit will stop when he/she reaches age 18. For the full-time student, the benefit ends upon graduation or 2 months after the child’s 19th birthday, whichever comes first. For the disabled child, the benefit will last for the duration of the disability. An eligible child may be biological, a step-child, adoptee, or dependent grandchild.

As far as the amount of SSDI benefits your family members are entitled to, each may receive up to half of your benefit amount, but there is a limit on the amount SSA will pay family members in total. The limit depends on your benefit amount and the number of family members who qualify based on your record, but the total is generally around 50 to 80 percent of your benefit amount.

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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Early Retirement v. Social Security Disability Benefits in San Francisco

If you are 50 years old and have poor physical health should you retire or file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI)?

If you are unable to continue to do your job because of your physical limitations you should file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits instead of filing for early retirement.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits fall under Title II of the Social Security Act. In order to qualify for SSDI you must have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. SSDI works similarly to a pension, where you pay into the plan throughout your working years. Social Security establishes whether you have worked long enough by assigning work credits to your wages/FICA taxes you paid per year. For grown adults you need 40 work credits. Once you have 40 work credits you have “insured status.” SSDI benefits are paid to those who have been found disabled as defined by Social Security and have “insured status.”

What is the benefit of filing a Social Security Disability claim instead of filing for early retirement?

  • If you start collecting Social Security retirement benefits early (before the age of 67, for people born in 1960 or later) your benefits are reduced for each month before you reach your full retirement age.
  • If you receive SSDI you receive full monthly benefits and annual cost of living increases. You are entitled to Medicare and prescription drug coverage.
  • When you reach retirement age your SSDI will be converted automatically into retirement benefits.
  • When the Social Security Administration calculates your retirement benefits the years you receive disability insurance is not included and your retirement benefits will be higher because your earnings are averaged over a shorter period of time. The earnings from SSDI are considered but the number of years you were disabled is not. It ends up looking like you earned more money per year, which equals a higher monthly retirement check.

How can a Social Security lawyer help?

If you are between the ages of 50 and 64 and you stopped working because physically you just could not do your job anymore, you may be entitled to SSDI. SSDI are benefits funded by the taxes you paid during your working years. SSDI is not welfare. A lawyer can evaluate your individual case and help you with the application process. The lawyer will represent you at your hearing in front of the administrative law judge. SSDI are benefits you are entitled to if you have a strong work history and are found disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration.

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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trusts and Supplemental Security Income in San Francisco

You may be able to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you are aged, blind, or disabled and have limited income and resources, but a person with too much income is not eligible for any benefits. However, SSA does not hold certain income against an applicant when determining whether they are eligible for benefits in San Francisco, and how much they will receive. This is where trusts come in, because sometimes a “special needs trust” can be set up for an SSI recipient to reduce income.

A Special Needs Trust holds title to property for the benefit of a disabled child or adult, to supplement benefits. The trust can hold cash, personal or real property, or can be the beneficiary of life insurance proceeds.

Generally if you receive money from a trust your SSI benefits will be reduced by that amount, but not all money received from a Special Needs Trust will reduce the amount of your benefits.

  • Money paid directly from the trust to the providers of medical care, education, and entertainment does not reduce SSI payments.
  • Money paid directly to providers of food, clothing, and shelter within certain limits also does not reduce SSI payments.

However, money paid directly to an SSI recipient from the trust will reduce SSI payments.

In 2008, the maximum allowable deduction was approximately $232.00.

SSA cannot assist in setting up a trust so it is important to consult an attorney or financial adviser to find out more about trusts.

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, December 21, 2011

The Importance of Your Earnings Record in your Disability Claim

Did you know?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps a record of your earnings in San Francisco covered under Social Security. SSA records are evidence of the amount of your earnings and the periods they were received. SSA uses these records to determine your eligibility. These records are the only count of your work history considered with your disability application. Interested in filing a claim? -Save time by knowing whether your information is accurately reflected for every year.

How do I find out what my earnings record shows?

There are three ways to request statements (1) write (2) call or (3) visit the SSA office. It’s that simple! You or your legal representative can get a statement of your earnings. If you have a social security number and wages or net earnings, you can also request an earnings statement that will include an estimate of the potential monthly disability benefits. You will also get a description of the benefits payable under the Medicare program.

When you request a statement of your earnings, SSA will ask you to complete a prescribed form. Simply provide the relevant information (name, social security number, date of birth, and sex).

What kind of information is in the Records?

The statement of your earnings and benefit estimates will contain the following information:

  1. Social security taxed earnings from the date of your request;
  2. Estimate of the social security/ Medicare insurance taxes paid on your earnings
  3. The number of credits you have for both social security and Medicare hospital insurance purposes, and the number you need to be eligible for social security and Medicare hospital insurance coverage
  4. Statement stating if you meet the credit requirement, and whether you are eligible for Medicare hospital insurance coverage;
  5. Estimates of the disability benefits potentially payable;
  6. Description of coverage under the Medicare program;
  7. Reminder of your right to request a correction of your earnings record;
  8. Notice that an updated statement is available on request.

If errors exist in the records how do I correct them?

File a request for a correction with any SSA local office. The request should:

  • Be in writing and state that the record is incorrect.
  • Signed by you
  • State the questionable period
  • Describe any available evidence showing the error

An earnings record is essential for your eligibility. SSA reviewers rely on this to confirm the date you stopped working. Don’t cheat yourself of valuable benefits or prolong the application process with misinformation. Request a copy of your earning records from your local Social Security office today!

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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why File a Concurrent Claim in San Francisco?

There are 2 disability programs run by the Social Security Administration (SSA):

(1) Title II, Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance (RSDI) and

(2) Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI).


The Basics:

RSDI is a form of insurance. Workers pay into this system through taxes and recover based on work credits. SSI, on the other hand, is need based. Work history is not considered.


When disabled workers apply for both in San Francisco it is called a concurrent claim. This is common. In some situations, applicants who receive both kinds of benefits may have to offset their award to avoid double payment.

  • For example, an applicant who receives SSI benefits will have future RSDI payments reduced to prevent an overpayment. The amount of reduction is known as an “offset.” The amount of the offset is the difference between the SSI payment and the RSDI benefits.


Why Offset?

Remember, SSI is a need based system. As a policy, the SSA treats a person receiving RSDI benefits as rising above the need required by the SSI.


Why apply for both?

Many applicants who apply for both RSDI and SSI benefits can begin receiving payments sooner. Consider the following situations.

(1) RSDI benefits usually cannot start until 5 months after the disability period begins. Social Security disability benefits begin the sixth month after the date the applicant became disabled.

(2) SSI, on the other hand, has no 5 month waiting period and payments may begin as soon as a month after the applicant became eligible.

(3) In this case, an applicant receiving concurrent benefits will get SSI benefits first. When RSDI benefits kick in (5 months later), the SSI payment would stop.

(4) SSI also allows for “presumptive conditions,” meaning without having proof. An example of this is blindness. Applicants can receive cash payments for up to 6 months while the formal disability determination is made for blindness.

If it is later determined that the individual is not disabled, he or she is not required to refund the payments.

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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Importance of your “Date Last Insured”

What is it?

Ever come across the phrase “Date Last Insured?” If you have, take notice! It is one of the most important factors in determining your disability eligibility!

It is no secret that to be eligible for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) in San Francisco, you have to earn enough work credits over a period of 10 years. Once you stop working, like sand through an hour glass, the clock on those credits begins to run.

Roughly five years after the last day of employment, these work credits will expire. As of that date, you no longer are insured. That day of expiration is known as “date last insured.”

What does this mean for your application?

For starters, you must prove that you were disabled before that date last insured to qualify. If this date falls in the future; you are in the clear! However, when the date last insured is in the past, problems can arise.

  • For example, if your date last insured falls before the last day you worked due to disability, you would be considered uninsured and denied.

Where do I find this information?

The date last insured is normally on your earnings record located in Social Security Administration files. Don’t have those files? Not a problem. The date can be estimated. It is usually five years from the last date you worked.

So contact your local SSA office in San Francisco or make an estimation of your date last insured and see if you qualify today! For more information about the disability benefits process, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Hearing in San Francisco

If your initial Social Security disability application and request for reconsideration are denied, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This is your chance to come face-to-face with the person deciding your claim in San Francisco. The hearing is closed to the public and conducted in an informal setting. An assistant will be present to record everything.

You will be seated with your attorney. Social Security may bring a medical and/or vocational expert. The judge will introduce everyone and require all testifying individuals to give an oath to tell the truth. Then, the hearing begins.

Your attorney may give an opening statement. Then, the judge or your attorney may ask you some basic questions about your age, work history, and medical impairments.

If a medical expert is present he or she will testify for SSA. It is his/her job to review medical evidence and find if your impairment meets one of SSA’s listed impairments. If the expert concludes that you meet one, you win the claim. If you do not meet one, the judge will ask the expert what activity you can still do with your impairments. Your attorney may also question the medical expert about his/her opinion.

SSA may also bring a vocational expert. He or she will be someone who knows what jobs are available and what skills they require. If so, the judge will try to decide what work you can still do with your impairment. Your attorney may also question the vocational expert about what work someone with your impairment can do.

At this point, your attorney may offer a closing statement. The judge may make a decision at this time, but it is more likely that you will receive a written Notice of Decision in the mail about 2 months after the hearing.

To find out more about hiring an attorney for your hearing in San Francisco, click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

At What Age Can I Start Receiving Disability Benefits in San Francisco?

What is the minimum age I can start receiving Social Security disability benefits?

There is no minimum age to begin receiving Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in San Francisco. In order to receive disability benefits, you have to work long enough and recently enough to earn the required number of “work credits.”

How many work credits can I earn in a year?

You can earn up to four (4) work credits every year. In order to receive a work credit, you need to earn a certain amount of money every year. In 2011, you need to earn at least $12,000 every year to earn four (4) work credits for that year.

How many work credits do I need in order to receive disability benefits?

The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.

The rules for how many work credits you need to qualify are as follows:

Before age 24—You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period before your disability began.

Ages 24 to 31—You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).

Age 31 or older—In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the table below. Unless you are blind, you need at least 20 work credits in the 10 years before you became disabled.

Born after 1929 & Became Disabled at Age:

Number of Credits Needed

31 through 42

20

44

22

46

24

48

26

50

28

52

30

54

32

56

34

58

36

60

38

62 or older

40

For more information about disability benefits, please visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/. It is important to remember that if you have enough work credits to be eligible for benefits, you must also meet SSA's medical requirements.

If you have any further questions, please contact your local SSA office or an experienced Social Security 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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Social Security Disability in San Francisco: Critical Cases

One of the most common questions claimants pursuing disability benefits ask their Social Security disability attorney in San Francisco is, “How can I make my case move faster?” Social Security claims can be granted priority status based on their “critical” nature. SSA requires expedited processing for the following types of “critical cases.” A Social Security disability attorney can help you determine if your case meets any of the provisions for expedited processing.

1. The Social Security disability claimant has a terminal illness.

A critical case involving a terminal illness requires expediting, both in SSA Regional Offices as well as Hearing Offices. SSA has specific criteria for determining which cases will be expedited as terminal. A Social Security disability attorney can help you determine if your case meets the specific criteria.


2. The case involves a Social Security disability claim for any military service personnel injured October 1, 2001 or later.

Military service personnel applying for Social Security disability who were injured October 1, 2001 or later are eligible for expedited processing. It does not matter where or how the disability occurred so long as the individual was on active duty at the time of injury.


3. The Social Security disability claim is flagged as a Compassionate Allowance case.

Social Security will expedite disability claims where the applicant’s medical conditions are extremely serious and obviously meet disability standards. SSA will refer to objective medical information that can be obtained quickly in order to determine if the Social Security disability claimant qualifies under the Listing of Impairments.

4. The claimant is without, and is unable to obtain, food, medicine or shelter.

Social security disability claimants who have insufficient income or resources may qualify for expedited status. Claimants must be lacking food, clothing, shelter or medical care to the extent that there is an immediate threat to their health or safety. Some type of evidence is usually required to support the Social Security disability claimant’s allegations, for example foreclosure or eviction notices, utility final notices, etc. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not a Social Security disability claimant is facing dire need is decided by the SSA office.

5. There is an indication that the claimant is suicidal or homicidal.

Lastly, suicidal or homicidal Social Security disability claimants may be eligible for expedited status based on their suicidal ideation, or homicidal tendencies.

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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Social Security Disability Eligibility for Widows and Widowers in San Francisco

My deceased spouse received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in San Francisco. As the widow or widower, can I receive Social Security disability benefits?

Yes. In order for a widow or widower to receive disability benefits, the following requirements must be met:

  • The widow or widower has to be between the ages of 50 and 60;
  • The widow or widower meets SSA’s definition of disability; and
  • The widow or widower’s disability started before the spouse died or within seven (7) years after the spouse’s death.

How long do I have to be married in order to receive survivor’s benefits?

If you divorced the deceased ex-spouse, your marriage to the ex-spouse should have lasted at least ten (10) years. If you were married to the deceased spouse at his or her death, the marriage should have lasted at least one (1) year.

How do I apply for survivors benefits as a widow or widower?

A widow or widower cannot apply for survivor’s benefits based on his or her disability on-line. However, he or she can get the process started by completing an Adult Disability Report found on SSA’s website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/. You should then contact your local SSA field office in San Francisco to get information about completing an application for survivor’s benefits.

Do I have to prove disability if I am at least 60 years old in order to receive survivors benefits?

No. Widows and widowers become entitled to survivor’s benefits if they are at least 60 years of age without proving disability.

For more information about survivors benefits, please visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/.

If you have any further questions, please contact your local SSA office or an experienced Social Security attorney.

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.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Avoid Losing Your Disability Benefits in San Francisco

Once you have been awarded disability benefits in San Francisco, your claim may come up for review in the future. Usually these reviews won’t come up for a couple of years, but sometimes your award may mention a review in as early as eighteen months or a year. This is possibly the case if it seems like your condition is likely to improve in the near future pending surgery or proper medical attention.

In order to keep your disability benefits it is important that you continue to see your doctors regularly. We recommend seeing a doctor at least every three months in order to maintain regular treatment.

The purpose of Social Security disability is to provide medical care and financial assistance to those who become unable to work due to disability. Hopefully, with proper medical care, a disabled person is able to get better and return to the work force. If the claimant doesn’t get better, then he or she cannot return to work. As long as your condition does not improve and this is documented in your medical records, then eligibility for disability benefits should not end.

Thus, the most important thing for you to do in order to keep your disability benefits is to continue going to your doctor. Social Security wants to know that disabled persons are trying to get better. This is why it is important to maintain regular treatment and to comply with your doctor’s orders even after you have received an award for disability benefits.

Remember to:

  1. Go to your doctor(s) regularly (or at least every three months)
  2. Comply with doctors orders, i.e., take your medications, get XRAYs and blood work (etc.) done as the doctor orders, undergo and/or talk seriously about pros and cons of any suggested surgery or procedures.
  3. Let your doctor know if there are any changes in your condition or in the symptoms you are experiencing, for the better or for the worse. If there are no changes, talk about that too!

Refrain from drug, tobacco, and alcohol use: Social Security also wants to know you aren’t doing anything that could possibly make your conditions worse.

As long as your condition hasn’t improved to the point you are able to return to work full-time and you have maintained regular treatment as discussed above, when your review comes up you should not lose your disability 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.