Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Pursuit of Social Security Benefits in San Francisco

In the recent months, a high denial rate among those applying for Social Security Benefits in San Francisco has been the topic of great concern. With only a 30-40% approval rate at the Initial Application, this has caused some to call the Social Security Administration's strategies a "culture of denial." Despite the high rate of denials, there are many ways to help improve your chances at success.

  1. Appeal

A report published by CBS news stated that most people do not bother to appeal a denial the first time they are disapproved for benefits. With almost two-thirds of all applicants giving up after their first denial, millions of Americans who paid into the system and quite possibly were deserving of benefits, never receive assistance. While the approval rate at the initial stages is very low, there is a much higher approval rate when a claimant pursues benefits at a Social Security Disability hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

  1. Contact your Local Congressman

Your congressional representatives are in a unique position to assist you with your claim. Congressional representatives voice concerns about long wait times and high denial rates, which help put pressure on the Social Security Administration to improve. Recently, due to public concern and congressional inquiries, SSA changed some of their processes that were making it difficult for claimants at the hearing level. With enough public concern and the assistance of our elected officials, SSA will make changes to better the system and eventually this "culture of denial" will be transformed. If you feel that your wait time has been exceptionally long or you are in a dire situation, you can contact your local Congressman and ask them to inquire on your case. You can find your specific representatives by entering your address at http://www.congress.org.

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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Comparing SSI and SSDI Benefits in San Francisco

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides benefits to disabled individuals under 2 programs:

1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

To qualify for either program in San Francisco, your condition must meet the criteria the Social Security Administration has established to determine whether or not you are disabled.

SSDI is insurance you have paid into during your past employment. For SSDI you must have earned work credits. This requirement is generally met if you have worked at least 5 out of the past 10 years. You also must be a legal resident of the U.S., and below retirement age. SSDI comes with Medicare after a 2 year waiting period. SSDI also provides benefits to certain family members, while SSI does not.

SSI is similar to a well-fare based program. To qualify for SSI you cannot make more than $674 per month ($1011 for a couple). This amount varies depending on the state that you live in. You also can not have more than $2000 in resources ($3000 for a couple). Certain resources, like your home and car, are not counted. You must be a U.S. citizen (with limited exceptions), but any age may apply. SSI comes with Medicaid and starts as soon as you are approved by SSA.

It is possible to get benefits under both programs, so apply for both when filing a disability claim with the SSA. 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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Do I Need To Know About My Disability Benefits and Taxes in San Francisco

Social Security payments in San Francisco come without any taxes deducted but this does not mean that you do not have to pay taxes on the payments. Just as you pay taxes out of your paycheck from a regular employer, you have to pay taxes from your Social Security Benefits. The only difference between the two is that employers are required to automatically withhold your taxes and the Social Security Administration is not.

The amount of taxes you may have to pay is determined by annual household income.

  • If you file taxes individually and make more than $25,000 a year you will be required to pay taxes on the Social Security benefits you receive.
  • If you file taxes jointly and make more than $32,000 a year, you will be required to pay taxes on the Social Security benefits you receive.

Social Security does not automatically deduct taxes out of your benefit payments the way a typical employer does. If you know that you are going to exceed the amounts listed you need to contact the Social Security Administration Office and ask them to automatically deduct taxes. When requesting to have these federal taxes withheld, you will be asked if you want seven, ten, fifteen, or twenty five percent withheld for tax related reasons.

The Social Security Administration can only withhold federal taxes from your Social Security payments and does not have the authority to withhold any state or local taxes. This is because Social Security is usually issued to those with low income and is based on financial need. If you qualify for Social Security disability benefit payments, it is unlikely that you exceed the income limit for eligibility. It is recommend to contact SSA and to have them automatically withhold taxes if you know that you will exceed the taxable amounts.

Do not neglect to file your Social Security income because you make too much and have to pay taxes on your disability payments. The Internal Revenue Service will contact you and let you know that you owe taxes that you have not paid. Remember to contact the Social Security Administration Office at the end of the year, or beginning of the New Year, to request a form 1099 to report your disability earnings on your taxes. Not reporting these earnings can put you in debt with the Internal Revenue Service, and when that happens, they will garnish your regular income wages and possibly take possession of your assets. They are not allowed to garnish any of your benefit 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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What is Past Relevant Work in San Francisco?

At Step 4 of the 5-step disability evaluation process that SSA uses to determine if a claimant is disabled in San Francisco, the claimant has the burden of proving that he or she is incapable of doing any “past relevant work.”

To qualify as past relevant work:

  1. The job must have been performed within: 15 years prior to Social Security's evaluation of the claim or if insured status has lapsed, 15 years prior to the date last insured.
  2. the Job must have been "Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA) meaning; the job must have involved doing significant mental or physical activities; and it must have been done at the SGA level.
  3. The job must have lasted long enough for the claimant to develop the ability needed for average performance.
It is important to know that a job qualifies as past relevant work even if the job was done only part-time, as long as it was substantial gainful activity. Therefore, you as the claimant must identify the easiest full or part-time past relevant job and then figure out why you cannot still do the past work. If you had an easy job in the past 15 years that you can still do, you will be found not disabled, unless you can put together an argument that your impairments meet or medically equal one of the impairments in the Listing of Impairments. Determining whether you can do past relevant work is determined by comparing your current ability to perform work with the physical and mental demands of past relevant work.

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.



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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Can I Expedite My Claim in San Francisco?

The process for applying for Social Security Disability benefits is a long one. It can be YEARS between your Initial Application and receiving benefits, if you are awarded at all. It is no doubt frustrating to have to wait that amount of time, but there are a few circumstances in which you can expedite your claim and get it processed more quickly in San Francisco.

Severe Illnesses: If you have a terminal illness you may be able to get your claim expedited. An illness is terminal when there is no treatment to reverse the illness and it is expected to end in the claimant’s death.

Some examples of terminal illnesses are:
  • Stage 4 Cancer
  • Being in a coma for 30 days or more
  • Lou Gehrig ’s disease
  • AIDS

Similar to terminal illness cases, there are some illnesses that are so severe that the Social Security administration allows for what are called “Compassionate Allowances” because the illness obviously meets disability standards. An illness that qualifies as a Compassionate Allowance does not have to be terminal. A full list of Compassionate Allowances Conditions can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm.

A few examples of illnesses that will qualify for a Compassionate Allowance include:

  • Acute Leukemia
  • Many types of cancer
  • Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
  • Heart Transplant Wait List
  • Malignant Multiple Sclerosis.

Military Duty: If you were on active duty in the military at the time of injury and the injury was after October 1, 2001, you may be able to have your claim expedited. It is important to remember that the person need not have been in combat or injured as a result of service, in order to have their claim expedited. They need to have just been on active duty when it occurred.

Dire Need: A claimant who is lacking food, clothing, shelter, or medical care in such a way that there is an immediate threat to their health or safety can also ask for their claim to be expedited. You will normally need some type of evidence to back up a Dire Need claim. This can include an eviction or foreclosure notice, or a utility shut-off notice

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, January 4, 2012

What Will Harm My Claim in San Francisco?

The Social Security Administration has certain rules and guidelines that you must follow in order to be awarded benefits in San Francisco. You should keep these in mind when you are applying for benefits, because they will show up in your records and not complying with the rules can adversely affect your claim.

Working - This will be a problem because when applying for disability you are asserting that you are willing but unable to work. Therefore to actually be working is a contradiction and a large indicator to the Social Security Administration, that you are not disabled.

Receiving Unemployment – Similar to working, this is an indication that you are not disabled, because you are certifying to the Unemployment Office that you are willing and able to work, but unable to find a job. This, again, is a contradiction to stating that you are unable to work.

Drug and Alcohol Use – Recent drug and alcohol abuse, especially if it causing any of your conditions to worsen, will be a reason for your claim to be denied. It is important to know that past use or even use that has caused the conditions may not be causation for a denial, although in these cases it is crucial to have a doctor’s note stating that you are no longer using drugs or alcohol. However, you cannot do anything to make your current conditions worse. It is a good idea to seek treatment for abuse or addiction problems, in order to show that it is not a contributing factor to your disabling conditions and that you are doing what you can to get better.

Lack of Treatment or Non-Compliance – It is important that you have regular and recent medical treatment, in order to support your claim. It is important because Social Security needs medical evidence that supports your allegations. Just saying you have a particular condition is not good enough. You need a doctor who also says so. In addition, it will be an issue if you are going to see a doctor, but are not following his or her instructions as to medications and/or treatment. Again, you cannot do anything to make your conditions worse. Social Security will not want to award benefits to someone who could possible recover from their disabling conditions if they took their medications and followed their doctor’s instructions.

Prior Denial – If you have already applied for benefits and been denied, you will not be allowed to re-apply with the same claim. If you have new or worsening conditions with new supportive medical records, then you may be able to apply again. But if a decision has already been made and you have exhausted the appeals process, you cannot file the exact same application all over again.

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.